How much water should a bodybuilder drink? Less Than You Think!

Fluids are very important when it comes to proper digestion and hormone balance.

And how could they not? The majority of our body is water. Our muscles contain lots of it. Our brain does too.

In the quest of building the best possible physique, we should know – how much water should a bodybuilder drink?

In this article, I will be taking a look at what science has to say about the subject, as well as some of the best coaches in the industry.

I will also explain how you should consume water during peak week and why the old-school methods had it all wrong in this aspect.

So let’s dive into it.

Fluid consumption – What counts as water?

There are a couple of ways to figure out how much water you should aim for.

The first method is based on body weight calculations and the second one on a more in-depth analysis of your personal needs as an athlete.

But before we start throwing numbers around – what should we consider as water in our diet?

In this case, you’d want to include all fluids except for alcoholic beverages.

Even drinks that we often forget to measure, such as coffee, diet soda, and even milk contribute to the total amount of our liquid intake. 

The reason we don’t take alcohol into consideration is that alcohol causes dehydration, meaning that you urinate more than you consume.

So how much water should a bodybuilder drink?

how much water should a bodybuilder drink

While there are different methods to calculate your optimal water intake I would like to outline two that seem to work best for athletes.

Method 1 – By body weight

For those using the metric system: Consume 1 liter of water for every 23 kilos of your total body weight.

For those using the imperial system: Aim for 70% of your total (lbs) body weight in liquid ounces.

So here is what this looks like in an example:

If you weigh 200 lbs (90kg), you should be consuming approximately 3.9 to 4.1 liters of water.

This is because 90/23 = 3.91, which we can then round off at a total of 4 liters to make counting easier.

Conversely, using the imperial system, we would calculate as follows:

200/10 = 20 -> 20*7=140 liquid ounces (which roughly translates to 4.1 liters).

Method 2 – By number of urinations

The second method I find acts as a good way to keep track of your water intake can be found on Lyle McDonald’s website.

According to his guidelines, an athlete should have a total of five clear (transparent) urinations every day, with two of them coming right after resistance training (workout).

I believe the second method is a great way for beginner athletes to start measuring their water intake, as it limits the mental stress of counting water and may even work better as a sustainable habit.

The reason this method works great is that no two people will need the exact same amount of water.

For example, consider a habitual coffee drinker who may consume 10 or more cups of coffee per day. This person will urinate and sweat a lot more than someone who barely drinks a liter of water per day.

Moreover, the following factors may also affect how much water should a bodybuilder drink:

  • The quality and quantity of your resistance training
  • The type and duration of cardio you perform
  • And the type of climate you operate in

As seen in an example

To illustrate how much water a bodybuilder should drink, let’s talk about two completely different people. 

One is a 225lbs (±100kg) inactive person who doesn’t sweat, living in a location of sub-zero temperatures. He trains 4 times per week in a gym that has air conditioning. 

The other person is also 225 lbs, lives in tropical temperatures, sweats a little too much and trains every single day in a gym that doesn’t have an air conditioner.

Who do you think will need more water? It’s kinda obvious, isn’t it?

Staying hydrated is very important. Studies have shown that losing 2% of your body weight from fluids can negatively affect aerobic performance.

The same studies conclude that a 3% body weight decrease, coming from fluid losses, will have a negative impact on the strength you have during your workout sessions [15].

Water consumption during peak week

Now let’s focus more specifically on peak week. Brace yourselves because this one will be quite technical.

You may have often heard about bodybuilders that cut out their water intake for days on end to get rid of subcutaneous body water (look leaner on stage).

So before you go ahead and do stupid things, let’s talk about the right approach to water intake during peak weak.

Spoiler alert – You should drink more water to get rid of subcutaneous water!

That’s right. It may sound impossible, but it’s true.

To understand how this process works, and why drinking more water is the best way to get rid of it as well, we need to look at this matter from a point of endocrinology.

In essence, there are two main kinds of hormones secreted in your body. Those are:

  • Steroidal hormones – These cannot be stored inside the gland that is responsible for their manufacturing. Thus, they are produced only when there is a need for them to be secreted. 
  • Peptidic hormonesThese are stored inside the same gland that produces it. They are secreted when the glands receive a signal to do so.

Where am I going with this introduction?

Let’s focus now on one of the two main hormones that control your body’s fluid balance.

ADH (Anti Diuretic Hormone)

When ADH gets released it keep water within your body. This is because ADH secretion increases the reabsorption of water, promoting it back into circulation.

ADH is manufactured by the Hypothalamic Nuclei and then released into the bloodstream by the Neurohypophysis

Once manufactured, the Neurohypophysis can secrete it or store it for later use. Its release will depend on the body’s necessities. Two main stimuli regulate the secretion of ADH:

  • Plasma Osmolacity – When extra-cellular electrolytes increase above a certain amount, the hypothalamic osmoreceptors that react to this stimulus will then inform the neurons to release ADH. Conversely, when extra-cellular electrolytes decrease, ADH is not secreted.
  • Your blood pressure and blood volume – These also contribute to ADH regulation via certain receptors located on vessel walls. When the volume of blood is decreased, ADH is secreted. On the contrary, when blood volume increases above a certain threshold, ADH is not secreted.

Another hormone that most bodybuilders don’t pay attention to, but plays a very important role to water balance is ANH.

ANP (Atrial Natriuretic Peptide)

ANP is causing a reduction in expanded extracellular water volume by increasing the sodium levels of your urine. 

