During my time as a strength and conditioning coach, one of the questions I was constantly asked was: what supplement can I take that will get me in the best shape? I would always reply with the same answer: that there was no one supplement you could take that would suddenly make you lose weight, build muscle, have more energy, never get sick, etc. If such a product existed, whomever created the patent on it would be the wealthiest man or woman in the world overnight, everybody would take it. Hell, if there was something that could give me the body of my dreams, unlimited strength, better cognitive function, more energy, more happiness, you better believe I’d tell take it.
Well, guess what. After doing some research, it turns out there is such a product. What I am going to tell you about has been proven to improve cognition, memory, mood, alleviate stress and tension, boost the immune system, help you lose weight (yes, even weight loss, as demonstrated by Haghighatdoost et al)(1), help build strength and more! Write this down because it is a mouth full, what I am talking about is Di-hydrogen Monoxide. Stop what you’re doing and get your hands on this miracle substance as soon as possible!
Di-hydrogen monoxide of course goes by the more common name: water. That’s right, the most abundant substance on the planet is a miracle that can improve nearly every biological function we know of. I am sure that most people, if asked randomly, would say they know that water is important. Just how important it is often overlooked, as is the fact that most of us simply don’t get enough. To many people water is boring. It doesn’t taste good. Far more enjoyable are soft drinks and flavored beverages, which are somehow cheaper – a mind-blowing realization. This post will discuss the eugenic effects of water and what happens if we don’t get enough.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that we consume one half of a fluid ounce of water for every pound of body weight. For those of you who use the metric system, this equates to about 32 milliliters for every kg of body weight. For me, a 200lb/90kg individual that means .78 gallons or nearly 3 liters. And this is just a minimum. When we engage in any sort of physical activity, even so much as existing outside in a hot or humid climate, we must consume more. That means that without being deliberate about our water consumption, most of us probably don’t get enough. This is augmented further when we consider the amount of anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) inhibiting substances we consume such as coffee or alcohol. Both caffeine and alcohol inhibit ADH, meaning they make us pee out water, further exacerbating our risk of dehydration.
What are the risks of dehydration? To understand the dangers associated with dehydration, let’s talk first about the importance of proper hydration. Water is the most common substance in our blood, responsible for the transportation of oxygen and other vital nutrients. If the amount of blood born water gets too low, we risk a blood clot or stroke. Additionally, water is used to regulate normal body temperature, particularly via the excretion of sweat via glands in our skin. It removes waste in the form of urine and feces, the failure to remove of which would result in sepsis or toxicity. Plus, it digests our food. Without water, a human being will die within 3 to five days. With the added presence of extreme heat or rigorous activity, this can occur even more quickly.
This is to say nothing of the cognitive or psychological effects. A study by Benton et al recognized that cognitive function was improved in children with proper levels of hydration as measured by memory and reflex time, when compared to those without proper hydration (2). Additionally, the same study reported that the experimental group who was given water, reported subjective levels of higher perceived happiness vs those who didn’t.
Benton’s studies were not alone. A plethora of research now exists suggesting improved mood and psychological states associated with proper hydration. Munoz et al worked with adult female subjects and noted that the onset of fatigue, tension, and confusion were rapidly onset and more severe in the dehydrated sample vs. non-dehydrated subjects. They concluded that greater habitual water intake accompanies more favorable moods, exhibited by lower levels of tension, depression, and confusion (3).
None of this is terribly new or groundbreaking research. We have long known the benefits of water on our physiological health, though comparatively speaking, the cognitive, psychological, and emotional benefits are somewhat more recent. That being said, though the knowledge exists, it is often forgotten. Many people simply neglect to consume enough water, thereby creating massive health issues. Will it solve everything that ails you? No, but proper water consumption is the foundation of any physically and mentally healthy individual. Most of us simply don’t get enough water.
Remember the above recommendations of 32ml of water per kg of body weight or ½ oz for every pound daily. That is the minimum. As with many things, additional benefits can be seen with higher levels of consumption. Yes, it is possible to consume too much water and run into issues, this is called hyperhydration, but it is extremely rare, and any normal individual would have no issue avoiding this condition even with deliberate levels of high water consumption.
|Hard to find a bigger fan of water than Adam Sandler’s character
Bobby Boucher aka The Waterboy
I want you to do a very simple test on yourself if you will indulge me. I want you to write down how you feel right now. Rate the following on a scale from 1-10 with 1 being awful and 10 being amazing: how happy you feel, how much energy you have, how sick you feel, how mentally focused you are, and how much pain you have (noting where any such pain may exist). I want you to consume no less than ¾ of a gallon, or 2.5 liters of water every day for the next seven days, and on the seventh day I want you to, without looking at today’s answers, rate all of the above again, and see if any changes have happened. I will do the same. My bet is that all of those ratings will go up and at the very least that none will go down. I wish you the best of health and happiness. Let’s raise a nice gold glass of H2O to that. Cheers.
1. Haghighatdoost, Fahimet et al. Drinking plain water is associated with decreased risk of depression and anxiety in adults. Read here
2. Benton, David. Dehydration influences mood and cogntition: a plausible hypothesis? Read here
3. Munoz, Colleen et al. Habitual total water intake and dimensions of mood in healthy young women. Read here