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The Most Important Nutrient: Water!

The one nutrient that most people rarely give any thought to is water. Read on to learn more about water and some myths associated with it.

When trying to pack on slabs of muscle, the only thing most folks are concerned about is the amount of protein they are consuming. Of course protein is not the only macronutrient, and total energy intake is most important, but people usually forget that.

However, the one nutrient that most people rarely give any thought to is water. However, without water and the right fluids, your performance in the gym won't be anywhere close to what it should be.

Water is the most abundant compound in the human body and accounts for approximately 73% of lean body mass. Staying well-hydrated is necessary for optimal health, mental function and performance. In 1996, the American College of Sports Medicine stated that "humans do not voluntarily consume sufficient water to maintain optimal fluid balance."

This finding from ACSM is a bit dated in research terms, being that it's nearly 10 years old and according to beverage Marketing Corporation, an industry research firm, sales of bottled water have surged recently. In fact, U.S. consumption of bottled water rose from 2.5 billion gallons in 1992 to almost 6 billion gallons in 2002.

"Designer" Waters

As with most products, companies wanted to capitalize on this and dozens of companies have made their products available on grocers' shelves. Once, regular tap water was acceptable; then came along filtered, spring, and distilled waters.

Now, you can't walk down a grocery store aisle without coming across "designer" waters, which are fortified with everything from vitamins and minerals to herbs, electrolytes, and oxygen.

Vitamins & Minerals

Fortification with vitamins and minerals is not a new practice; everything from cereal, milk, and orange juice is fortified. The addition of vitamins A and D to milk, or calcium to orange juice is typically not questioned, but fortifying water with anything other than fluoride is a relatively recent practice.

There is no evidence to support the notion that the small inclusion of whatever vitamins or minerals will enhance (or hurt) performance, so paying the extra cost for such products is not worthwhile.


Similarly, there are a number of waters that are fortified with herbs.

With names like Skinny Water, Smart Water, and Revival, they claim to increase fat metabolism, mental alertness, and enhance the immune system.

It is possible that some individual ingredients in fortified waters may have some benefits although evidence at present is lacking.

However, very often the amounts included in fortified water products are less than the amounts used in clinical trials.

Like the vitamins and minerals described above, consuming small doses of a random assortment of "special" ingredients, will improve neither health nor performance. While many companies claim otherwise, the only nutrients that can provide energy are macronutrients-but when these are added, you are no longer drinking water!

The Upside Of "Designer" Waters

However, there may actually be some benefits to drinking fortified waters. Not because they "increase stamina, energy or maximize performance" as some companies claim.

Rather, because many of these waters are flavored, people consume more of them. If your in the gym sweating, straining, and grunting, you need to have something to encourage your consumption; sometimes that additional flavor will help.

Oxygenated Water

Companies that produce oxygenated water products claim that their water contains over 10 times more oxygen than regular water, and that oxygenated water is much more useful than regular tap water.

Oxygenated water claims include maximizing athletic performance, increasing blood oxygen, promoting alertness, improving nutrient delivery, cleansing the body of toxins and wastes, increasing energy and vitality, improving skin conditions, causing fresher breath, healthier gums and teeth, and more effectively hydrating a person.

Many of these claims can also be made for regular tap water, because staying hydrated helps maintain optimal health, function and performance. Oxygenated water is nothing more than a farce. There is nothing theoretical that can explain how these products could even work.

Of course marketing claims can make anything sound wonderful, but many times claims are poorly supported by scientific evidence. When water is enhanced with oxygen, most of it escapes after the container is open, just like it does with carbonated beverages.

For the water and oxygen bubbles that are swallowed, the water goes to the stomach and is absorbed into the bloodstream, and travels to the heart and lungs. Oxygen is absorbed through the lungs via the inspired air, not through the stomach.

Finally, in normal, healthy exercisers, hemoglobin, which is the primary oxygen carrying vehicle in the blood, is already 99% saturated with oxygen, which leaves little room for improvement.

Oxygenated Water Meets Its Match-Scientific Research

Human physiology provides no basis for the claims of companies that produce oxygenated water, but consumers unfortunately still buy it. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse put the company's claims to the test by randomly assigning 12 healthy, college age women and men into two groups: "super-oxygenated water" or regular tap water.

Each participant drank 500mL of their respective water, sat quietly in a chair for five minutes and the researchers measured heart rate, blood pressure, blood lactate, and oxygen consumption.

He or she then performed a VO2max test on a treadmill-this test is used to determine the highest oxygen uptake an individual can obtain during exercise. There were no significant differences between either group in any of the outcome measurements.

Bottom line: Oxygenated water claims are unsupported; save your money and take an extra deep breath instead!

Science Or Science Fiction

If a consumer follows the water intake guidelines published by the Institute of Medicine (approximately 2.5 liters/day for women and 3.5 liters/day for men) and solely drank designer waters, it would cost approximately $5/day for women and upwards of $15/day for men. Subsequently, regular use of "designer" waters may be costly.

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If there is concern regarding contaminants in tap water, water filters are an alternative. The flavoring in designer waters may encourage greater fluid intakes and for this purpose, some of the less expensive designer waters may be a good choice.

But good old-fashioned regular tap water (filtered if desired) is the most economical, soundest way to hydrate and rehydrate the body under normal physiological conditions.

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