Trekking is a good way to stay healthy and happy. And a hydrated trekker is a happy trekker. Although drinking plenty of water during the trek is no rocket science. Human body is about 60% water and even a little exercise can deplete that percentage. We have seen trekkers struggling with dehydration. The crucial part of trekking is to ensure proper hydration.
Level of your activity and the temperature you are at decides the amount of water you should drink to stay hydrated. High altitudes and warm temperature makes us thirsty. During summers we tend to sweat more which reduces the percentage of water in our body. Thus requires the human body to drink more water and water helps in keeping the mind alert and body energized. Likewise, higher altitudes means thinner air as you climb high, and in order to maintain the level of oxygen, you need to hydrate yourself at regular intervals. The lungs try to pump more oxygen when there isn’t much oxygen which results in a drier mouth. Remember, you are losing water while you are just breathing. In order to maintain a healthy balance in your body you will require more fluid.
It is a fact that senior trekkers need 10% more fluids in their body as compared to the young trekkers. But every trekker should stay hydrated before, during and after the trek.
Let’s first understand what Dehydration is. Well I am damn sure we all know about it, but will cover it. So dehydration is nothing but deficit of total body water which occurs when water loss exceeds water intake, usually due to exercise, disease or warm temperature.
In this article I will share some tips on how to stay hydrated during the trek. Afterwards I will tell you signs of dehydration and how to treat them. Let’s get started then.
Drink Water Before Hitting The Trek
Before beginning your trek, you should drink one or two cups of water. Don’t wait for the body signals, your body feels thirsty when the water level is low. Instead keep your water level from dropping in the first place. Develop habits for hydrating your body, it helps you stay fit and give your best during trek. Always make it a habit to hydrate yourself before starting the trek.
How Much To Drink
The amount or quantity of water you need to drink depends upon a number of factors like age, body type, activity level, exertion level, weather, altitude and duration. One good practice to follow, drink atleast half a litre of water on an empty stomach, drink another half a litre before you hit your trek. Your aim should be to drink 4-5 litre of water each day, and have regular sips of water in brief intervals. Although on a strenuous day the amount of water intake should increase. Instead of chugging a litre after every 2 hours, drink small amounts frequently, it helps to maintain hydration level.
Carry Water & Make Them Accessible
Make sure you carry ample amounts of water during the trek. You need to plan how much water to carry in a day. I would recommend carrying 2 bottles of 1 litre each on each side of your rucksack. Replacing a portion of fluid with a carbohydrate or electrolyte sports beverage will help retain fluid and maintain energy and electrolyte levels. You can pack some electrolyte tablets or a sports drink to your bag. You can buy them from Amazon.
Just like water is important to keep you hydrated, you also need food for same. Food are rich source of electrolytes and helps equally to prevent hydration. Make potassium rich food as a part of your diet including.
- Orange/Orange Juice
- Tomato/Tomato Juice
Remember to balance your food intake with fluid consumption to avoid dehydration. Also keep your water bottle accessible, pack it on the top or outside of your backpack.
Listen to Your Body
You should not wait for your body to tell you that you are thirsty. Keep in mind to take a few sips after every 15-20 minutes while trekking. Like it is said prevention is better than cure, so it is better to be conscious of drinking water on a regular interval than being hit by hydration. You need to drink more water depending upon the temperature and the intensity of your trek. Replenish fluids and electrolytes properly, consider alternating between plain water and sports drink. A balanced electrolyte and energy level makes trekking more enjoyable.
Refill at Water Source
Refill water when you can. Trekking trails are filled with plenty of water sources and it is good to know what are your water-points on the trek. Drink water every time you stop to refill your water supply. It will make you hydrate and you can avoid carrying extra water. Because of the availability of water sources, you cannot always rely that it is the cleanest and purest, make it a habit to carry water purifying tablets which will clean and kill the germs. Otherwise look for running water as these are most likely to be clean. You can buy these tablets from Amazon.
Few treks may not have enough water sources like winter treks, in that case carry enough water beforehand. Make it a habit to carry 2 water bottles of 1 litre each and refill them whenever possible.
Start You Trek Early
Trek when it’s cooler. Start your trek early in the morning, find some shady area to rest. Take the rest during the noon time and when the sun is no longer at its peak, trek again till sunset. Walking in the sun will result in water loss through sweat so try to walk in the shade if got an option. Always apply sunscreen and wear a cap or hat during the trek, it helps to avoid water loss. Remember sunburns can speed dehydration.
