Have you been suffering from “water weight?” Do you look bloated? If so, this may the tip you have been waiting for! Read on…. Back in my early days as a competitive bodybuilder, I fell into the trap of thinking that by restricting my water intake during the period leading up to a bodybuilding competition, I would be able to attain a “harder, sharper” look.
The common wisdom in those days was to begin restricting water intake four to five days out before a show, then use a diuretic both on the day before and the actual day of the show, to further dehydrate and achieve a “tight” look.
So I decided to try it out on a show…
Everything proceeded smoothly with my diet and training. As the weeks passed, I became more muscular and defined. Then the big moment came; the moment at which I would begin restricting my water intake and begin achieving a “super-humanly-defined look!” I couldn’t wait! I could get incredibly hard just with diet, but this was going to be extra special…wait until my competition saw me!
I began restricting my water intake. The onset of thirst was almost immediate. And so was the “deflation” (I can’t think of a better way of describing it!) of my muscles. With each progressing day, my image in the mirror became smaller and smoother, losing both muscle size and muscle tone. I looked like I was wasting away.
By the day my show came around, not only did I feel weak and miserable, I looked terrible! Of course I didn’t place well in the show, but did learn a very important lesson: water is essential to a sharp, lean, healthy-looking physique.
Fortunately for me, I made this mistake early on in my teenage competition years. I quickly learned to correctly manipulate my water intake, which of course helped me in my quest to achieve bodybuilding super stardom. At the height of my professional bodybuilding competitive career, I would regularly consume over a gallon of water daily, even in the days leading up to a bodybuilding contest.
Whenever I told my competitors this, they were befuddled. How was this possible? Here was a guy who not only looked ripped, but healthy, and was drinking water like a fish on top of that!
Let’s take a look at the role of water right now. More than 75% of your body is made up of water. You can go without food for weeks at a time. But without water, you can only last a few days.
Water is important to the digestion of food, metabolism, and serves in almost every biochemical reaction in the body. Water is involved in the removal of urea and other toxic wastes from the bloodstream via the kidneys. Without sufficient water, the kidneys cannot properly perform their job. I am often asked how much water to consume on a bodybuilding/training diet. And the answer is at least three to four quarts per day. Drinking plenty of water is especially important when you are trying to lean up.
Drinking lots of water can help to satiate your appetite and will diminish cravings for food. Keep in mind that as you are dieting, you break down many pounds of fat and with this breakdown there is a production of metabolic wastes that must be removed by the body. Water is essential for removing these wastes.
Don’t ignore thirst signals. By the time you feel thirsty, it’s probably a good bet that you are dehydrated by at least a half quart to one quart of water!
Ironically, the bloating that dieters are afraid of is often brought on by the restriction of water in the diet. When water is restricted too much, the body signals the kidneys to restrict the excretion of water, sodium is retained, and an accumulation of water in the body (edema) occurs. This is a survival mechanism.
When this happens, you end up looking “fat” even though it’s just excess water weight. There are many other legitimate reasons for bloating . These include: menstrual cycles in women, hormone imbalances, reactions to a hot environment, excess sodium in the diet, food allergies, or even kidney and heart trouble. In the case of the latter, medical supervision should be sought, of course.
But, in most cases where you have a healthy person, drinking extra water may be the ticket to resolving fluid imbalances. If you want to get into great shape and look sharp, then proper water balance in your body is important to you. Here are some things that can help you:
1. Make sure that the quality of your water supply is optimal. Drink bottled spring water, or invest in an osmotic membrane filter to filter your local tap water. This is a small price to pay for the benefits of having pure, clean, low- sodium water every day.
2. Minimize high sodium foods in the diet. Pick up a sodium counter book at your local bookstore and familiarize yourself with the sodium content of the foods you eat. Eliminate excess salt from your diet.
3. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Spacing out your water intake is best. Remember that if water is in short supply, your kidneys will have a tendency to hoard water, causing fluid retention. So it is better to drink constantly throughout the day. I have a favorite saying that I like to tell my trainees: “To lose water you must drink water.”
4. Take a good multimineral tablet daily to ensure that your electrolytes remain balanced. Electrolytes include: sodium, calcium and chloride in the fluid outside cells; potassium, magnesium and phosphorus in the cellular fluid. Electrolytes regulate many of the life sustaining processes of each of the millions of cells in your body.
5. Perspiration and the intake of diuretic drinks such as coffee and tea cause the elimination of electrolytes from the body. On a related note, one of the leading causes of sudden cardiac arrest in young, healthy athletes is the depletion of electrolytes.
6. Keep the protein intake in your diet fairly high. I recommend one gram of protein per pound of body weight. This can easily be accomplished by incorporating chicken breast, turkey breast, fish and lean meats in your diet, along with high quality protein powders such as my ProV60 Multipurpose Protein Blend, my Lean Pro 8 Super Premium Protein or my IsoLean Pro Whey Isolate Protein Powder. Along with electrolytes, protein helps regulate the water balance in your body. Proteins are water loving or hydrophilic. Water molecules tend to follow proteins. Without sufficient protein in the body, water in the bloodstream and vascular spaces leaks into the spaces between cells and the result is “edema” or water retention.
7. Do not use diuretics unless your doctor has prescribed them to you for a specific health condition. The use of diuretics can cause rapid loss of water from the body and can upset electrolyte balance, which can lead to serious health conditions and even death. Using drugs to rid the body of excess water can also lead to the false illusion of weight loss. Typically this type of weight loss (water weight) is quickly regained as soon as fluids are ingested.
Remember, “to lose water, drink water.” Use water generously in your diet and training program to achieve the best look for your physique! “Puffy” is out. Lean is in.
Until next time, I am
Your Lean Body Coach™