HYDRATION 101|What do you need to know?
You hear about hydration and sports all the time. “You need to drink more water!” “You need to stay hydrated!”
What does it all mean, and how can you apply it to your time in the outdoors? I am going to help you figure it out.
First and foremost, we need to talk about what hydration means. Hydration means keeping the right amount of water in your body. Most people know that our bodies are made up mostly of water. Less are aware of how many bodily operations depend on proper hydration. Our bodies use a lot of water, but are not great at storing it for long periods of time. We aren’t built like camels and don’t have a way to store extra water for later. If there is too much water in our bodies, we pee it out. What does that mean? We have to keep putting water in our bodies, especially during outdoor activities in the summer time.
Most of the time we talk about hydration and its relation to sweating. Exercise also uses water in a couple of other ways that most people don‘t think about. Our lungs use water to help oxygen pass into our blood. The more you breath, the more water you need. Refueling (eating) diverts water to our intestines to help absorb nutrients. The more you eat, the more you need to drink. Last but not least is the water that transports the waste from muscle cells out of our bodies in the form of urine. If you don’t have enough water, your body starts to conserve it by shutting down.
What about something other than water?
If you are going to be exercising at a high intensity for more than an hour or so, it’s time to start thinking about adding an electrolyte/energy mix to your water. Electrolytes help replace the minerals you lose in heavy sweating, and carbohydrates in the mix will help replace some of the calories you’ve burned after an hour or so of heavy activity. Your muscles have about an hour’s worth of high intensity energy available in the form of glycogen. If you are going longer than that, you will need to “top off the tank”.
How are you going to carry the water you need?
Bottles are a time-honored choice for bringing water with you into the outdoors. There are literally hundreds of different options available to you–squeeze bottles, wide-mouth bottles, metal bottles, and BPA-free plastic bottles to name just a few. One of the most popular brands of bottles among my fellow EMS staff these days is HYDRO FLASK which can keep your beverage of choice hot for 12 hours or ice cold for 24 hours. Seriously!
Another great option is a hydration pack. The greatest benefit of a hydration pack is hands free operation, which is especially helpful for mountain biking and fast and light hiking. When you don’t have to stop, it’s easier for you to drink the water you need. Camelback has become the brand associated with hydration packs, but there are many great companies with a wide range of packs that can suit anyone’s needs. Osprey, Platypus, and EMS all have great hydration packs available. I have a few hydration packs in my quiver these days, but the one you will find on my back right now is the Osprey Raptor 14. It is a medium size pack that is super versatile and works great for both long days on the mountain bike and trail hiking/running. CLICK HERE to check out my full review of the Osprey Raptor 14.