The Importance of Drinking Water for Athletes

At this time of year our attention (at least for most of us) is drawn to competitive sports, especially football at all levels…from professional to college to high school…all the way to junior high and grade school level. Naturally a lot of emphasis is placed on winning by the coaches, by the fans and even by the players themselves. We all feel good when our team is winning!

Naturally there are many elements to a winning season…players’ background and prior experience, players’ natural ability & discipline, proper coaching and one that may be overlooked by too many is proper nutrition and the water consumed by the athletes.

 In this article I will concentrate on the last item.  In his bestselling book on nutrition, “Optimum Sports Nutrition”, Dr. Michael Colgan states that “The muscles that drive an athlete’s performance are three-quarters water. The brain that steers the athlete’s limbs is 76% water. The blood that carries the nutrients is 82 % water and the lungs that provide the athlete oxygen for breathing are nearly 90% water!” These are basic and widely known biochemical facts. These facts must make it abundantly clear that the most important nutrient in an athlete’s body is the water he consumes, either directly or in the foods that he consumes that are largely water by nature or prepared using water as an ingredient. (Soups, rice, noodles, jello…just to name a few.).

Colgan goes on to say that the quality of an athlete’s tissues, their performance and their resistance to injury, is absolutely dependent on the quality as well as the quantity of the water they drink. He stresses the need to drink water constantly. In a temperate climate, an athlete doing light exercise, uses half gallon of water a day in breath, sweat,  urine and feces, however in heavy training the amount of water used climbs to over 2 gallons a day!

It is very important that the water that is lost each day is promptly and totally replaced each day. If it isn’t, performance suffers immediately. For example, if a muscle is dehydrated by as little as 3% there is a 10% loss of contractile strength and an 8% loss of speed! That is a very significant disadvantage in a close contest!!! Performance literally dries up.

According to Dr. Colgan it is important to space the drinking of water, before, during and after each sporting event. Pre-event water loading yields lower performance temperature and smaller weight losses. Then, even if an athlete is water-loaded before a competitive event, it is important to drink water during the competition, and especially if it is a particularly long one. He emphasizes the sipping of water slowly…not gulping the water and to avoid sugar based fluids which inhibit water absorption. After the competition it is important to re-hydrate to restore the water that was lost during the competition. He encourages athlete to continue drinking extra water for the following 12 hours!

It is important to note that Dr. Colgan is a strong advocate for the drinking of distilled water and enjoys the consumption of distilled water himself from a Pure Water Distiller.

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