75% of Americans are Chronically Dehydrated
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By: RV Team  | March 2024

By: RV Team  | March 2024

Regardless of your activity – whether it’s running, walking, or hiking – and regardless of your location, be it a trail, a beach, or a track, staying hydrated is absolutely essential. Every step you take requires trillions of cells in your body to work together to provide the energy you need to keep going. These cells rely on you to maintain their proper function by staying hydrated. If you neglect hydration, these cells won’t have enough fuel, leading to decreased efficiency and less successful activity.

In essence, proper hydration is crucial for the performance, health, and well-being of runners and hikers. The easiest way to stay hydrated is by drinking plenty of water, which serves various vital functions. Water helps regulate your body temperature, eliminates waste, provides energy to cells, and cushions joints. Adequate hydration can also lower the risk of cramps and injury, enhance recovery, and improve overall performance.

During running and hiking, the body generates more heat than when at rest, leading to sweating as a natural cooling mechanism. However, sweating depletes the body’s stores of hydration and electrolytes like potassium and sodium. Losing more than 2 to 3 percent of body weight through fluid loss (about 3 to 5 pounds for a 150-pound person) can result in dehydration. Depletion of hydration and electrolyte reserves can lead to decreased stamina, fatigue, cramps, headaches, and even increased heart rate.

Given the critical importance of hydration for runners and hikers, it’s essential to remember to drink water regularly. Here are some tips to help you stay adequately hydrated during your running and hiking activities.

Sweat and dehydration

During physical activity, the body sweats to regulate its temperature. As sweat evaporates from the skin, it dissipates heat, yet this process also results in fluid loss.

To counteract this fluid loss, it’s essential to consume fluids during exercise. This practice helps mitigate the risk of heat-related issues, sustains normal bodily functions, and preserves performance levels. Essentially, if you’re sweating, you need to replenish fluids.

When does dehydration happen?

Dehydration occurs when fluid loss exceeds intake, impairing bodily functions. 

Every day, your body naturally loses water through various processes like sweating, breathing, urinating, defecating, and through tears and saliva. Typically, you replenish this lost fluid by consuming liquids and water-rich foods. However, inadequate intake or excessive loss can lead to dehydration.

Dehydration severity varies from mild to severe, determined by the extent of fluid loss relative to body weight. It may be classified as shown below:

Mild dehydration manifests as thirst, decreased urination and sweating, and dry mouth, with children typically experiencing it when losing 3%-5% of body weight. Treatment involves consuming water, electrolyte drinks, or oral rehydration solutions available over the counter.

Basic Indicators of Dehydration...

Moderate dehydration exhibits intensified symptoms, occurring when children lose 6%-10% of body weight, necessitating medical intervention for intravenous fluid administration.

Severe dehydration presents symptoms such as dizziness, sunken eyes, fainting, rapid breathing, and tachycardia, with children losing over 10% of their body weight. Immediate medical attention is imperative, often involving IV fluid therapy containing electrolytes.

How much water should you drink while exercising?

Determining the precise amount of water to consume during exercise lacks strict guidelines since individual needs vary. It’s essential to take into account factors such as your perspiration rate, environmental temperature and humidity, clothing worn, as well as the duration and intensity of your physical activity.

If you have specific medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or cystic fibrosis, it may be necessary to maintain better hydration. Additionally, certain medications can function as diuretics, leading to increased fluid loss.

The American Council on Exercise offers essential water intake guidelines for pre, during, and post-exercise

Athletes might consider measuring their fluid loss during exercise to determine their optimal water intake (16 to 24 ounces of water per pound of body weight lost).

Water: Fundamental Hydration

Water stands as the most elemental form of hydration, and notably, the most economical. According to Rayven Nairn(MS, RDN, LDN), sparkling water holds the same hydrating capacity as still tap water.

“While water remains essential, athletes might find it monotonous,” she remarks. “In moderation, plain water isn’t always optimal — excessive consumption can dilute electrolytes. The key is equilibrium.

Supplementing water intake with dietary sources of hydration is crucial. I recommend incorporating hydrating fruits like pineapple or watermelon, along with sports drinks or electrolyte-infused water containing water-soluble vitamins such as C and Bs.”

