Friday, June 8, 2007
Aspects of Proper Hydration
One of the major lessons that this trip has reinforced on us is the constant importance of good hydration when being active in the outdoors. During our initial time on the trail we noticed the typical sweat and salt loss that is known to all people who engage in tough endurance activity, or even those of us simply sweating in the heat. It is common sense that one must intake water to replace the water that is lost by sweating, yet most people also do not think about the water lost by breathing and urine production/waste. Simply put our intakes of water on the trail have been huge and maybe then not enough. We have attempted to intake around a liter per hour of hiking which is a lot of water. Having an intake of water close to this amount is astounding, and water and hydration are essential to preventing cramps, muscle recovery, and energy production. Unfortunately, when drinking such large amounts of water in a hot environment the other side of hydration rears its head. The aforementioned salt loss is the one major factor that we have tried to also gauge. Salt loss is a lot harder to get a handle on than water loss and I have never repeatedly strung together the extended endurance tests that we have encountered on this trip. We had initially planned to try out the tablets made by Nuun Hydration, and while we know that this sort of electrolyte replacement is important, we were not sure how many electrolytes we would need. We initially and usually most people place a huge importance on water intake, and also on sodium intake. While sodium is the most common electrolyte, we have realized the importance of intaking a spectrum of electrolytes, and we have realized that sugar filled sports drinks are not the best way to intake these beneficial compounds, and often these popular drinks like Gatorade do not provide a spectrum of electrolytes, yet only Sodium and/or potassium. The Nuun electrolyte replacement, or the Camelback Elixir are both broad spectrum electrolyte replacements. The are designed to prevent dehydration and other conditions in which the athlete intakes a lot of water yet not enough electrolytes. One such condition called Hyponatremia involves an imbalance of sodium and water in the body. This imbalance can be compounded by usage of Aspirin, Ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory agents, which we are commonly taking for the dreaded "trail ache." The symptoms of this condition include nausea, muscle cramps, disorientation, slurred speech, confusion, and irrational behavior, and many of these symptoms have been experienced on the trail even with our plentiful intakes of water and represent instances of hyponatremia. Undoubtedly, we have decided that we must intake electrolytes and that with our daily active exercise times that range from 8-12 hours we need to intake these substances as if we are ultramarathoners. Although we have at times had an admirable intake of water, we have definitely not had the proper intake of electrolytes including sodium to accompany this water intake. The amount of salt loss and water loss experienced when hiking 20-30 miles in mountainous terrain is significantly higher than many other endurance activities. We are in effect aiming to perform almost a marathon every day for the rest of the summer. We know that the cramping and loss of performance combined with loopy behavior is at times dehydration, at times hyponatremia, and at other times low blood sugars from not enough or right dietary intakes, yet we have certainly learned the importance of electrolyte intakes for our trek and in endurance pursuits.