The Hydration Equation

By on July 10, 2013

As a performance coach it is imperative I know how the body works nutritionally. It is no good working on strength and body composition without one of the biggest pieces of the jigsaw.

If you get your nutrition right then everything falls into place, your energy increases, aches and pains can go away, abs can appear, fat can melt and you will feel so much better!

As my friend and mentor Geoff Thompson says, master the palate and you can master anything. Geoff is a massive believer in getting your palate right, because it is the hardest thing to master. Master the palate and you can apply that same knowledge to anything else you do, it is that powerful.

I want to delve  into how the body works and how by addressing your nutrition with a more holistic approach you are able to harness your energy and be able to push yourself that much further.

There is one thing above all else that can have a massive impact on your health,  training and performance.

What am I talking about?




I am amazed how many people don’t utilise water as they should. Nearly every client I have collaborated with has had sub optimal hydration when questioned in our initial meeting.

The first thing I check when someone comes to me for help for weight loss or performance is how much clean water they are drinking, and I mean Clean water, Tea, coffee and energy drinks DO NOT COUNT!! If anything they add the hydration problem as they all affect adrenal function and insulin production as they are stimulants and can actually dehydrate you!

Without even focusing on training, most people are in a state of dehydration every day, which can lead to all manner of general health issues such as:

  • Low back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Angina
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Pain
  • High cholesterol
  • Weight gain
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Diabetes

So you can see immediately that if we are not sufficiently hydrated then a lot of bodily functions will simply not perform. Chronic dehydration can lead to all kinds of health issues.


Water in Performance

From a performance perspective a lack of water also affects our movement, strength and endurance, the absolute last thing that you want to happen when competing.

The following table describes how much water is involved in critical processes:


Brain functionWater composes 75% of your brain. If your brain is dehydrated everything else is going to suffer including performance


Blood flowWater makes up 83% of your blood, if you are dehydrated your blood becomes thicker and your heart has to work harder to get nutrients to cells and remove waste processes from the body as a result of exercise such as lactic acid.


Temperature regulationOur body loses water and other minerals through sweating. This is vital to maintain the correct core body temperature, this is why it is so important to take plenty water on board when training


Joint healthThe synovial fluid that protects our joints is made up of water, dehydration means aches and pains and possible injury in the joints if they are not lubricated


Nutrient absorptionIf our cells are dehydrated then it is harder for them to absorb the nutrients you need to function as their function is impaired.


Energy productionUsed for digestion to move digested food through or intestines to allow us to absorb vital nutrients, if there isn’t enough we will not get the nutrients we need or allow our digestive system to work properly.


Muscle ContractionOur muscles are around 75% water and is vital to proper muscle contraction and waste disposal. If you lose even just 3% of this water causes a 10% drop in strength and an 8% loss in speed


As well as general health issues, being dehydrated has SERIOUS implications in your training and how you perform.

A person is considered dehydrated if they have lost 2 percent of their body weight via sweating. Blood volume is heavily reliant on adequate water, if dehydration occurs and blood volume drops your body has to work harder to pump blood round the body, making it harder to get vital nutrients to our cells, especially under load such as exercise. This may also lead to muscle cramping, fatigue, dizziness and the effects of heat stroke.

Common causes of dehydration, especially in athletes such as martial artists and people who exercise in general are:

  • Inadequate fluid intake
  • Excessive sweating
  • Failure to replace fluid losses during and after exercise
  • Exercising in dry, hot weather
  • Drinking only when thirsty

Water intake is essential for everyone. We perspire around 500 ml of water through sweating during the night alone, so it is imperative that you start hydrating as soon as you wake.


Rule of Thumb

Although it is impossible to provide specific recommendation to individuals, as a rule of thumb for every 50lb of body weight you should be drinking 1 litre of water and you should increase it if you are training.

The other way is to monitor the colour of your urine.  Light coloured, diluted urine probably means you are hydrated; dark coloured, concentrated urine probably means you are dehydrated. See the chart to get an idea about your hydration.

