Wednesday, September 22, 2021

How to Master Hydration

Must-know aspects of hydration for outdoorsmen and women

By Derek Benoit July 14th, 2021

ALWAYS consult your doctor or medical specialist before beginning any treatment or exercise program.

At the time of this posting, I have no affiliate relationship with

You may, or may not need lots of carbs and electrolytes, based upon a plethora of factors. Credit Shutterstock

How to Decode Hydration Needs is content for every outdoorsman or woman. Scouting and hunting, especially in arid or very steep terrain applies. Long duration day hunts apply. Back country expeditions. Dragging or packing out a game animal. Fishing in the heat. Even outings lasting only a few hours apply. You may be more “athletic” than you believe. Congratulations! Getting the right hydration can preserve an outing or even a trip. Here I break down:

  • What hydration actually is
  • What hydration requires
  • Factors influencing fluid need
  • Impacts of exercise
  • Over hydration
  • Three different types of dehydration and their causes

You can put such information into practical use at any time, not just summer! Read it, and be confident when venturing outdoors! 

What Hydration IS and DOES

Hydration is the maintenance of a balanced combination of water and electrolytes to adequate volume. A loss of just 1 or 2% of fluid results in dehydration (HxBenefit Editorial Team, 2017, Korey Stringer Institute, 2019, Somapika, 2019). You WILL notice it and suffer performance decline. Lose more and things get serious. For a rundown of dehydration presentation check out the link below:

Critical Electrolytes Include the Elements:

  • Sodium
  • Chloride
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Phosphate
  • Magnesium (McAvoy, 2014, Medline Plus, 2016)

These electrically charged elements form ions that are necessary for critical body functions. These functions include:

  • Nerve function
  • Muscle movement, including the heart
  • Brain health and function
  • Fluid balance
  • Trransport nutrition into cells
  • Evacuate from cells (McAvoy, 2014, Medline Plus, 2016)
  • Maintain blood Ph (McAvoy, 2014)

How Much Must I Drink?

This question leads to the dreaded lawyer answer of “it depends.” Annoying and confusing, probably. Baseline hydration is based upon size, body composition, age, plus many other factors (Helmenstine, 2020).

The Basic Foundations

Generally speaking, the younger you are, the greater the body weight made up by water. Babies and young children are about 75% water weight. Percent of water mass decreases to 50% for the elderly. Typical males are 60% water while typical females are 55%. Moreover, body composition is a factor. Being overweight decreases the percentage of water mass, as does age (Helmenstine, 2020).

Thus, we need a useful tool. A calculator for fluid intake can be found at I have no relationship with owners of this website. Similar calculators are out there. Feel free to follow the link and play with the numbers. Accordingly you’ll see how critical basic variables become. Finally consider medical conditions, medications, and diet.

Exacerbating Conditions:

  • Age, Gender, and Body Conditions-water mass is between 45 and 75% (Helmenstine, A.M., 2020).
  • Prescription Medications-usually caused by diuretics
  • Circulatory Problems
  • Hypertension
  • Electrolyte Imbalances
  • Renal (Kidney) Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Bowel Disease or Surgeries
  • Booze
  • Stress (Global Health & Pharma, 2020, Thorek Memorial Hospital, 2014)

Women-Specific Conditions that Exacerbate Dehydration:

  • Pregnancy
  • Period
  • Breastfeeding (Thorek Memorial Hospital, 2014)

When is Water not Enough?

Further complicating matters is the hydration fluid itself. Moreover, studies showed that high carbohydrate benefit is determined by exercise duration. Since the longer intense activity, the more you depleted muscle glycogen stores, this makes sense. Thus higher amounts of carbohydrates can be a benefit when activity time is measured in hours. Naturally, the shorter the time of exercise, the lower the need for carb loads of common sports drinks.

Additionally, some studies showed improvement between 30-60 minutes with carbs and electrolytes. However, water will be sufficient for most for durations less than 60 minutes. Nonetheless, this may not be true in hot and humid conditions. Surprisingly fluid loss is high in dry conditions, even in cold temperatures (Casa, et al, 2000, Tinsely, 2013).

Exercise Complicates Things Further:

No. This section is NOT suggesting you should avoid exercising. Stop it. Obviously you still must get out and move!

