Electrolytes and hydration the easy way

Right amount of water is absolutely essential to keep you in a good shape while walking long distances. But without the right balance of minerals, you will very likely waste much of the water you drink anyway, and you might experience some serious health issues, too.

You may have read that with oranges, lemons or coconut water you will be able to replenish levels pretty quickly. This is very interesting concept, although would you carry 10kg of oranges in your backpack over a distance of 50km? Or how would you find coconut water in Scandinavia? Although these ideas are fairly reasonable from a chemical point of view, they seem a little bit impractical. There is, however, much simpler approach. Just carry salt and sugar. And an orange or banana, for a little bit of luxury (and potassium).

The magic potion

The right proportions of the solution are:

  • Preferably, buy unrefined sugar and sea salt.
  • For 1 litre of water 30 ml of sugar (six teaspoons) and 2.5 ml of salt (half of teaspoon).
  • Stir the mixture until salt and sugar is dissolved.

Explanation

You may wonder where does the sugar come from in this solution. This is actually the result of a scientific research pursued in 1978, which has proven that sugar enables better absorption of salts and water. This research was conducted originally for UNICEF to prevent dehydration caused by diarrhoea and by many people is considered one of the greatest achievements of 20th century medicine. And it looks so simple, isn’t it?

Obviously, you don’t need to drink electrolytes every single time you stop to have a rest. Use them only after excessive sweating over a longer period. For example, during a marathon you are expected to lose around 2% of your body weight just because of sweating. This is the limit where dehydration starts. If you are experiencing headache, feel weak, dizzy and thirsty no matter you drink or not, you are already dehydrated and you absolutely need to fix that. The best method is simply to observe your body and regularly, consciously drink water.

How to keep smiling even with little water

  • When traveling in hot climate, avoid walking during the midday. Find shadow and get some rest.
  • Cover your skin, so the moisture will keep cooling you down, preventing sweating more.
  • If you are running out of water, do not eat, since digestion requires water. Or at least avoid heavy stuff: dry food, meat and fats.
  • Keep your mouth shut, literally. Breath with your nose.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Drink a little bit less than your body evaporates. Otherwise you will keep wasting water.
  • In general, thirst is a poor indicator of your condition. Take care of your water balance before you feel the need.