We all know the importance of water and human existence, our bodies soon make us aware if we are running low on water. Thirst, headaches, nausea, disorientation and confusion are just some of the triggers that prompt us to drink. However, I’d argue that far fewer people fully respect the importance of water during their pursuit of muscle growth and development. Water is probably the most important nutritional component to our bodies, heck, around 75% of our bodies consist of the stuff. Therefore it stands to reason that in one way or another, water WILL affect your muscle gains… perhaps more drastically than you might initially think!
How water controls muscle contractions
Every cell in our body is made of water, the entire cell structure that we consist of is made from water. Furthermore, water is the medium by which all signals are conducted around the body, and this involves electrolyte transfer between cells which ultimately control tissue contraction, and in this case, muscle contraction. In order for a muscle to contract it needs to have what’s known as a concentration gradient, this is where the fibres in the muscle (sarcolemma) opens its gates and releases sodium into the muscle, these then interchange in a complex process known as depolarisation. Incredibly, this interchange between sodium and potassium within the muscle causes an electrical charge to occur known as an action potential, which (if high enough) causes calcium ions to release into the muscle, which stimulates a muscle contraction! Quite amazing right, but the key to ALL of this happening is WATER!
Muscle strength and size effected by dehydration
As mentioned above, if muscle contractions are to occur, then adequate water better be present. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning reports that a 1.5% drop in water levels can significantly hinder muscle contraction efficiency and 1 rep max strength. As well as this, researchers noted that the specific water content of individual cells played a critical part in muscle catabolism (breakdown). Muscles that lack water are muscles that lack the essential nutrients for growth and development, consequently the cells become malnourished and breakdown. Inadequate fluid levels also lead to cell shrinkage and protein breakdown, and if protein breaks down, then muscle cells cannot function as they should AND definitely will cease to grow!
So I’ve gone right down to the cellular level with this so far, but looking at it more broadly then… If you fail to meet your fluid requirements your concentration and focus in the gym goes to pot, you’re ability to achieve a muscle pump is reduced, energy metabolism is hindered, and your mouth becomes as dry as the Sahara! So you need to think about your fluid and hydration, the importance (of course) goes above and beyond your performance in the gym…it transfers into EVERY SINGLE day of your life!
Live Strong, (2014). Why Is Water Important in Building Muscle? Retrieved 25th November, 2014, from http://www.livestrong.com/article/134943-why-is-water-important-building-muscle/
Barnett MW, Larkman PM (June 2007). "The action potential". Practical Neurology. 7 (3): 192–7. PMID 17515599.