Whilst drinking water and hydrating through the day requires only water, when you are training there are other factors to consider with hydration. When we sweat we lose vital minerals from our bodies including sodium and potassium, electrolytes essential in the uptake of water into the body.

Sports drink manufacturers have been quick to jump on this and create all manner of sports drinks all marketed to replenish the body with energy and minerals etc. Another way to convince athletes that it is vital to drink them.

Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth!


The Sports Drink Phenomenon

Whilst exercising the single most reason why you become dehydrated

According to the Institute of Medicine the need for carbohydrate and electrolytes replacement during exercise depends on exercise intensity, duration, weather and individual differences in sweat rates. Sodium and potassium are to help replace sweat electrolyte losses, and sodium also helps to stimulate thirst. Carbohydrate provides energy for exercise over 60-90 minutes.

However these drinks are vastly overrated and are not needed unless you are performing ultra endurance events. The sugar is of poor quality and won’t actually fuel your body and the minerals and extra stimulants are either not needed (again unless you are competing in ultra endurance events) or they are in such small quantities that it makes no difference and are more of a marketing gimmick!

When you are going to train, you are better off adding 10g of Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) to water and drinking it 30 minutes before training. When muscle glycogen is broken down by the body to use for fuel, it is BCAA’s that is used for energy. By adding them to the blood stream already, they are immediately used as fuel.


Coconut Water

Instead of using a sports drink, consider using coconut water at the end of a training session.coconuts

Apart from it being a natural product (make sure you check different brands for what they add in) It is better for rehydration and electrolytes than any sports drink, for example, it is in fact an all-natural sports drink without all the sugar and artificial ingredients that are in sports drinks. The only sugars are from the coconut water itself. It is also full of magnesium and potassium, which enhances the body’s ability to hydrate after intense exercise.


Water Quality

In the UK tap water is treated with a large number of chemicals in order to kill bacteria and other microorganisms. In addition, it may contain other undesirable contaminants like toxic metal salts, hormones and pesticides, or it may become contaminated by chemicals or microbes within pipes (e.g. lead, bacteria, protozoa).

Here’s an example of what’s frequently found in tap water that we drink every day:
Chlorine, Fluorine compounds, Trihalomethanes, Cryptosporidium, salts of: arsenic, radium, aluminum, copper, lead, mercury, cadmium, barium, hormones, nitrates and pesticides.

In fact over 350 CHEMICALS have been found in UK tap water supplies. These chemicals can lead to LOTS of health issues. Including the displacement of iodine from the thyroid gland.

So make sure you drink bottled water or better yet get a water filter that fits under the sink and attaches to your mains supply.


Action plan:

  • Drink 1 litre of clean water for every 50lb bodyweight during the day and increase it if you are exercising
  • Drink 1 pint of water every morning on waking with the juice of one lemon to help digestion and detoxify the liver
  • Drink a glass of water with lemon 15-20 minutes before eating your main meal to naturally boost your levels of HCL in the gut.
  • Drink bottled mineral water or install a water filter, there are too many chemicals left in our water that can affect our health.
  • Stop drinking sports drink completely (training or not) only drink water for performance gains.
  • If you want energy for a strenuous training session, add some BCAA’s to your water before and during your training session.
  • Hydrate with water during training and if you need to replace lost electrolytes, drink coconut water at the end of your training session.

Never before has nutrition been so complicated, with so many diet company’s vying for attention, creating more and more “magic pills”, meal replacement shakes playing on our lack of knowledge to sell us their products. My number one goal is to help as many people as possible to understand nutrition better and cut through at the BS.

yours in Health





About Dean Coulson

• International Best Selling Author of the Fit Formula • Feature writer on Nutrition for the Uk’s biggest selling Martial arts magazine – Martial Arts Illustrated • Presenter & speaker - Tour the UK with Bafta Award Winning writer Geoff Thompson. ( ) • Owner and Performance coach at Assert Fitness Ltd. Taking our clients Dreams and makes them a reality, through the realms of coaching all aspects of health and fitness to busy professionals. • ,