Stay Hydrated After Trekking
Once you finish your trekking, do not stop drinking water. You should continue to intake fluids even after completing the trek to replenish water and electrolyte loss. Always drink more than you think is necessary but not while trekking, you can complete the water intake before and after the trek.
So these were the main points to cover basic measures to take care of dehydration. But apart from these there are few more which you can take.
- Drink irrespective of the weather. Maintaining proper hydration is equally important in cold weather, just like in hot weather. You can pack an insulated bottle to keep the water warm. Before starting your trek, you can keep tea in an insulated bottle to replace water with tea.
- Consuming alcohol is a strict NO. Alcohol significantly contributes to dehydration. Try to avoid during or night before the trek.
- Start building your water intake capacity two weeks before the trek. Most people are not used to drinking the required amount of water.
- Keep checking for your pee. Yes, you heard it right. Your urine should be light yellow and should be done after every couple of hours. Dark colour or taking 4+ hours to urinate are signs of dehydration.
- Take assessment of your hydration by looking for few signals like
- Rapid Heart Rate
- Painful or Dark Urination
HOW TO TELL IF YOU ARE DEHYDRATED
How you can tell if your body is dehydrated and trust me this is very easy but also a serious thing. If you think you are hit by dehydration, don’t wait longer to treat it. You can follow the above tips to prevent dehydration but you should be aware about the symptoms so in case you or your trekmates get suffered from it, then you can take proper measurements.
Early Signs of Dehydration
Now to determine the early signs is easy and can be cured instantly.
- Dry Mouth (Drink water immediately once you felt it)
- Thirst (Don’t wait for the stop, drink water the moment you feel thirsty)
- Decreased Energy (Don’t assume it is the tiredness of trek, if felt low drink water with some protein bar or drink some sports drink to boost your energy)
Severe Signs of Dehydration
Now with these signs or symptoms, the process of treatment is followed by some rest. Take time once you get hit by these below and do proper hydration.
- Muscle cramps
- Dark Urine
How to treat Dehydration
You can follow these basic steps in order to treat early symptoms or severe ones. Although for severe ones you may need some more time to determine if the suffering person needs some medical attention.
- Stop and look for shade. The moment you feel any of these symptoms above, stop right there and look for some shady area probably a tree or a big rock.
- Take a rest. Once you find the shade, sit down and rest. You need not to force your body until you feel a little better.
- Rehydrate. Drink water or a sports drink to replenish the water loss. Also you can mix some salt to the plain water to maintain the salt level. Take protein bars as they will give you extra energy.
- Cool down your body temperature. Hydration speeds up with high body temperature so soak a bandana or face towel and apply it to the head and back of your neck. Cooler body temperature will resist the water level more.
Pro-Tip : Always pack Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) in your first aid kit because they are proven to help your body absorb and retain fluids more efficiently.
Remember, continuing to trek in a dehydrated state can lead to some serious consequences like heat stroke, muscle breakdown and sometimes kidney failure.
However many times we get involved into this practice so blindly without considering the fact that, there is something called overhydration. Overhydration is also known as hyponatremia and can be just as dangerous as dehydration but is a rare condition to occur. Basically during overhydration sodium level in the blood gets diluted that cell function becomes impaired. In some extreme cases hyponatremia may cause coma and even death.
Some common symptoms of overhydration are headache, nausea and fatigue. But how you can differentiate between the two is simple, the colour and volume of urine. If the colour is clear or near clear and the volume is large every 30 minutes to an hour, you’re overhydrated.
Avoid overhydration by paying attention to how much you are drinking. Don’t drink too much water and add electrolytes to the water are 2 basic things to follow.
How to Treat Overhydration
- Don’t over drink. Try not to drink more than you sweat and take some rest.
- Add salt. Increase the sodium level by adding salt to plain water or eating a salty snack. You can balance it by drinking a sports drink with electrolytes.
Trekking has many benefits like reducing the risk of heart attacks, breast cancer, and diabetes along with increasing overall physical function. And that is why trekking should be done safely and correctly. Make sure you stay hydrated adequately before, during and after the trek.
SO STAY HYDRATED AND HAPPY TREKKING