Sports Drinks

Sports drinks encompass commercially produced beverages formulated to sustain hydration and replenish during training, workouts, or sports activities. Typically, they feature water, flavors, colors, electrolytes (primarily salt), and sugar for energy, though sugar-free options are available.

With a vast market offering, electrolyte-enhanced flavors are also available in packets or tablets for water augmentation. Endurance athletes may utilize gels containing salt and sugar for energy replenishment. “Alternatively, you can create your own sports drink by adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a liter of water, sweetening it, and enhancing its taste with lemon or fruit,” suggests Nairn.

Moreover, sports drinks and electrolyte beverages can alleviate dehydration symptoms caused by fever, diarrhea, or vomiting.

People running in the park

Types of Sports Drinks

Sports drinks are categorized based on their carbohydrate (sugar) and electrolyte content:

  • Isotonic drinks
    mirror the carbohydrate and electrolyte balance of human blood, ideal for restoring electrolyte equilibrium post-exercise-induced sweating.
  • Hypotonic drinks
    feature lower carbohydrate and electrolyte levels than the body, suitable for post-workout consumption.
  • Hypertonic formulas
    contain higher carbohydrate and electrolyte concentrations than human blood, akin to electrolyte gels, aiding endurance athletes in replenishing muscle glycogen stores for energy.

Other Types of Sports Drinks

Can you overdo it with electrolyte drinks?

Nairn says that in general, drinking large quantities of electrolytes does not put healthy people in danger. That’s because they are water soluble. “What you don’t use passes through the body in the urine,” she explains.

Individuals with elevated blood pressure or kidney issues should consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to ascertain they are not exceeding their salt intake.

Certain sports beverages boast a significant sugar content, potentially contributing excess calories and elevating the risk of obesity, particularly if consumed excessively, notably among children and individuals with limited calorie expenditure from physical activity.

Consult your primary care physician if you have inquiries regarding the appropriate hydration levels during physical activity. They can provide personalized guidance tailored to your individual health needs and exercise regimen, ensuring optimal hydration and overall well-being.

7 Best Electrolyte Supplements of 2024

If you’re feeling a bit off, like you are experiencing cramps, fatigue, and subpar performance, it can mean that your electrolytes are fading. We evaluated the top contenders, guiding you to find the perfect hydration hero for your performance encore.

REVIEWOLOGY SCORE

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Caffeine-free
  • No Sugar
  • No artificial sweeteners
  • Non-GMO

PROS

CONS

REVIEWOLOGY SCORE

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Gluten-Free
  • Non-GMO
  • Sugar-Free

PROS

CONS

REVIEWOLOGY SCORE

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Sugar-Free
  • Gluten-Free
  • Vegan-Friendly

PROS

CONS

REVIEWOLOGY SCORE

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Non-GMO
  • Dairy-Free
  • Gluten-Free

PROS

CONS

REVIEWOLOGY SCORE

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 2x Sodium Of Thirst Quencher Bottle
  • 3x Potassium Of Thirst Quencher Bottle
  • For Endurance Athletes

PROS

CONS

REVIEWOLOGY SCORE

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Non-GMO
  • Gluten-Free
  • Caffeine-Free

PROS

CONS

REVIEWOLOGY SCORE

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Non-GMO
  • Gluten-Free
  • Vegan-Friendly

PROS

CONS

Our Top Choice

References

  1. Grivet Outdoors, (n.d). The Importance of Hydration in Runners and Hikers. (para. 1-4).https://www.grivetoutdoors.com/blogs/activity/the-importance-of-hydration-for-runners-and-hikers
  2. Better Health (n.d.). Exercise – the low-down on hydration (para.13-18). https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/Exercise-the-low-down-on-water-and-drinks
  3. Family Doctor Org and Deepak S. Patel, MD, FAAFP, FACSM. (June 2023). Hydration for Athletes. (para.2-6). https://familydoctor.org/athletes-the-importance-of-good-hydration
  4. Web MD and Poonam Sachdev, MD (August 17, 2023). Dehydration: Signs, Symptoms, and Effects. (para. 1-5). https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/dehydration-adults
  5. Rayven Nairn, MS, RDN, LDN (n.d.). Sports and Hydration for Athletes: Q&A with a Dietitian (para.13-20). https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/nutrition-and-fitness/sports-and-hydration-for-athletes