A hydrated muscle is an anabolic muscle. We've known for over 20 years that cell swelling, (influenced by hydration levels), inhibits protein breakdown and stimulates protein synthesis, which is very important for recovery and muscle gains.
While it should be a no-brainer, the right water intake and optimal hydration status is something that drastically influences cell volume, strength, recovery and anabolic hormones.
A recent study looked at the effect of "Hypohydration" (decreased total body water) on catabolic and anabolic hormones in response to resistance training.
The study found that hypohydrated training resulted in:
None of this is good.
Further evidence can be found in a 2011 study which showed that cyclists with heat exposure and a 3 percent dehydration status suffered from impaired peak and mean power abilities during repeated anaerobic sprint cycling bouts.
Despite the obvious importance, optimal hydration/cell volume is still not optimised by most athletes. The effects of dehydration range from minimal (at 2% dehydration, strength and performance decrease), to severe (at 10% dehydration, death can occur).
So we know that Protein synthesis is dependent on cell hydration. If you are even a little dehydrated the ability to recover from intense training is compromised. We know that cell volume is influenced by hydration. We also know that if you train in a dehydrated state your strength and anabolic response to training will suffer and so will your recovery/gains.
So what do we do about it?
A recent study found that giving "alkaline" water to cyclists who performed a dehydrating exercise bout resulted in a substantial improvement in hydration levels and accelerated recovery.
Another study gave alkaline water to participants for a week, which increased blood pH from an average of 6.23 to 7.07 and urine pH from an average of 7.52 to 7.69. They also stayed more hydrated by elevating their pH.
You can purchase specialty bottled water which has been purposely modified to increase the alkaline and pH content. This strategy will cost you a small fortune though. The most economical way is to purchase a Cleansui Alkaline Water Purification Jug which Serious Supplements stock specifically for this purpose.
The only question remaining is how much of the alkaline water to drink. To poach a guideline from the late great Dan Duchaine (who was one of the industry's great minds), a good rule of thumb for most athletes is 5 clear urinations per day, 2 of which should come after your workout.
Dan's advice here is excellent as it gives each individual a way of monitoring their individual water requirement needs. If you work in the sun doing physical labour, your water demands would be greater than someone with a desk job.