Water - The most vital element.
One may or may not like water, but it is a necessity to the body's everyday life.
It is known that the human brain is made up of 75-85% water, lean muscle tissue is made up of 70% water and the human body itself is made up of 60-65% of water (43)(44). The body is so dependent on water that an individual can't go without water for more than 5-7 days, whereas one can survive without food for just a couple of weeks (43). Water is so vital to the human body that a 1% drop in water can cause thirst. In terms of athleticism, a 2-5% drop of water reduces muscle strength and endurance, causing the athlete to be fatigued and unable to push through their physical activity (43). Other issues such as basic mental calculations, short-term memory and focusing on smaller print, or just focus in general, take a toll when a 2% drop of water occurs in the body (44). These statistics can go further, as a 10% drop of water in the body can cause a blurred vision and delirium (43). Therefore if someone feels tired, dizzy or sometimes hungry, it may be a question of lack of sufficient amount of water. "In 37% of Americans, the thirst mechanism is so weak that it is often mistaken for hunger. One glass of water shut down midnight hunger pangs for almost 100% of the dieters studied in a University of Washington study" (44). A scary fact about water, a 20% drop can result in death (43). Every cell in the body needs water in order to function properly. That being said, the following table demonstrates how much percent of water that certain tissues in the body need in order to continue functioning (43):
Tissue Percent Water
The body loses about 2-3 quarts of water through sweat, urine and yes, even breathing, everyday (43). For this reason, the body needs to constantly be replenished with water. It is needed for many functions in the body and contains numerous health benefits. Its main function is to transport the nutrients in the body, but more specifically through the bloodstream (43). The blood is the main transporter of oxygen, CO2, and other nutrients from cell to cell (43). Water helps move waste products out of the body. As urine is mainly formed of water, the waste products gets removed through the urine (43). From this, toxins are also removed with the movement of water. Toxic build up in the body is often caused due to a lack of water supply that one provides for themselves (43). Water plays a major role in protecting vital organs, but it also plays a role in lubricating joints to facilitate movement and prevent stiffness (43). It keeps the mouth moisturized, washes away dirt and grime around the eyes, as well as making sure mucosal membranes are moistened to ensure proper gut lining protection (43).
Water is involved in many other pathway processes in the body such as proper digestion in the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract). This occurs as water helps convert food in order to be digested through chemical reactions in the stomach as it metabolizes the nutrients from carbohydrates, proteins and fats (43)(44). By engaging in some chemical reactions in the body, water is used to access and store energy for muscles and organs (43). An important reason for athletes to continuously drink large amounts of water so that they can always go back into their reserves and get water when needed. This will always prevent the athletes from becoming dehydrated. Water regulates pH levels in the body. It is considered a neutral pH component with a pH level of 7.4 (43). Anywhere between 6.7-7.6 is often considered neutral for the body (43).
Aside from maintaining pH levels, it always maintains electrolyte balances in the body, such as the relationships between sodium (Na+) and potassium (K+), and often as well chlorine (Cl-) (43). Other known beneficial facts that water has towards the body is that it regulates the body's temperature, forms saliva, allows the body's cells to grow, reproduce and survive, important for both brain and spinal cord as it acts as an absorber, and lastly it is needed by the brain to manufacture hormones and neurotransmitters (43)(44)(45).
Athletes must also understand that when they sweat during physical activity, they lose about 1-2L an hour, in which the water should be replenished every 15 minutes in order to stay hydrated and not lose strength or get dizzy spells (43). If an athlete doesn't meet the required amounts of water during their day or during their physical activity, when it comes down to pushing at their maximum peak, their performance will not be as optimal. Since water delivers oxygen to the working muscles, it is only evident that in order for the muscles to generate enough force and power during physical activity without getting fatigued, the athlete's body needs to increase his or her water intake than the general population or the minimum the body requires (43). The general rule of thumb to calculate how much water an individual needs to have on a daily basis is simple. A person must drink at least half of their body weight in ounces of water per day (44). If they wish to have better results they must triple the minimum amount of water (44). For example, if an athlete weights 185lbs, half of that is 92.5 lbs which is 92.5 ounces. This is the minimum amount of water required. When tripling that amount of 92.5ounces, it equals 277.5 ounces of water. If that is converted into litres, that is about 8.2 litres of water a day. Depending on how the athlete is training, what type of climate they train under, the facility they train in, the amounts of water will differ according to the circumstances.
