While all three of the base macronutrients are important for different reasons (carbs and fats mainly for energy, proteins for growth), people often miss the most important building block of them all. Water. Water is responsible for everything. It is the backbone of every existence, not just human physiology. Most people know they need to drink more water, but this post should give you a better understanding as to how much you really need each day and why.
Evolutionarily speaking, we came from the ocean. Our mineral-rich, fluid-based body helps us move around and regulates our biological functions. Our body is composed of about 55-60% water. (If you weigh 200lbs, about 120lbs of that is water!) Water levels vary throughout your body: your muscles and brain are about 75% water, your blood is 83% water and our eyes are 95% water! Pretty crazy eh?
Even more interesting is what all of this water does for us. Without getting too nerdy, I will try and explain. Water provides nutrients like magnesium and zinc. It also transports nutrients throughout your body and regulates body temperature. It is the backbone of your metabolism – you know, the process entirely responsible for regulating your digestion? In other words, water is important. As a baseline in my coaching practice, my first step with my clients is always the water question. How much do you drink every day?
Dr. John Berardi, founder of Precision Nutrition, suggests drinking roughly 30-40 milliliters (mL) of water for every kilogram (kg) of body weight, daily. For the sake of simplicity, I used 35mL/kg in my personal equation, which breaks down for me as:
84kg x 35mL = 2940mL or 2.9L
Whether you are trying to gain muscle or lose body fat, the first and most important step is DRINK MORE WATER! For fat loss, water boosts metabolism and regulates so many important bodily functions that as soon as you start to consume more water, you start – you guessed it – losing weight! For building muscle, water hydrates our cellular structure. When the cells are hydrated effectively, they function better overall and improve a process called muscle protein synthesis, aka, using proteins most efficiently, which leads to muscle growth.
If I still haven’t sold you on the magic of drinking water, I encourage you to look at the stats. People can live for longer than 21 days without food, but at most last only 3 days without water. Water is mandatory for life and proper functioning. Increase your water intake! Use Berardi’s measure as a guide to drink (at least) the amount experts in nutrition today are recommending.
There is one prevalent problem that we have yet to consider: COFFEE! Everyone loves it, or has learned to love it, because, well, it keeps you awake. And one might think that the more coffee you drink, the more water you’ve ingested, but the problem is that coffee acts as an active diuretic. Which means it makes you pee! (Before your body can utilize that water.)
As a nutritional guideline, for every 500mL of coffee you drink, it needs to be replaced with an additional liter of water. An average cup of coffee is just under 250mL. So if you drink your recommended 3L of water (based on my results above) plus two coffees in a day, you will actually need to drink 4L of water that day in order to compensate. I am a coffee lover, don’t get me wrong, but having more than one per day is just way too much of a task to stay hydrated for optimal muscle growth and fat loss.
Here’s how I do it. I have a filtration system in my home to avoid the contaminants in tap water and the environmental issues of buying bottled water. (PS – it’s also cheaper. I pay $16/month to a company called HOMEwater to filter my tap water and remove all of its contaminants, and every 6 months they come and replace the filters. You can also use companies that offer reverse osmosis like Pristine Solutions… Google it!) . When I wake up in the morning, I drink 500mL of water in a veggie/protein smoothie. I pour 3L of water into bottles (stainless steel or glass only, steer clear of plastic’s BPA folks) and take them with me to work, finishing them before I leave. When I arrive home at night, I am sure to drink a glass or two as I am winding down (usually in the form of tea – this counts!). This puts me above 4L of water every day, which is exceptional – but as I’m sure you’ve guessed, I drink a cup of coffee every morning on my way to work. This puts me back into the 3L zone of acceptable hydration.
This might seem like a lot just to ensure you drink enough water, but like I said, it’s crucial for functioning, and for the achievement any fitness goal you may have. To make it easier for yourself, you can buy those mammoth mugs that gym nuts carry around, or mark your bottles with hourly goals. It all comes back to habits. If you can build this into your daily regime, trust me, it will benefit you in ways you can’t imagine. It may seem like an inconvenience, but I assure you, it is far less inconvenient than getting diseases too young, or struggling with weight loss for years because you simply couldn’t master this simple thing we call H20.