Water, Performance, Gains and Competition: A Competitor’s Edge by Tina Jo Orban
When you step on stage you probably have worked hard to get your body fat down. Probably 8-10% for females. This is from an older article I wrote: “If you are male most likely down in the single digits. Female pro bodybuilding competitors compete around 5-8 %. And their counterparts Mr. Olympia’s and other pros hover around 4-6%” (Orban, Hardfitness Issue 141). But what can wreck all that lean appearance in an instant? Water. Water where you don’t want it. BLOAT! Water is necessary for life. Water is very much needed during training season. Holding water show day— not so much. Conversely, dehydration can also wreak havoc on your show day appearance (flat muscles) and performance (energy). It is well known competitors for shows in addition to shedding body fat “getting ripped,” then “shred” by losing water. They do so in a day before competing and day of. There’s two things I’d like to discuss in this article one is water intake for optimal performance and strength gains while training and water depletion in days just before your competition.
Water is very important. You cannot survive without it (duh)! It serves to thermoregulate, balance Ph (internal milieu), and water is also the medium (via constituency for blood specifically plasma) for one’s biochemical reactions that occur in the cells, and is crucial for the removal of waste via blood to kidneys. What you take away here besides critical for life: Water is critical for the athlete’s performance, and gains.
Athletes need to consume water while training and competing. There are many variables that go into how much water one should intake. The old eight 8-ounce glasses per day is a yardstick. Besides the obvious, your bodyweight, particularly lean mass (as that is the part of you that burns calories and requires metabolic transactions via water) or length of training session requiring water, the not as obvious is the climate! Training in hot climates is an insidious way to wreak havoc on your hydration. As is training in dry climates. It can be dry without being hot. The climate in which you train matters. Training in an air conditioned gym is going to be a whole heck of a lot different than outdoor training, when it’s 80° out.
How much water? On average water intake recommendation is: 0.5 ounces x Body Weight in Pounds = Daily Fluid Requirement in ounces. There are fancy water intake calculators out there. I like bodybuilding.com . They have a simple water intake calculator. You just punch in your pounds and the amount of training you perform that day and it gives you a rough calculation of what your water intake should be. It does so in ounces. Don’t forget there are 32 ounces in 1 quart, 64 ounces/2 quarts 128 ounces/ 1 gallon. There also exist some fancy fitness tracker style wristbands that you can link to a smart bottle such as the Hidrate Spark 2.0 or the H20 Pal. 
These track your intake and even prompt you to drink throughout the day. Ah, technology.
One reason you want to stay hydrated is for your athletic potential. This means your best performance. Strength and speed and metabolic processes (such as replenishing ATP to fuel your workout) improve quantifiably when well hydrated. If you are dehydrated, performance decreases. PERIOD. This is of course because hydrated muscles are more than 70% water and if they’re dehydrated they have diminished function. That is, they contract less optimally and at a decreased velocity. Basically what I’m saying is your strength and subsequent potential gains will be compromised. If you do not stay hydrated year round in your training, you could be short changing gains.
So that’s for training. Besides training water has an important function in fat metabolism. Drinking water can actually increase your calorie burn. Your liver which metabolizes fat (amongst other things), functions more optimally when it is well hydrated. Thus water helps keep body fat levels in check. And the kidneys work better at relieving (Aaaah) the body of excess water which in effect can give you a mental boost: not retaining excess water looking bloated. Thus, water has a psychosomatic affect on your training as well!
That said, what about stage day appearance? Perhaps many of you reading this article have competed and dialed in water loss. You showed up with your superficial epigastrics popping in your lower abdomen. Perhaps some of you reading this are new and are curious how to shred for a show.
It is a bit tricky. Doing one thing for one show at one point in one town may not work quite the same for another show somewhere else. Variables people! Diuretics (although I don’t promote drug use) do work. There is the idea about getting YOUR NATURAL ANTIDIURETEC HORMONE to decrease. I use this. Yes, you read that right. You have intrinsic (internally made), natural antidiuretic hormone (it is made by special nerves in the hypothalamus then sent to the pituitary then off into the blood). The blood transports it ultimately to the kidneys. There it has its effect, where it causes your body TO HOLD ONTO WATER (reabsorb). The body is a miracle. It knows the good stuff. We have all heard that trite saying: Water is life! Thus our body manufactures a hormone that tells our kidneys hey let’s do a little recycling here, and resorbs some fluid. It’s the ultimate recycling.
When dehydrated we get down to a trickle. This is the process of eliminating wastes via urination. That is why they say when your urine is dark amber or deep yellow you are likely dehydrated.
So, how do we trick our body into not manufacturing antidiuretic hormone? (I always hated double negatives). About three days out and up to one full 24 hours before a show you want to CONSUME COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF WATER! GALLONS LITERALLY. And limit salt. Salt receptors (again in the hypothalamus detect high salinity in blood and will also cause the body to make antidiuretic hormone. Remember antidiuretic hormone will cause the body to hold onto water. Conversely don’t worry about hyponatremia, if you stay below consuming a couple gallons over a 24-hour period. It is extremely rare. Drinking copious amounts of water, the body cuts the anti diuretic hormone (in that awesome way the body works— the feedback loop) and says hey, whoa, we’ve got plenty of water!! So it will let open the flood gates. Now the tricky part is timing. You’ll want to cut water the day before and day of. The feedback loop is not so rapid in that the hormone will take a while— many hours, to respond to your now cutting water. Thus you can start your dehydration (i.e. cut water intake and use diuretics the day or two before a show). I like natural ones such as coffee (Oh, the health-nuts are flipping out here because I recommend coffee). Yet it works. As does vodka. (I’ve know competitors that use spirits to rip up the night before a comp). As you know alcohol dehydrates you. It works too. Anyhow the day before your show its time to now cut the water. You will wake up shredded the next day. If you time it right. You should sip water through out the event day so as not to get into risky dehydration. Such as rapid heart rate dizziness or become pyretic, (feverish). Cold water sipping the day of competition is ideal.
 WATER CALCULATOR. https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/water_calculator.htm
 The Water in You. https://water.usgs.gov/ Perlman, Howard. 02-Dec-2016.
 A side note here, not to get philosophical but the now deceased British, astrophysicist Steven Hawkings obsession with water (if we can find it out there in space we can find other life forms (aliens) connects in the meaning of water and our bodies. At all costs our bodies will try and preserve the water in us.
 Hyponatremia “Hyponatremia is a low sodium level in the blood. It is generally defined as a sodium concentration of less than 135 mmol/L (135 mEq/L), with severe hyponatremia being below 120 mEql/L. Symptoms can be absent, mild or severe. Mild symptoms include a decreased ability to think, headaches, nausea, and poor balance. Severe symptoms include confusion, seizures, and coma. Wikipedia.org.