Heat, Hydration and Hiking

Hiking can be such an exhilarating experience, but if you’re not prepared for the heat, it could end disastrously. More than half our body is made up of water, and if you lose just one percent of that, you can become dehydrated. 

By drinking water, your body’s able to effectively deliver oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles and all other cells. Water also carries away the waste products created by exercising muscles.

What Happens When An Athlete Does Not Drink Enough Water?

If you’re hiking and don’t drink enough water or replace the sweat you lost, you will lose concentration, coordination and endurance capacity. Water (sweat) must evaporate off your body to remove the heat generated by your muscles. If you are dehydrated your body must begin using the water content of your blood. This can cause blood volume to get dangerously low in order to produce sweat to protect your body from a high body temperature.

How Much Water Do I Need To Drink?

It’s easy to underestimate how much water you need while hiking. To avoid dehydration, be sure to drink to thirst. Ideally, while hiking on a hot day, drink 4-8 ounces (roughly 4-8 gulps) every 15-20 minutes to delay fatigue. A mouthful of water from your water bottle equals about 1 ounce. To get one cup of liquid, take 8 big swallows. If you pack a few fruits or vegetables to eat on your hike, they’re high in water, which will also help keep you hydrated.

Carbohydrates While Hiking

I strongly recommend packing food to eat, and depending on the duration and intensity of your hike, you may want to bring a carbohydrate and/or electrolyte-containing fluid. I like adding Nuun tablets to my water for extra sodium and potassium. You can also add a little juice to your water for some flavor and potassium. If you need an energy boost, I really like this Vega Workout Energizer Powder. It provides just the right amount of natural stimulant to make you feel good and not shaky.

For hikes lasting longer than one hour, eat 30-60g of carbohydrate per hour. This can be accomplished by eating or drinking, whichever you prefer.  

Sodium in Fluid

Adding sodium to your fluid has three benefits. #1: sodium may help enhance palatability so you drink more; #2: sodium promotes fluid retention in your body so you don’t lose as much fluid through sweating; #3: prevents hyponatremia (low sodium blood levels) caused by drinking excessively large quantities of plain water. 

You’ll Know You're Well Hydrated When:

--Your urine is clear to pale yellow. If your urine is the color of apple juice, drink more water.

--You urinate at least 4 times per day. Start drinking cool water early in the day and at regular intervals during your hike.

Some pre-hike preparation to ensure you have the correct amount of fluids for your hike will allow you to completely enjoy your outing.

In Health and Happiness,

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Gooods

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