Additionally, ANP also interacts with other hormones. Among its first targets are the adrenal glands, which cause Aldosterone and Cortisol inhibition. 

Finally, ANP is also partially responsible for the secretion of ACTH (Adrenocorticotropic hormone) and ADH (as discussed above); it combats sodium and water retention because of  Aldosterone.

This somewhat complicated introduction to the above hormones should help you understand why drinking more water is beneficial for pre-contest athletes.

To sum up all the above, the best way to lose subcutaneous water is by restricting the secretion of ADH and Aldosterone. And this is best done by drinking more water and increasing your sodium intake.

Keep in mind that the human body will always fight to maintain its balance (a.k.a. homeostasis) and will react negatively to sudden changes, whatever those may be. 

As such, if you decide to suddenly drop your water or sodium intake, your body will do whatever it can to hold on to both (re-absorption).

Understanding homeostasis

The fight for homeostasis occurs because water plays an important role in some of the functions that happen within your body:

  • Water balance is responsible for many chemical reactions and your body will need the right amount of blood volume to perform those successfully.
  • Sodium balance (all minerals for that fact) is important for the functionality of your muscles and the transmission of your nerves – without the regulation of sodium and potassium, the neuromuscular activity would not be possible.

As such, it is impossible to give a certain “water protocol” that fits all competitors. 

So, how much water should you drink?

The best way to understand how much water your body needs during peak week is to trust a coach that has worked with many athletes that have a similar body composition and goals with you.

The coach, or you, should check and identify whether the body is holding water during and the day before your show day. If this is the case, a small bump in water and sodium could do the trick.

A basic guideline would be to bump your water intake by 30-80% around 8 days before your competition and this bump should be kept for at least 3 days. 

Progressively, as the days go by, you can slowly decrease water intake back to normal. On show day, you will have to judge by the way you look. If you look flat, drink more. If you look great, don’t change anything.

Remember, peak week is only meant to give the finishing touches to an already perfect physique. 

Don’t try to make up for a shitty diet by manipulating your water intake. Not only will you not succeed, but you may put your health at serious risk.

If you still wonder why do bodybuilders drink so much water before a competition, you should now have a better idea of the subject.

I will be talking more about water protocols on my contest prep guides, which I plan to release soon.

Summing up

In this article, we looked at the optimal daily water intake that an athlete should consume. We also looked into the workings of water manipulation during peak week and why this is not a good practice (health and physique-wise).

So when you are wondering how much water should a bodybuilder drink, a good place to start is by using the bodyweight assessment method, which we discussed above.

While consuming the recommended amount of fluid (water and other beverages), keep track of the number of urinations you have on a daily basis. 

If you pee too often or if your urinations are not transparent, you can adjust your intake to match the second method we looked into, reaching five clear urinations per day.

And that it! So, why do bodybuilders drink a gallon of water a day or more? You now have a better overview and a detailed explanation that should help you get a better understanding of the topic.

FLUID INTAKE GUIDELINES

Based on Bodyweight (IMPERIAL) 2/3 of your body weight (lbs) in fluid ounces
Based on Bodyweight (METRIC) 1 L of fluids for every 23 kg of your bodyweight
Based on Urinations 5 clear urinations per day,

2 of those shortly after training

 

Frequently asked questions

The following questions have been often asked to me with regard to water intake. I will do my best to answer them so you get a better idea of how much water should a bodybuilder drink.

Does timing matter when it comes to water consumption?

No. However, it may be a good idea to increase your water intake around and during your workout sessions. This is because your body will lose a large amount of water, especially during high-intensity aerobic exercise. And this water needs to be replenished. I personally aim at drinking 25-30% of my daily water intake during my workout sessions.

Is it better to drink water from a glass and/or metallic bottles?

There is no sufficient research that indicates plastic bottles to affect the quality of water in the context of hydration and exercise performance.

How much water should I drink to gain muscle?

In order to build muscle, apart from water intake, you will need to take into consideration the intake of macronutrients and micronutrients. 

The combination of these three in a way that supports muscle building will give you the best results. That being said, drinking the right amount of water will improve your digestive functions which, in turn, will allow you to eat more food. And in the case of enhanced athletes, the more good food you eat, the more muscle you build.

What happens when bodybuilding athletes are not drinking enough water?

The following things occur to your body when it comes to exercise performance:

  • Less energy in the gym
  • Muscle pain instead of muscle pumps
  • Digestion problems
  • Dehydration

Does water intake differ for natural and enhanced athletes?

No. Whether you train as a natural or enhanced athlete you will benefit from the right water intake. This is because sufficient water intake helps to regulate your digestive functions, which are important when trying to attain your physique goals.

How much water should a bodybuilder drink during depletion?

The water intake should follow the guidelines of the first chapter during depletion. Eight days before the contest, fluid intake should increase to facilitate the athlete’s goals. This can be anywhere from a 30% to 80% increase in water. Progressively, during peak week, water can be slowly decreased back to its normal levels up to show day.

What do bodybuilders put in their water during training?

Due to high water intake, bodybuilders will often add flavoring to their water, to drink it easier. This can be a natural, zero-calorie flavoring, BCAAs or even dextrose/maltodextrin powder for intra-workout carbs.

I am a low-weight individual. How much water should I drink a day?

Whether you are starting from a point of obesity or are severely underweight, the above doses will work if you manage to stick to them. As you are gaining weight, you will be able to drink more, improving your digestive system and hormonal health.

Dimitris Tsapis

Dimitris writes articles related to his experiences as a coach and bodybuilding athlete.

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