Ahhh……the beauty of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. So breathtaking – and so dehydrating. Survival is dependent upon water. You can survive for weeks without food – but you’ll die within days without water. Water makes up approximately 65% of our body weight – 20% of our bones, 70% of our brains, 75% of our muscles, and 80% of our blood is made up of water; a loss of more than 10% poses a significant health risk and loss of 20% will result in death.
The body’s need for water is second only to oxygen. Water is needed for the following functions:
- Lubricating our joints, muscles and vital organs
- Regulating body temperature
- Aiding in digestion and cell metabolism
- Providing the body with minerals and essential fluids
- Aiding in waste elimination of 2 quarts per day – through skin, lungs, intestines and kidneys
- Cleansing toxins from our bodies
When you don’t get enough water you risk dehydration – and this is a common ailment in the dry mountain air of Colorado. The high altitude causes you to breathe more rapidly and lose bodily fluids more quickly. By the time you feel thirsty, your brain’s already signaled that your fluid levels are low. Research shows that performance and endurance can drop significantly with even 2% dehydration. Signs of dehydration include thirst, fatigue, nausea, muscle cramps, light headedness and darker urine.
So, what to drink? Bottled water, tap water, fitness water, sports drinks – what’s the best choice?
Bottled and Tap Water
These are your least expensive and most accessible hydration options available. What’s the difference between the two? Not much. Most bottled waters originate from the same sources as tap water – lakes, springs and aquifers. But bottled water is generally filtered and treated to improve the taste, while tap water is more likely subject to “funky” tastes from added chlorine or copper and lead leached from aging pipes. Tap water is actually better regulated than bottled and most dentists will argue that it’s better for your teeth since it’s also treated with fluoride. Furthermore, environmentalists are staunchly opposed to the production, sale and use of bottled waters because they contribute to the 1.5 million tons of plastic waste each year and their very production and transport wastes precious fossil fuels. In fact, the city of San Francisco recently banned city agencies from using public funds to purchase bottled water. Your best bet? Install a carbon filter on your kitchen tap and purchase a couple of reusable containers such as thermoses or Nalgene bottles. Then fill one up and drink away all day long.
Research has shown that some people desire a little flavor in their water in order to stay hydrated. There are numerous flavored waters on the grocery shelves these days. Look for fitness waters that are low in calories and sugars such as Propel Fitness Water.
Sports drinks are needed for intense physical exertion exceeding 60 minutes. These drinks carry electrolytes which replace those lost through perspiration. Look for a sports drink with a carbohydrate level of about 6 percent (14 grams per 8 ounces) such as Gatorade.
And now for Operation Hydration! Here are some tips for staying hydrated daily and when you exercise:
- Can you gulp? A gulp is about 1 ounce. So, 8 gulps is about 8 ounces.
- Follow this simple formula: Divide your body weight by 2. This is how many ounces (gulps) of water you need each day. For example, 140 lbs ÷ 2 = 71 gulps/ounces of water per day.
- Keep a bottle of water at your desk — and eat foods high in water content such as lettuce, celery, broccoli, watermelon, apples and green beans.
- Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
- Drink before, during and after you exercise – 17-20 ounces (gulps) before, 7-10 ounces every 15 minutes during, and 20 ounces or gulps after.
- The colder it is outside, the harder your body works to keep warm. This means, you need to drink extra water during colder weather.
- If you’re under the weather or running a fever, you need to drink extra water.
- Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages actually dehydrate because they make your kidneys work harder. So add a glass of water for every one of these beverages you consume.
- Don’t drink from mountain streams – that water contains Giardia, a microorganism that causes debilitating diarrhea. You can, however, splash yourself with the water to stay cool.
Remember the warning signs for dehydration and take immediate “fluid action” when you experience any of them.