by Dave Sears
Editor of Muscles in Minutes

In the American Journal of Physiology recently, a Dartmouth Medical School doctor reported that there's no scientific evidence to back up the traditional advice of drinking eight glasses of water a day. "Drinking that much water will just make you run to the bathroom," he said. He also justifiably points to the fact that there is some water in the food we consume, which should be taken into consideration when determining our need for the indispensable wet stuff.

However, I'm confident that the good doctor did not take weight training requirements into consideration when making his statements. If he did, he might have learned quite a bit by consulting with Ragne Kempe of Orust, Sweden. Ragne has an interesting perspective that the American Journal of Physiology might just be interested in.

His journey of critical thought started with an email to me back in May... Ragne was surprised to see a loss in strength after an extended vacation:

"When I came back home I started my training again, but despite 10 days off (the usual amount of days between each muscle-group) I was suddenly weaker! I even ate more than I normally do during my vacation. Shouldn't I be stronger when the system had more recovery-time? I was also weaker my next workout as well!

However, when I did my second rotation of workout 3, after "the vacation," I was stronger again. I'm thinking that maybe I can't take that many days-off without doing at least some muscle-work in between! What do you think?"

I expressed to Ragne that while this was disappointing, it was not unusual. In fact, I have had the same experience many times - usually while traveling to the Caribbean or Florida. I did not have a specific answer as to "why," but felt that something to do with the break in normal day to day activities was the culprit. On vacation, we typically do lots of things we normally don't: sit in the sun for hours, eat a lot more (but sometimes irregularly), consume more alcohol, sleep more, and sometimes dramatically increase overall activity (think Disney World or non-stop beach activities).

Ragne also noted that he has experienced a "usual" lack of progress (or even a regression) during the warm Summers of Sweden. He decided to look into this further... he writes:

"We've had a pretty warm summer this year, and as usual, I felt weaker. I am normally patient (with my lack of progress) while training in very hot weather, because I know my progress will improve after the warm period - it always has. But it didn't improve this time. So I started analyzing the situation. I tested every factor I could think of: volume, frequency, caloric intake, and rest, but nothing helped!

Than I read your article "Stress Management" just before I went on vacation. Interesting! I used this as the catalyst to solve my problem (I haven't visited Mike's web-site in a long time but my intuition told me to look and see if there was something there "for me").

I started analyzing the problem deeper. "What did this Summer have in common with the vacations where I became weaker?" I started to review the similarities and differences. After eliminating things like activity level, sleep and food intake, I was perplexed. Then one evening just before going to bed, I suddenly knew it. I didn't drink enough water! I was drinking less water - and/or was less hydrated - during those periods than normal.

Starting that very next day, I started drinking at least 3.5-4 liters of water (often more) per day. Two days later, when I worked out again, I was back in business! I then spent a week in Iceland (this time I drank a lot of water) and despite the vacation I was still strong when I came back. I later went to New York for a week but during that time I didn't drink that much and I was once again weaker!

As I write this, we are experiencing another warm period in Sweden, but this time I'm conscious of drinking water throughout the day. Consequently, I'm continuing to progress quite well - which is NOT what usually happens in the warm periods."

So while that doesn't mean you should go out and drink gallons of water each day (which can actually kill you), it's an excellent lesson in balance. We're all aware that our bodies are made up primarily of water. But have we ever stopped to realize just how crucial proper hydration can be? Let's be real... it stands to reason that muscle function would be compromised by dehydration, but how many of you have ever made that connection? I for one, have not.

Thanks, Ragne, for sharing your experience - we can all benefit from your analysis and critical thought. And thanks again, Mike, for "teaching us to fish" - we wouldn't be here without you!

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