By William Imbo, Box Life Magazine

Have you ever noticed that when astronomers look for life in our solar system and beyond, the unifying factor that generates the most interest and excitement is the potential presence of water.Where there is water, there might just be life. Every organism we know of needs water to survive, and scientists have said that there’s no better substance better at sustaining life. So, if you didn’t already know, water is incredibly important to prolonging your life—given that our bodies are composed of roughly 60% of the stuff. For this reason, water consumption—or lack thereof—can have a profound impact on your athletic performance.

Here are 6 reasons why drinking water is crucial to your health and CrossFitting endeavors.

1. Improves recovery time
During exercise, the body’s electrolyte balance can begin to shift. Electrolytes are minerals that break into small, electrically-charged particles called ions when they dissolve in water. Found in blood and cells, electrolytes are essential to physical activity because they regulate bodily fluids. During exercise, the body’s electrolyte balance can begin to shift. As the body loses electrolytes through sweat, the imbalance can result in symptoms like muscle cramps, fatigue, nausea, and mental confusion. And if the electrolyte supply stays low, muscles may continue to feel weak during your next WOD. So if you want to make sure your body is at full fighting force the next day, grab the H20 post-workout.

2. Helps to avoid dehydration
The American Council on Exercise states, “For regular exercisers, maintaining a constant supply of water in the body is essential to performance.” In one hour of exercise the body can lose more than a quart of water, depending on exercise intensity and air temperature. If the body doesn’t have enough water to cool itself through perspiration, it enters a state of dehydration. And this is not good. The list of ailments due to dehydration is extensive, and can severely impact an athlete during a WOD. They include heat stroke, muscle fatigue, lack of coordination, increased heart rate and headaches.

3. Important for healthy muscles and performance
I bet you didn’t know that water composes 75% of all muscle tissue and about 10% of fatty tissue. As legendary strength coach Charles Poliquin says, “Hydration is the greatest determinant of strength. A drop of 1.5% in water levels translates in a drop of 10% of your maximal strength. The leaner you are, the worse it is. Make sure you weigh the same or more at the end of your training session.” Drinking water therefore helps to prevent the breakdown of muscle proteins and increases the amount of nutrients absorbed from food—both key factors in building strength and maintaining high energy levels during a WOD.

4. Helps your mental game
Sodium chloride and potassium are the two chemicals that are needed for nerves to send electrical signals to your brain. A lack of water leads to electrolyte imbalances. If you are sending signals in your brain at a reduced speed, this means you are thinking slower and your body is reacting slower to what is going on when you train. Aside from losing track of how many reps you’ve done, this could severely affect your game plan for the WOD, your pacing and you may begin to struggle with exercises that require greater focus on technique.

5. Reduces joint and muscle pain and helps to increase your flexibility
Cartilage in the joint is 65 – 80% water. In fact, water is present in tendons, ligaments, and muscles, and it plays an important role in cushioning and lubricating joints and tissues so that they remain elastic. Water helps you maintain an adequate blood volume so that nutrients can move through your blood and into your joints. A helpful analogy is to think of our joints as if they were sponges. Two dry sponges are going to move against one another very well, but two wet ones will glide easily. Water also allows waste products to move out of the joints. Combined, this helps to reduce the pain you may experience in your joints and muscles during and after a workout—not to mention helping increase your range of motion when you work on your mobility.

6. BUT drinking too much water can be bad as well
Hyponatremia is a rare condition that occurs when there is not enough sodium in the body, and usually comes about when athletes (particularly endurance athletes) drink too much water. If your sodium levels in your body are too low, than your cells begin to swell with water, expanding your brain tissue and putting pressure on the brain. On top of that, it may also cause your lungs to fill with fluid. Symptoms of hyponatremia can include headache, vomiting and swelling of the hands and feet.

Hopefully this has inspired you to make sure you are getting more water into your diet. But what exactly is the right amount of water to drink, specifically with relation to exercise? Once again, we turn to the American Council on Exercise for advice:

  • Drink 17-20 ounces of water two to three hours before the start of exercise.
  • Drink 8 ounces of fluid 20 to 30 minutes prior to exercise or during warm-up.
  • Drink 7-10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise.
  • Drink an additional 8 ounces of fluid within 30 minutes after exercising.
  • Drink 16-24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost after exercise.

For every day consumption, the Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day.

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