Water Intake

Q: Everyone says you should drink at least 8-12 glasses of water a day. If I am exercising on a regular basis, how much water do I really need?

A: The general consensus from practically every health practitioner - and I, too, was a culprit of this thinking - is that you should drink plenty of water daily to stay well hydrated and help flush out waste products while reducing the strain on the kidneys and liver (particularly when protein levels are high to facilitate clearance of urea.) However, we must be careful with these recommendations. Too much water intake can actually be dangerous! I first learned of this condition from Dr. Mel Siff - it is called water intoxication or hyponatremia. Although infrequent, exercise-related hyponatremia may be life-threatening when accompanied by prolonged exercise. The reason is it accelerates salt loss in the sweat and makes cells swell which can cause changes in brain chemistry, lung congestion and muscle weakness.(4)

On the other hand, if you do not take in enough water, performance may suffer. Even a small loss in body weight from dehydration will cause a significant decrease in strength.(5) Many times, if you are thirsty, you are already in a state of dehydration. So, there is a fine line between taking in enough water or consuming too much! Of course, this will vary among individuals and other factors - such as diuretics (i.e. caffeine, alcohol, thermogenics) and sweat loss - must be considered.(3) Therefore, the blanket statement: "Drink 8-12 glasses of water a day!" may or may not apply to your situation. You can gauge your water intake by the color of your urine: if it is clear, you are probably taking in enough water; however, if it is dark, you should increase your water intake. Perhaps the best suggestion, though, is to stay comfortably hydrated and drink water as you lose it ... but not too much!

Determining Fiber Type

Q: How do you determine the fiber type of a muscle?

A: One way to determine fiber type is to find your 1 repetition maximum (1RM) on an exercise. Then, perform as many reps as possible with 80% of your 1RM. Regardless of who you follow, Dr. Fred Hatfield (estimates 8 reps at 80% 1RM) or Charles Poliquin (7 reps at 80% 1RM), the following table will indicate your fiber type:

Reps Performed with 80% 1RM Fiber Type
less than 7 fast-twitch (FT) dominant
7 or 8 mixed fiber type
more than 8 slow-twitch (ST) dominant

Poliquin later refined his method using a higher intensity (85% 1RM) - he found that this gave more accurate results:

Reps Performed with 85% 1RM Fiber Type
less than 5 FT dominant
5 mixed fiber type
more than 5 ST dominant

The above method indicates whether you should perform high, medium, or low reps on a particular exercise. For instance, if you are FT dominant, then you should use heavier loads and lower reps predominantly in your training. ST dominant individuals, on the other hand, will respond better to lighter loads and higher repetitions. This information is really nothing new.

Another way to determine fiber type that many people are not aware of is to use electronic muscle stimulation (EMS). This method was introduced to me by Dr. Mark Lindsay and it goes like this. Since EMS recruits white fibers first(2), a FT dominant muscle will activate at lower intensities. (The opposite occurs during a voluntary contraction - red muscle fiber is recruited initially, and as the intensity of contraction increases, white fiber is fired.) Therefore, by simply placing the pads over different muscles, you can get an idea of fiber type distribution throughout the body as well as among individuals. This will influence the training parameters as described above. Robert Colling wrote an excellent review of human muscle fiber type distribution that can be found on the internet.(1)

Of course, you could always have a muscle biopsy performed if you really want to know!

Abdominals as Stabilizers

Q: I've heard you mention that you don't need tons of cardio to burn stubborn abdominal fat. Okay, I can live with that, but you've also said that it isn't absolutely necessary to perform direct ab work either. What gives?

A: If you want to build a serious set of abdominals, routinely perform the following exercises and their variations: squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, and standing military presses. These multi-joint movements require a strong contribution from the abdominals to stabilize the core, particularly when heavy loads are used. It is not uncommon to hear clients complain of abdominal soreness a day or two after performing multiple sets with a decent weight of the chin-up or standing military press exercise - the ab prestretch will tap into fibers you never thought existed! And remember, your abdominals act as a natural girdle, or weight belt if you will, when performing all exercises, particularly squats and deadlifts. These muscles act as a bridge between your upper and lower body and are heavily recruited as stabilizers.

Sure, isolation exercises like pullovers, curls, and even triceps pressdowns also require a good degree of core stability; however, the loads used are relatively low compared to the big 4 mentioned above. In fact, according to Siff & Verkhoshansky, isolation becomes virtually impossible if large loads are used, and in many cases, the tension developed in the stabilizers will equal or even exceed that of the prime movers!(6) So, you see, the abdominals can be trained quite effectively as stabilizers - the physiques of top Olympic weightlifters will attest to that.


1. Colling, R. Distribution of Human Muscle Fibre Type (Review). Exercise Physiology 552, 1997. http://www.curtin.edu.au/curtin/dept/physio/pt/academic/

2. Francis, C. Training for Speed. Australia: Faccioni Speed & Conditioning Consultants, 1997.

3. Kleiner SM. Water: an essential but overlooked nutrient. J Am Diet Assoc. 1999 Feb;99(2):200-6.

4. Montain SJ, Sawka MN, Wenger CB. Hyponatremia associated with exercise: risk factors and pathogenesis. Exerc Sport Sci Rev 2001 Jul;29(3):113-117

5. Schoffstall JE, Branch JD, Leutholtz BC, Swain DP. Effects of Dehydration and Rehydration on the One-Repetition Maximum Bench Press of Weight-Trained Males. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2001;15(1):1029108.

6. Siff, MC, Verkhoshansky, YV. Supertraining (4th Edition). Denver, CO: Supertraining International, 1999. (page 241)

About The Author

John Paul Catanzaro is a certified kinesiologist and professional fitness and lifestyle consultant with a specialized honours Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology and Health Science. He owns and operates a private studio in Toronto, Ontario providing training and nutritional consulting services. For additional information, visit his website at www.BodyEssence.ca or call .

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