How Does Drinking Water Help with Muscle Recovery During & After Exercise?

This blog post is about the importance of hydration to support peak sporting performance (exercise) and in particular, answering the question: how does drinking water help with muscle recovery?

Adopting a regular exercise regime is just one of the five things we can do to support living a longer, healthier life.

Exercise can be as simple as walking for 30 minutes, 3 times a week. Or for those of us who prefer a more active and strenuous approach to exercise, the consequence can cause muscle soreness which leads us to shy away from it (discussed later in this article). Should the body work particularly hard, we can even experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which can leave us feeling significant pains for days after.

Here are just some of the benefits of kicking sedentary habits and finding movement through daily exercise:

  • Assists toxin and stress release
  • Support Weight loss
  • Increase strength, vitality and body tone
  • Improve mood and general optimism
  • Boost energy
  • Improve memory

Exercise is advantageous to all tissues and systems in your body, including but not limited to the heart, blood vessels, muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons and organs plus your circulatory, respiratory, digestive, excretory, nervous and endocrine systems.

Exercise and the Brain

In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Resistance training, balance and muscle toning exercises did not have the same results.

Exercise helps cognitive function, memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.

What causes muscle soreness and how does drinking water help in terms of recovery?

Part of the reason why a number of us shy away or “actively” (pun intended) avoid more active exercise is due to the soreness we experience during our training and of course for the entirety of what I like to call “The aftermath” . . .

Muscle soreness during & after exercise is actually normal – so let’s look a little further into the differences.

During exercise, our muscles have a few main tasks:

  • Stabilising
  • Lengthen & contract
  • Burn fuel for energy (glycogen, fats, amino acids)

During the repeated contraction of our muscles during exercise, microscopic tears will appear, this is called micro trauma (sounds scary I know, but it is not).  Micro trauma is a natural development during exercise and is actually the trigger required to allow our muscles to grow bigger and stronger (desired outcome) – this occurs as the body naturally heals and repairs the micro tears in our muscles. So, post workout soreness (aftermath) is the logical and desired outcome of a great training session! And given the significant roles water plays in the body’s healing system, consistently drinking water and remaining hydrated is crucial to help muscle recovery.

Contrary to popular belief – the Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), which includes tenderness, decreased range of motion and strength experienced in the hours / days after a workout isn’t from Lactic Acid (LA) build up – rather the micro trauma to our muscles as discussed above. Lactic Acid is the burning sensation felt within your active muscles during your workout & shortly after only. LA is not responsible for our predominant post workout pain as it is expelled from the body within the first few hours post workout.

The Importance of Hydration for Peak Performance & Muscle Recovery

So how do we reduce the soreness DURING a workout so that we are more likely to push through and continue practicing our daily training on a more regular basis? This is where cellular hydration has immense importance & value for peak performance.

Staying hydrated not only comes down to the quantity of water we drink, but the quality. If the water we are drinking can’t get into our cells and hydrate us on a cellular level, it can’t nourish these cells and dehydration sets in. Drinking zazen Water ensures that you are being hydrated at a cellular level – this is due to the unique balance of zazen Water being filtered, mineral rich with a balanced range of minerals, mildly alkaline and structured for ideal absorption. See the difference between zazen Water, tap water and bottled water here.

“The better hydrated we are, the longer it will be until we experience that recognisable burn and promote quicker recovery”

Lactic Acid is actually water-soluble and the better hydrated we are, the longer it will be until we experience that recognisable burn. You will inevitably still start to experience LA burn but the onset will be delayed and less severe.

While reducing lactic acid build up during a workout will not prevent post workout soreness (DOMS), it will help you work harder for longer which is fundamental for any athlete, whether a child or an adult, and remaining adequately hydrated will help promote faster muscle recovery so you can get back to it sooner.

You will also find that being properly hydrated will allow the following benefits during and after exercise:

  • Increased focus / concentration
  • Improved function & movement
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Support recovery

Exercise can feel like a chore (I’ve been there, maybe you’ve been there too– it’s ok) … But there are proactive steps we can take to ensure the pre, during and post workout stages are accomplished at an optimal level so that we can perform at our best and recover like champs. Those proactive steps are largely through drinking healthy amounts of optimal water to promote the numerous benefits being hydrated does to aid in muscle recovery.

Education and awareness around peak cellular hydration is the first step towards improved performance. The first recommendation I make with all athletes I meet and support is to understand the importance of hydration as without it – we fail to function.

zazen Alkaline Water is designed for Peak Cellular Hydration, helping you perform at your best.

References:

Proske U. (2005). Muscle tenderness from exercise: mechanisms?. The Journal of physiology564(Pt 1), 1. https://doi.org/10.1113/jphysiol.2005.085514

Warburton, D. E., Nicol, C. W., & Bredin, S. S. (2006). Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l'Association medicale canadienne174(6), 801–809. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.051351

Mandolesi, L., Polverino, A., Montuori, S., Foti, F., Ferraioli, G., Sorrentino, P., & Sorrentino, G. (2018). Effects of Physical Exercise on Cognitive Functioning and Wellbeing: Biological and Psychological Benefits. Frontiers in psychology9, 509. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00509

Miles MP, Clarkson PM. Exercise-induced muscle pain, soreness, and cramps. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 1994 Sep;34(3):203-16. PMID: 7830383.

Armstrong, L. E., & Johnson, E. C. (2018). Water Intake, Water Balance, and the Elusive Daily Water Requirement. Nutrients10(12), 1928. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10121928

Cronkelton, E, 6 Ways to Get Rid of Lactic Acid in the Muscles, Healthline (2018) https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-get-rid-of-lactic-acid

Integrated Rehabilitation Services, Importance of Hydration for Recovery and Healing (2019) https://integrehab.com/blog/athletic-training/hydration-recovery-healing/

Faizan U, Rouster AS. Nutrition and Hydration Requirements In Children and Adults. [Updated 2020 Sep 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562207/

Belval, L. N., Hosokawa, Y., Casa, D. J., Adams, W. M., Armstrong, L. E., Baker, L. B., Burke, L., Cheuvront, S., Chiampas, G., González-Alonso, J., Huggins, R. A., Kavouras, S. A., Lee, E. C., McDermott, B. P., Miller, K., Schlader, Z., Sims, S., Stearns, R. L., Troyanos, C., & Wingo, J. (2019). Practical Hydration Solutions for Sports. Nutrients11 (7), 1550. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11071550