In a given week, most of us are bombarded by fitness-related propaganda: exercise equipment, healthy meal ideas, and protein supplements, to name a few. As useful as these products may be, we seldom see advertisements regarding the most crucial component of building muscle: water.
You may be wondering: Does drinking water help build muscle? And how?
Water does help build muscle. In fact, H2O makes up 76% of muscle mass. So it would make sense that much of our exercise routine would focus on drinking enough good water. Here’s exactly why water is so crucial in helping us to build muscle, and how you can optimize your fitness routine by drinking enough water.
Water and Blood Flow
Water serves as the building block of every cell. And depending on the scientific source you consult, it comprises between 60-75% of the human body. By now, we know that water plays an integral role in numerous bodily functions. It flushes waste, cushions the brain, and transports nutrients throughout our bodies.
Staying well-hydrated aids the heart in pumping blood to all parts of the body more efficiently. This is because our blood volume, the amount of fluid passing through our capillaries, arteries, and the rest of the circulatory system, is at a healthy level. When we are hydrated and have a normal blood volume, nutrients and oxygen will be better received by the muscles, which is important during exercise. Dehydration lowers blood volume, impairing proper circulation and thus depriving our muscles of the oxygen and nutrients they require to grow.
Don’t underestimate the power of drinking water to help build muscle. In fact, even losing 2% of your body weight in fluids can lower your workout performance by 25%. And exercise, since we are breathing harder and sweating more heavily, predisposes us to faster water loss. One study found that dehydration may even lead to EIMD, or exercise-induced muscle damage. This can be due to reduced blood flow to skeletal muscles, as well as disruptions to their cell membranes.
Water’s Role in Muscle Building
Muscle building is hardly a simple process, to which anyone who has spent hours upon hours lifting weights can attest. It takes months, if not years, to reach an optimal level of fitness for many due to the sustained muscular hypertrophy required to increase muscle size. Repeated stress to the muscles targeted during exercise, such as lifting weights or doing pilates, increases their size over time.
But where does water come into all of this? Well, it turns out that when we don’t get enough water, especially when putting our muscles under exercise-related stress, muscles become less efficient. This is due to the aforementioned disruptions in blood flow, as well as electrolyte deficiencies. Electrolytes are a group of minerals that facilitate a number of key bodily functions, one of them being muscle contractions. When the body is low in certain electrolytes as a result of excessive fluid loss, muscle cramping and fatigue can occur. If you find yourself feeling tired or cramped up after hitting the gym, it may be because of improper fluid intake.
Additional Benefits of Water in Building Muscle
There are also indirect functions water plays in muscle building. However, their significance should not be overlooked, as they work in tandem alongside the rest of water’s functions.
For one, the journal Psychophysiology has found that dehydration increases perceptions of pain. This can hinder what would otherwise be a longer and beneficial workout session. Over time, showing up to your exercise regimen without proper fluid intake beforehand can make it harder for the body to build muscle due to increased pain sensitivity.
Another benefit deals with joint health. One of water’s main functions in the body is to lubricate the joints. This lubrication, known as synovial fluid, is important in maintaining the integrity of the joint by cushioning the bones that come together. Staying hydrated can help you move more easily during your workouts and minimize risk of injury or pain.
Finally, staying hydrated can assist in recovery, an important part of any muscle-building routine. Drinking up after exercise replenishes water lost through sweating and removes toxins, keeping muscle soreness from becoming too painful. Though you may take rest days from your workout regimen, don’t neglect the continued importance of staying hydrated on these days to assist your body’s natural repair processes.
Water is more important to muscle growth than you may think. Since water comprises over three-fourths of our muscle mass, it is key that we take in enough alongside our muscle-building regimens to see better results and optimize post-workout recovery. Water’s role in circulation makes it a key player in delivering our muscles with growth-inducing nutrients and oxygen. It also provides the essential electrolytes needed to sustain regular muscular contractions.
Failure to take in adequate water for our workouts not only stunts our muscle-building goals, but can even increase perceptions of pain. Since water also plays a role in joint lubrication, dehydration may also leave us more vulnerable to joint injury. Alongside the rest of your muscle-building workout regimen, don’t forget to keep water at the forefront of your efforts. This will allow you to see the progress you desire and will benefit your overall health.
Q: How much water should I drink when I’m exercising?
A: Before a workout, it is recommended that the average adult drink 17-20 ounces of water at least 2 hours prior to exercising. During your workout, 7-10 ounces per 10-20 minutes of exertion is recommended. And after a workout, you’ll want to drink 16-24 ounces of water for each pound lost to sweat. This guide lays out more on how to avoid dehydration during exercise.
Q: Does the type of fluid matter when hydrating to help build muscle?
A: In fact, it does. One study found that sports drinks and even spring water were suboptimal compared to deep ocean mineral water for rehydration post-workout. Always choose water—ideally from a trusted filter—for the best hydration. Our filters at Aquagear retain health-essential electrolytes (magnesium, calcium, and potassium) while effectively removing contaminants.
- Isabel Lorenzo, Mateu Serra-Prat, Juan Carlos Yébenes. The Role of Water Homeostasis in Muscle Function and Frailty: A Review. Nutrients. 2019 Aug; 11(8): 1857.
- The Water in You: Water and the Human Body. Retrieved from usgs.gov.
- Ragav Sharma and Sandeep Sharma. Physiology, Blood Volume. StatPearls. 2021 Jan.
- Water Tips for Efficient Exercise. Retrieved from webmd.com.
- Dehydration and Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage: Implications for Recovery. Retrieved from gssiweb.org (August 2020)
- Muscular Hypertrophy and Your Workout. Retrieved from healthline.com (February 26, 2019)
- J.A. Yu-Yahiro. Electrolytes and their relationship to normal and abnormal muscle function. Orthop. Nurs. Sept-Oct 1994; 13(5): 38-40.
- Tracey Bear, Micheal Philipp, Stephen Hill, Toby Mündel. A preliminary study on how hypohydration affects pain perception. Psychophysiology. 20 January 2016.
- Synovial Fluid Analysis. Retrieved from medlineplus.gov (September 16, 2021)
- How to Recover From a Workout Faster and Stronger. Retrieved from mensjournal.com.
- The Importance of Water While Exercising. Retrieved from med.umich.edu (March 2012)
- Preston R. Harris, Douglas A. Keen, Eleni Constantopoulos, Savanna N. Weninger, Eric Hines, Matthew P. Koppinger, Zain I. Khalpey, & John P. Konhilas. Fluid type influences acute hydration and muscle performance recovery in human subjects. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2019 April.