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Gear Matters: Active Drinking

Gear Matters: monthly updates by walking guide John

As the summer progresses, this month guide John looks at fluid intake: but (unfortunately) not wine or beer consumption!


Some people on walking or cycling holidays could have a better experience by drinking more. Dehydration is quite an insidious process, we may not sense that we are going over the line. Especially when you are exerting yourself more than normal or if it is really warm. The latter is what most of us tend to experience on cycling and walking holidays - an environment that we are not really used to on a day to day basis.


About Dehydration

Dehydration leads not just to the loss of body fluids but also mineral salts, which can cause coordination and general performance problems as well as thickening of blood plasma. In warm conditions this can ultimately lead to heat exhaustion leading in the worst cases to heatstroke. However, some people find it physically hard drinking enough water, others do not want to carry it as it is heavy - a litre of liquid weighs a kilogram. Others leave their drinks bottle in their rucksack and forget about it until they make a stop.


Drinking water to prevent dehydration - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays 


Until recently rehydration during walking and cycling was at best just finding water, tea, fruit juice or fizzy drinks or at worse consuming rather unpalatable rehydration salts from the local chemists. Today though there are huge advancements that have been spurred on by the progress of science in relation to running and cycling to make things easier.


The bottom line is that your speed of rehydration will be determined by the relative concentration of water, carbohydrate and electrolytes in your drink, as this effects the speed the liquid leaves your stomach and is absorbed into the wall of the small intestine and into the bloodstream. Generally, drinks with more carbohydrate such as fruit juices take longer to absorb than water, but water alone passes through the body too quickly to effect recovery. Because the sugar concentration of most sports drinks is higher than that of most body fluids, they are not readily absorbed into the bloodstream and are not optimal for hydration. So it is probably best to use a mixture of water and either diluted sweet drinks or use electrolyte tablets to provide the best combination of electrolyte replacement and absorption. Likewise, electrolytes, especially sodium and potassium, reduce urine output and the rate at which fluids empty the stomach, promote absorption from the small intestine, and encourage fluid retention.


Drink enough water to prevent dehydration - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays


Going for a drink break on a Sherpa Expeditions walking holiday


How to Prevent Dehydration

Luckily there are great products on the market enabling you to keep the balance right on your cycling or walking holiday. Hydration packs in backpack pockets with hoses connected to a mouthpiece mean that you can drink on the go. CamelBak and Platypus come to mind, but there are loads of brands suitable both for walking and cycling. You can also get smaller bottles to clip onto rucksack belts for a few lightweight swigs. It is perhaps worth carrying a tube of electrolyte replacement tablets that you add to 700ml of water. They are much more palatable than diarolyte (rehydration salts) and are readily available at outdoor and cycling shops. Then you can get sachets of post exercise powders usually containing a mixture of carbohydrate and protein to speed the recovery process. This aims to stop people drinking too much water after an activity, resulting in an increased blood plasma and all the salts going into imbalance again!


So don't overdo it, the old adage of 'clear and copious urine output' may not always apply! There have been a few cases of people actually dying of drinking too much water leading to the reverse osmosis in the kidneys. Hopefully your body will tell you when or when not you are needing to drink, perhaps only experience will allow you to recognise the line that you cross to dehydration. The famous UK distance runner Brendan Foster recovered with a nice post-run shandy (beer and lemonade), it never did him any harm…

For more information on the exact needs for your walking or cycling holiday, please get in touch with our team of travel experts in London. 

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