So why is it that even after knowing these facts, people do not want to drink enough water? Or they would rather want to substitute water with other drinks such as coffee, sports drinks, energy drinks, soft drinks and many other drinks that are filled additives or cause the body to be dehydrated. Many experts also agree that water is a much better source of drink to have during exercise instead of consuming a sports drink that contain 10-12% sugar solution (44). An example of a sports drink that many strive for is Gatorade. Say an athlete were given 12 ounces of plain water, 8 of those ounces will be absorbed by the body within 15 minutes, whereas giving an athlete 12 ounces of a solution that contains 10% sugar, less than 1 ounce of water will be absorbed, causing the athlete to be dehydrated (44).
The following are ten reasons as to why an athlete should drink water over soft drinks or any drink that contains sugar (this is also true for the general population) (44):
1) Soft drinks steal water from the body: this is because soft drinks work like a diuretic, taking away more water from the body than providing it.
2) Soft drinks never quench the thirst: this can lead to chronic cellular dehydration which weakens the immune system.
3) Soft drinks or sugary drinks contain elevated levels of phosphate: this depletes the minerals in the body, such as magnesium, calcium and even vitamins.
4) Soft drinks can remove rust: "Soft Drinks can remove rust from a car bumper or other metal surfaces. Imagine what it's doing to your digestive tract as well as the rest of your body" (44).
5) The sugar crash: BodyBuilding expert Clark Bartam defines this reasoning as the following: " The high amounts of sugar in Soft Drinks causes your pancreas to produce an abundance of insulin, which leads to a "sugar crash". Chronic elevation and depletion of sugar and insulin can lead to diabetes and other imbalance related diseases. This is particularly disruptive to growing children which can lead to life-long health problems" (44).
6) Creates Poor digestion: all sugary drinks, as well as caffeinated drinks, disrupt the digestive system as they tend to shut down the digestive process. This means that the person or athlete is not taking in the nutrient from the foods they are eating during the day. If these drinks are "consumed with french-fries which can take WEEKS to digest, there is arguably nothing worse a person can put in their body" (44).
7) Diet Soft Drinks Contain Aspartame: although the label may seem to say that there is no sugar in the drink, aspartame is a type of additive sugar that can do a lot of harm to the body.
8) Soft drinks are extremely acidic: everyone argues that meat is bad and that it is too acidic for the body. Did they ever stop to think that everything else that contains sugar is acidic to the body? Soft drinks are so acidic that they can eat through the lining of the aluminum can, in which the aluminum then enters the bloodstream when someone drinks it.
9) And more acidic: soft drinks are so acidic that they have a pH level of about 2.5, where the human body, which is said to be neutral, sits at a pH level of 7.0. The more acidic the body is, the more diseases start to develop, as the acidic food wastes can accumulate into the joints and organs over time.
10) THEY ARE THE WORST THING!: when someone is sick or has a weakened immune system, it is unnecessary to drink these soft drinks because they only weaken the immune system even more, making it harder for the body to fight off the illness.
If someone does not like the taste of water or just can't get themselves to simply drink water, then they should try different tricks in order to obtain the required amount of water per day. Some drinks can include adding a touch of salt, slices of lime, lemon, cucumber, mint, parsley, and maybe even some berries in order to change the taste of water. In turn, these tricks can also provide natural antioxidants, electrolytes and a sort of detox for the body.
Is there really anything to debate about now that all of the facts are laid out on the table? DRINK WATER! It is the only nutrient that keeps the body sane enough to continuously function properly.