Don't let your body thirst for vital water

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photoBill Victor, Vancouver fitness consultant.

Despite living in a part of the United States known for the quantity of water nature brings us every year, there remains one place that frequently just doesn't get enough -- our body.

Drinking adequate amounts of water when we are not exercising is a discipline unto itself -- let alone the extra water required when we are training in any capacity. If you factored in water loss through "insensible perspiration" (the evaporated water coming out of your body that you can't see) the results more accurately describe dehydration -- a more serious matter for any fitness enthusiast or athlete.

It is often said that by the time you're extremely thirsty, you have already experienced dehydration to some degree. Considering that 75 percent of our physical mass is comprised of water, its importance only intensifies. With the countless sports drinks and electrolyte "enhancers," it's no wonder that good old H2O is often what quenches our thirst most effectively in the body's effort to stave off dehydration. The power of water is most appreciated when we take into account that a loss of only 2 percent can compromise physical and mental functions. A loss of 15 percent of our body water can be lethal, and obviously anything between those two extremes will continue to compromise performance, energy output, the strength of muscular contractions, and the body's ability to dilute and filter toxins. Other facts about water that many of us aren't aware of include:

• Muscle building: Lack of adequate amounts of water can reduce the manufacturing of protein needed to build and repair muscle.

• Toxin removal: Sweat, urination and dilution of toxins is only possible through the consumption of water.

• Energy: Water is the medium by which phosphate molecules can separate from ATP, the provider of energy. Without adequate amounts of water, energy production becomes difficult.

• Organ health: Dehydration not only makes it more difficult for the liver to filter toxins, but also for the heart to circulate blood. Since the composition of blood is primarily water, dehydration thickens blood, making it more difficult for the heart to pump. Dehydration also upsets the delicate sodium balance that is important for muscular contractions.

Naturally, this warrants the question: "How much is enough?" While science sometimes overcomplicates this answer, there are several indicators that demonstrate adequate levels of hydration. Measurable amounts should begin at a minimum of 64 ounces per day. This equates to eight 8-ounce glasses in a 24-hour period. Another method is to make sure that urine is clear and not heavily concentrated. Consumption of vitamins can make this a little more difficult.

Ultimately, the goal to consuming enough water is to make sure that you are staying ahead of your thirst curve. It is better to not wait until you are thirsty before you drink. While many dieticians have proposed that food contains varying amounts of water, the American diet and food choices are extremely variable, which makes it difficult to define just how much is obtained through food.

Ultimately, this translates to keeping track of how much water you drink daily. It's always a better idea to drink before you're thirsty, instead of waiting until you are.

Summer has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest, and what a summer it has been. Don't let a bad decision hurt your workout or your body. Simply remember to plan for nature's most healthful elixir -- water!

Bill Victor is the owner of Victor Fitness System Professional Fitness Trainers, Flashpoint Athletic Speed & Agility Specialists, and Performance Nutrition Consultants. He can be reached at billv@victorfitsystems.com.