Those sexy body fluids...


Now that I've got your attention with the title, let's try to raise our thinking from the lower centers of bodily function and get more cerebral, shall we?

Let's go beyond the obvious – let's talk "advanced hydration". Maybe you think the topic is remedial, but I assure you, I've got some new and definitely interesting things to share!

Now, we must understand why the seemingly obvious recommendations are made – then we must go a step further so we can tweak such things as circumstances dictate.

I've always hated blind obedience and I bet you do, too. We want to actually understand because there's a clear link between knowledge and success. There are some things that you should know beyond what sports drink commercials try to spoon-feed you.

So let's fill our tanks – both physical and mental.


I was stunned when I first learned where water losses came from. As we lose weight during a workout and our clothes grow heavy with sweat, that water doesn't just appear. A significant portion used to be blood (plasma) volume!

Plasma, or similarly serum comprises a bit over half of whole blood.

Whether it's exercise (which seriously affects plasma volume), heat (which affects it even more), or even a squat workout that induces a shift of fluids into the interstitial space (a "pump"), we sacrifice a little bit of our overall blood volume as we exercise.

If you're anything like me, you've actually suffered the effects of all three of these stressors at once! Ugh! This is a big deal considering that we can only lose an estimated 1% of body weight from dehydration before side effects occur like performance decrements, weakness, fatigue, and eventually heat illness.

Once heat illness does hit (heat exhaustion and god forbid, heat stroke) it can be THREE months before heat tolerance resumes.Some individuals can irreversibly lose heat tolerance as thermoregulatory centers of the brain become permanently damaged. So dehydration in the heat is no joke.

Perhaps even more disturbing, acute body mass loss from ramped-up sweating and panting can be doubly dangerous for us men. According to some late 90s data from a research, men's losses can double that of women's!This research was done both indoors and outdoors during steady state running, so it's fairly representative of what many of us endure.

We need to appreciate that the heart muscle is pulling double duty as we exercise in the heat, perfusing both working muscles and the skin (for cooling). As exercise continues, heart rate rises beyond the needs of the muscular workload, a phenomenon called cardiac drift.

Without sufficient plasma volume to push around, the stroke volume of the heart falls-off (stroke volume x heart rate = cardiac output).

And on the skin perfusion side of things, it's important to realize that sweating is our number one way to cool off. A liter of sweat, about the amount evaporating over 60-90 minutes of exercise, carries away an amazing 580 kcal of heat! Of course, this doesn't mean that sweating in a sauna can replace dieting, as heat can be injected from the environment; it doesn't all come from muscular work and burning of stored fat. 


How does flat, shrunken, dry and cooked sound to you? These adjectives are a desirable description of turkey or beef jerky – not of your biceps or quads! And such descriptions are less of an exaggeration than you might realize. First, cells do dehydrate and shrink. As a generality, this causes catabolism (breakdown) within the cell.

You might think of cell shrinkage and catabolism as a kind of anti-insulin effect. Instead of swelling muscle glycogen concentrations and protein synthesis making you bigger, the opposite type of effect is making you smaller. Sure, about two-thirds of our body's water is within our cells (the "intracellular compartment"), but it's not impervious to loss.

And from a larger tissue-level viewpoint, blood flow (perfusion) to the muscle suffers when you dehydrate. Forgetting about the water issue for a moment, low perfusion is not conducive to nutrient delivery either (and again looks like the opposite of how insulin helps us grow).

Second, there is at least some connection between lifting, hot environments, muscle temperature and heat shock proteins.Heat shock proteins, or HSPs are a protective cellular response to stress, and were first described in relation to – you guessed it – heat.

It's not news that our muscle proteins can and do denature in response to various stressors, not unlike the way an egg protein turns white in a frying pan. Heck. Dehydration hurts our ability to cool off and muscle contractions add to the stress by raising local temperatures. Again, flat, shrunken, dry and cooked doesn't sounds likes something top appealing when talking about a muscle. Keep them full with pre-, mid-, and post-workout drinks.

Also, there are fairly new data suggesting that eccentric exercise (lengthening contractions or "negatives") leave even more muscle trauma when done in the presence of dehydration and hyperthermia... 

Now, negatives are great for hypertrophy but they are also brutal, so don't dehydrate when lifting in the heat! All bodybuilding exercise involves negatives on some level, so your recovery time frames could become even longer. The take home message here yet again is: Don't be a "jerk". Take along a cold sports drink during training!

Okay, so hydration is so fundamental to performance and growth, but what about the hormonal consequences of exercising without a bottle of fluid in-hand?


I train hard – freaking hard. For those of you who are like me, there's very little room to maneuver beneath your overtraining threshold. Guys (and girls) like me don't have the luxuries of a weekend warrior. We're waging an almost daily war with heavy weights. It's no longer okay to skip the pre-, mid- or post-workout fluids. Our tolerances and resources are already spread thin.

I'm talking about the whole-body level now. I'm talking about unnecessary elevation of stress hormones and a rise in catabolic/ inflammatory immune factors. They rise in the bloodstream during (particularly hot) exercise when fluids such as sports drinks aren't consumed. Not so friendly molecules like interleukin-6 and cortisol, can be reduced by imbibing diluted carb drinks.

Although these regulatory substances have their time and place in the scheme of things, we don't want them running wild on us chronically. Among other things, they make recovery tough. Why add physiologic stress beyond your already-brutal bouts with the iron?


Pre-hydrate with a full 16-17 oz. bottle of dilute (4-6%) carb drink with just 3-5g added EAAs about 30-45 minutes before exercise. The goal is to raise blood volume, blood sugar (glucose), and blood amino acid concentrations.

Some athletes choose glycerol drinks for even greater plasma volume increases.

Drink just 6-8 ounces of a dilute carb beverage like the one described above every 15-20 minutes during exercise.

Afterwards, the traditional, stronger protein-plus-carb post-workout drink (perhaps 16-32 oz.) should supply enough fluid to more than replace any weight losses incurred via sweat. That is, an acute two-pound weight loss during a workout should be replaced with 2.5 pounds worth of fluid within two hours, the excess accounting for lingering elevations in metabolism and sweating.

Brief note: caffeine can induce diuresis but not enough to cause a problem. This outdated notion needs to be debunked. 


Although less sexy to some, fluid replacement is one of the biggest things we can do nutritionally to keep our muscles growing and our personal records coming. In fact, it's right up there with nutrient timing (peri-workout carbs and protein), daily calorie balance, macronutrient changes and dietary variety. But perhaps you don't believe me, so let's do a little thought experiment.

Ask yourself how long a person can survive without vitamins and minerals? Without protein, carbs, and fats? Now ask yourself how long he'd last without water. When it comes to fluids, we're not talking months or weeks – we're talking mere days.

Don't become complacent. It's widely known that thirst lags behind need; by the time your hypothalamus kicks-in, you're already screwing yourself. Drink in a prophylactic manner. 

Track acute weight losses during workouts, record occurrences of dry mouth in your training log and even keep an eye on how dark your urine is pre/ post exercise. This triumvirate is useful. These preemptive strikes, considering the intake recommendations above, will help you more than most guys even realize.