If you’ve spent more than 5 minutes reading about bodybuilding nutrition, you’ve probably already read that bodybuilders need at least a gallon of water per day. Heck, you’ve probably heard since 6th grade health class that you should be drinking at least 8 cups of water for good health. For bodybuilders, however, the demand is much greater.
First, let’s look at the stressors that bodybuilders face which exceed those of normal sedentary people. Simply possessing a few extra pounds of muscle is a demanding condition. Muscle is made of water and requires water to maintain. Completing 30 to 45 minutes of cardio, or 60 to 75 minutes of weight training can result in a very noticeable loss of water. Next, consider the amount of protein that bodybuilders consume. Since protein does not digest easily, it stands to reason that additional water is required for digestion of the excess protein as well as overall higher level of calories. Finally, we can toss in the additional hydration requirements that result from the use of anabolic steroids and legal supplements. Even a compound as simple as creatine draws water from the muscles and causes some serious additional water needs.
When bodybuilders do not drink enough water, dehydration occurs. This affects our body in three major ways. Let’s examine each of them.
Studies have shown that dehydrated athletes possess a far lower response to present levels of testosterone when they train. The greater the level of dehydration present, the lower their level of response. Growth hormone levels were not affected in the same way. Cortisol levels also spiked, which serves to retard muscle growth and recovery. Since boosting testosterone is a goal of bodybuilders, training without water would be highly counter-productive. Cortisol could be considered the anti-testosterone, if you want to phrase it that way. Drink water or watch your T levels crash.
We all know that we damage muscle fibers when we employ resistance training. The blood that moves to these muscle groups delivers proteins which help in the rebuilding process, which results in bigger and stronger muscles. Water is essential in muscle integrity, as well as nutrient delivery. Athletes who train without drinking water will experience far worse muscle soreness in the 24 to 72 hours following training.
Athletes suffering from dehydration will fail sooner on endurance lifts. For this bodybuilder, this could mean only being able to complete 9 reps of 225 on the bench press instead of reaching your standard 12 repetitions. For the powerlifter, this could mean he may miss a 1-rep maximum that he normally reaches without worry. If your goal is to make the most possible gains in the gym, then training dehydrated is a counterproductive practice.
Obviously, none of us goes to the gym with the intention of being dehydrated. However, there are times when we neglect adequate water consumption because of one reason or another. Now that you know negative effects that dehydration can have on your T levels, your training, and your recovery, you’ll probably work hard to make sure you drink enough water before your workout!