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Is drinking water all that important during exercise?

Q: When I work out, I really don’t get too thirsty. Is drinking water all that important during exercise?

A: According to Arthur C. Guyton in the Textbook of Medical Physiology (8th ed.), approximately 57 percent of human body mass is water, on average. Humans are basically wet machines. All of your bodily functions occur within a liquid medium and require water in order to operate.

Water is a critical fuel source for your body. It’s like oil for a car—although to a greater extent because no biological operation can take place without it. Incur a slight crack in your slim protective hydration barrier, and you begin to leak water, erythrocytes and other assorted goodies, which will soon end your brief life experience.

The average human can go no more than three days or so without replenishing water before expiring. Any elevated activity level increases the system’s water requirements. If you are exercising, your muscles will flush with water (blood), as will your brain; your bladder and bowel will slowly fill with waste water, and perspiration will increase—all of which dehydrate you. That’s why we become thirsty—because we have negative feedback mechanisms that inform the brain that the body requires more water. If you are stupid enough not to drink when you’re thirsty, you probably deserve the inevitable kidney damage or Darwin Award nomination you’re likely to receive as a consequence!

So drink up and drink often! If you train intensely, a good rule of thumb is to imbibe one ounce of water for every two pounds of bodyweight each day. If you weigh 200 pounds, that’s about 1.5 gallons of water daily. I weigh around 270, so I drink at least three gallons a day.

For optimal performance while exercising, drink two glasses of water 30 minutes before training, and get at least four to six ounces of chilled water every 10 to 15 minutes while you’re working out. And whatever you do, don’t use thirst as a gauge for proper hydration. By the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated!


Editor’s note: Ben White won his first IFBB professional bodybuilding contest, the Tampa Pro, in 2010. He is also a champion powerlifter and frequently competes in the World’s Strongest Bodybuilder contest at the Olympia. His best competition bench press is 711 pounds. He is an MPH athlete,  IM


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