• Backpackontrack

Hydration basics

Updated: Sep 23, 2019


Your body can not function without water.

You depend on water in order to survive. All cells, tissues and organs in your body need water to work correctly.

Hydration is the most basic need of the human body. You probably don't know it, but your body contains around 60% of water. When you exercise, you will dehydrate quickly, but even when doing nothing, the percentage of water in your body will reduce continuously. It's therefore important to keep hydrating in order to maintain the necessary level of water in your body.

It's difficult to hydrate well when you are hiking on a remote trail, doing extreme sports or when you are exercising. Some people have even difficulties during a normal day at the office.


What are the benefits of being well hydrated

  • It keeps your body going. It lubricates your joints and removes waste.

  • It provides you with power, energy and endurance.

  • It helps you to stay cool while doing exercise.

  • You can go farther and faster with regular hydration.

  • After exercise, hydration will help you recover faster.

How do I lose water

Going to the bathroom and sweating are the most well-known ways, but you also lose water vapour with every breath you take. Loss of water can be speeded up when being exposed to extreme heat, pysically active or by being sick. Vomiting and diarrhea are the main cause of extreme dehydration while on vacation.

How do I know that I'm dehydrated

Are you feeling thirsty? Having a dry mouth is the first signal of a drop in the water percentage. It's a common feeling that everyone encounters on a regular basis. If you have this feeling, your body is telling you to grab something to drink.

If you don't drink when the first signal occurs, the body will try to attract your attention in other ways:

  • Darker urine,

  • An extremely dry mouth,

  • Headache (this is an important sign to start drinking asap).

In further stages you will get the following symptoms:

  • Cramps in muscles and organs,

  • Feeling dizzy and light-headed,

  • Confusion,

  • Mental breakdown and no tears when crying.

How to avoid dehydration

  • Drink early (about 2 hours prior to your exercise).

  • Drink regularly. Do not drink large amounts at once, but frequently take small sips of water.

  • When doing sports, you can add sports drinks to your fluid intake. These will help to restore carbohydrates and electrolytes.

  • Drink after doing exercise. Post exercise hydration will get the body fluids back on the right level, while helping you to recover.

  • Bring your own supply of water when doing physical efforts. Use a water bottle or get a hydration system that fits in your backpack.

What to do in case of dehydration

ORS (oral rehydration solution) tablets or powder should be present in your first aid kit. Read the manual and put the right amount of the product in your water supply. The product contains a certain amount of glucose, salts and electrolytes. This will make sure that the water is taken in by the body in the best way possible.

Maintain rehydration during the night if needed. Make sure that you drink on regular basis and take small sips instead of large gulps. Your body needs some time to process the water.

Avoid coffee or tea, this will dehydrate you even more.

Can I drink too much?

Too much water can indeed have negative side effects. Over-hydration makes the sodium levels rise in your body, which dilutes your blood so much that cell functions may become impaired. In extreme cases this may cause coma or even death.

What is the right amount of water intake?

The right amount of water intake depends on the location, activity, temperature, ...

During a normal day at the office, you generally need 2 litres of water. When you are doing sports during the summer, your daily intake should rise to 3 or 4 litres. Not only the heat is a dehydrating factor, an extremely cold environment can have the same effect.

Are you drinking enough right now? Check your urine!

If your urine is consistently colourless or light yellow, you are most likely well hydrated. Dark yellow or amber coloured urine are a sign of dehydration.

Besides water, there are some other options to stay hydrated. Even though water is always the preferred option, other drinks and foods can help, but they might add extra calories or sugar to your diet. Fruit and vegetable juices, milk and herbal teas can contribute to the amount of water in the body. Even caffeinated drinks can contribute to the daily water intake. An amount of 200 to 300 milligrams of caffeine (which is around 0,4 litres of coffee) is not harmful for most people. Drinking more caffeine will make you urinate you more frequently, which causes you to dehydrate faster.


Conclusion

Water is the true fuel of your body.

Make sure that you always drink clean water. Try to consume bottled water if possible. At home you can most likely trust the water from the tap, but that's not always the case in other parts of the world.

If you are ever forced to drink water, but aren't sure that it is clean, you should filter it first and kill as much nasty bacteria as possible. This can be done by boiling the water, using a UV filter pen or water purifying tablets.

Remember to check yourself and your travel companions for symptoms of dehydration and be safe.


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