Hydration: Art Or Science?


Men are born soft and supple;
dead, they are stiff and hard.
Plants are born tender and pliant;
dead, they are brittle and dry.

Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible
is a disciple of death.
Whoever is soft and yielding
is a disciple of life.

The hard and stiff will be broken.
The soft and supple will prevail.

Tao Te Ching
Written by Lao-tzu
From a translation by Steven Mitchell

Hi folks,

Painting by Chris Beacham, entitled Chaos, hanging on the wall at Johnny's, and which FitOldDog just could not resist purchasing.

Painting by Chris Beacham, entitled Chaos, hanging on the wall at Johnny's, and which FitOldDog just could not resist.

I bought a painting today, and I’m pretty excited about it because this is something that I rarely do. This work by a local artist, Chris Beacham, entitled Chaos, was being displayed in our little grocery store, Johnny’s Gone Fishing, in Carrboro, North Carolina, and I just took a shine to it. I think that my prior interest in mathematical biology, especially chaos and complexity theories, played a role, but it was the visual image that really pulled me in, so I bought it.

Then we come to science, or if you prefer Science! We see the world through many lenses, one being Art and another Science. I was an avid scientific researcher for many years, during which time I took a serious interest in the nature of the mucociliary apparatus, the river of mucus that keeps our airways clean and clear. You have to watch it to believe it! One of my fascinations was regulation of the nature and critical depth of the hypophase, a layer of watery fluid in which cilia beat and drive the thicker, surface mucus epiphase along, to carry away entrapped debris, bacteria, dead cells and other materials out of your nose and lungs to eventually arrive in your stomach (or handkerchief).

In 1972, Guyton, Coleman and Grander draw and published a diagram - Known as a Guyton Diagram. From:

In 1972, Guyton, Coleman and Grander draw and published a diagram - Known as a Guyton Diagram.

What fascinated me was the control systems involved, which have to be just right to work efficiently (I even made a Guyton diagram of this system [unfortunately lost], which grew in complexity over time, and a short movie to convince my colleagues of the beauty of this river of slime). Basically, I fell in love with mucociliary function, at the heart of which is regulation of local water levels. This brings me to water and my latest bonking experience, which would appear to have resulted from dehydration.

Water, the magic molecule: there is much more to water than meets the eye. It consists of countless numbers of little magnets (dipoles). These magnets interact with each other and with almost anything around, especially large biological molecules such as proteins and carbohydrates. In fact, many proteins have a ‘water map’ showing where water is tied up in the surface structure of the protein, making such water unavailable for the solution of other small molecules. I won’t belabor the point, but much of the water in your body is tied up in such interactions, which hold water in your body. So there are at least two types (pools) of water, one free to come and go, and the other tied up on molecular surfaces, and it is probably the ‘tied up’ water that makes your tissues nice and ‘juicy.’

Triathlete bonking from an interesting article on the matter by Ron Saetermoe.

Triathlete bonking from an interesting article on the matter by Ron Saetermoe.

The problem with aging is that we become less juicy with time, no matter how much water we drink, so how should we adjust water intake with age and training level (and temperature, and general body metabolism levels) so as to avoid the crash and burn of dehydration. If we could find ways to alter the water retaining properties of our tissues, through diet for instance, maybe we could retain that juicy texture of youth, which also comes with flexibility. If you search for information under water retention, you will find plenty of articles on the adverse aspects of this issue, such as the excellent Water Retention series on the LiveStrong website. I could find little information on healthy ways to retain water in our tissues, especially with respect to muscles and fascia.

There is Chez Ollie. Is this the case in humans (probably), if so why, and can it be reversed or delayed by diet, lifestyle or other factors? How do we modify our lives Chez Ollie as we age, I wonder?

What is the aging endurance athlete to do, when water excessinsufficiency, or even rehydration can kill, whilst our tendency to hydrate our tissues decreases with age? If your tissues don’t hold onto the water you need, swigging water all the time won’t make any difference, just more pee-time. Joe Friel suggested that you should “Chez Ollie.” When I bonked in the pool I had no sense of being thirsty, I was just swimming and busy, but maybe if I had had a bottle on the end of the pool it would have been enough to trigger the idea of drinking. Once again, I suspect, it comes down to body awareness.


-k @FitOldDog

Today’s workouts:

Still recovering from dehydration bonk in the pool!



  1. dionne liles says

    Lol ….. less juicy with age is what I have to look forward too huh?

  2. If you were significantly dehydrated you probably were light that morning when you first got out of bed.

    • You do say weird stuff, my friend. Will call in the morning re how much riding I can handle. Will be going to the track at 2:00, but will do only minor workout. -kevin

  3. So the reason why I liked the picture of those big cactus near Tucson was I was looking at the beauty of old age?

  4. Pauline Watson says

    Dehydrating in the pool, I’ve had that happen. Doing a hard pool workout causes sweating, but as it washes off, you aren’t aware of it. Your experience is a good warning for the rest of us to have a bottle of water at the end and drink periodically (which I haven’t done yet, but should).

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.