"Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless - like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend."
Bruce Lee was far ahead of his time when he spoke these words. He used water as a metaphor to describe the essence of Jeet Kun Do, his philosophy on how one should approach the martial arts. And indeed, water has a very direct role to play in the physical side of things as well.
Water plays a very important role in anybody’s life but is especially important for an athlete. The average adult body consists of 60% water so the amount of fluid lost during a day should be balanced out by the amount taken in, else dehydration can follow.
Water is necessary for all life on Earth. Humans can survive for four to six weeks without food but only three or four days without water. The amount of water required varies between individuals, being dependent on such things as the person’s physical condition, the amount and intensity of their exertion and the environment they operate in. Hot and humid environs will drain the body of its water more than cold, dry places.
Hydration is one of very few primary needs for human beings. But why is it so important? Its because water is a major constituent of our bodies and vital organs. It provides five vital functions:
Water is a carrier, distributing essential nutrients to cells, such as minerals, vitamins and glucose.
Water removes waste products including toxins that the organs’ cells reject, and removes them through urines and feces.
Water participates in the biochemical break-down of what we eat.
Water has a large heat capacity which helps limit changes in body temperature in a warm or a cold environment.
Water allows the body to release heat when ambient temperature is higher than body temperature. The body begins to sweat, and the evaporation of water from the skin surface very efficiently cools the body.
Water is an effective lubricant around joints. It also acts as a shock absorber for eyes, brain, spinal cord and even for the fetus through amniotic fluid.
When athletes make weight before the actual fight, they tend to lose mostly water in the last week. It is safe to say that, with professional guidance, an athlete will be able to lose 5-10% of his body weight in the last week.
The way to do it is (i) follow a specific diet and (ii) drink a lot of water in the last week, up to seven liters a day. Day before the weigh-in you drink just one liter and on the day of the weigh-in, you don't drink at all.
Your body is still used to losing huge amounts of water like in the preceding days but because there is now little to no intake, it is not being replaced and your weight drops down. Its important to consume very little salt in the last few days of a weight cut also, as salt causes water retention.
Rehydration after a weigh-in is extremely important. Take some Oral Rehydration Solution and mix it with water first, then add some extra electrolytes. Make sure you don't drink too fast; instead you should sip slowly. Then you can start eating some fruits or drink a smoothie and eat some carbohydrates slowly.
As long as you keep drinking water at a steady pace after the weigh-in, you will put your weight back on in a quick but safe manner. Take note of all the above - on fight day you will take to the ring like a duck to water.