  • Maintain proper base hydration
  • Drink during exercise… it’s hard to overhydrate but easy to run dry
  • Need is determined by sweat rate. Find a trainer or exercise physiologist
  • A combination of carbohydrates, water, and electrolytes is best (Casa, et al, 2000)
  • Carbohydrates before or during slows glycogen use by muscles (Tinsley, 2013)
  • Simple carbohydrates are easiest to digest
  • Conditioned athletes actually have increased physiological fluid loss
  • Acclimatization to heat increases sweat rate
  • Moderate conditions (temperature, humidity, etc.) Require less fluid
  • Exercise in more extreme conditions requires hyper hydration to some extent. This better maintains effective body temperature regulation (Casa et al, 2000)
  • Check body weight, urine color, and urine output (Casa et al, 2000, Korey Stringer Institute, 2019 ).

Problems with OVERhydration

What the Hell IS Over Hydration?

Over hydration occurs when total fluid volume becomes abnormally high. Usually the offending component is water. Essentially your body takes in more than it loses, throwing electrolyte balance out of whack. Generally, if you exceed the “average” daily requirement of 9-13 glasses 8oz without an offsetting loss, trouble ensues.

Admittedly, this is a rare occurrence. Yet when it does happen it may be serious-as in “affect your brain” or “crash your heart” serious. Consequently this topic is listed before dehydration. It’s also a reminder to determine a baseline. ( Casa, et al, 2000, Somapika, 2019).

Causes of Over Hydration

  • Drinking too much water
  • Low sodium levels
  • Age
  • Medications
  • Other physiological means of water retention (Somapika, 2019)

Symptoms of Over Hydration

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Feeling nauseated
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle weakness, spasms, or cramps
  • Confusion
  • Altered mental state
  • Going Unconscious
  • Coma (Somapika, 2019)

Consequently, there is a problem: many of the symptoms of over hydration mirror those of dehydration. Thus a risk of confusing dehydration when over hydration exists.

Over hydration risk is highest for endurance athletes, and those working outside in hot, humid conditions. This results from overcompensation for expected fluid loss. However, there IS evidence of benefits of slight over hydration for marathoners and other endurance athletes. Problems occurs when water intake goes beyond a healthy surplus. Consequently I defer to any coach or exercise physiologist to help an individual who might consider over hydration prior to an event (Casa, et al, 2000).

Three Possible Types of Dehydration to Thwart

If you need a review of dehydration basics, you again can follow this link for a review:

These villains share common causes such as:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Heat stroke (HxBenefit Editorial Team, 2021)

Hypertonic Dehydration

Water is being lost faster than electrolytes. This is most often caused by:

  • Failure to drink enough water
  • Excessive sweating
  • Drugs promoting urination
  • Drinking seawater (Gotter, 2018)
  • Diabetes
  • Ketoacidosis
  • Renal Failure
  • Heat Stroke
  • Diuretic Medications (Gotter, 2018, HxBenefit Editorial Team, 2021)

Hypotonic Dehydration

Electrolytes are being lost faster than water. This is typically caused by:

  • Burns
  • Ketonuria (presence of ketones in urine)
  • Malnutrition
  • Muscular break down
  • Nephropathy (kidney damage)
  • Long-term use of diuretic medications
  • High blood pressure treated with diuretics
  • Other medications (HxBenefit Editorial Team, 2021)

Isotonic Dehydration

Most common type-your body is losing water and electrolytes at an equal rate. Causes include

  • SEVERE diarrhea and vomiting
  • Cholera
  • Serious blood loss from injury (HxBenefit Editorial Team, 2021)


Casa, D.J., et Al. (2000) National Athletic Trainers’ Association Position Statement: Fluid Replacement for Athletes. Journal of Athletic Training.

Fluid and Electrolyte Balance. Medline Plus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Updated June 16, 2016.

Global Health & Pharma. (December 15th, 2020). How an Underlying Condition May Cause Dehydration. Global Health & Pharma News.

Gotter, A. (September 4th, 2018). Hypertonic Dehydration: What you Need to Know. Health. Hypertonic Dehyration.

Helmenstine, A.M. (Updated February 11th, 2020). How Much of Your Body is Water? Science, Tech, Math. Science. ThoughtCo. 

HxBenefit Editorial Team. (July 25th, 2017). Dehydration Types. Diseases & Conditions. Dehydration Types.

Korey Stringer Institute. (Updated August 11th, 2019). Hydration. Korey Stringer Institute. Prevention. University of Connecticut, Storrs.

McAvoy, M. (September 14th, 2011). The Electrolyte Solution: Saving your Cells from Dehydration.

Somapika, D. (July 26th, 2019). Health Tips. Overhydration-Symptoms, Treatment, Causes, and Prevention.

Thorek Memorial Hospital. (June 3rd, 2014). 14 Surprising Causes of Dehydration. Thorek Hospital News. News.

Tinsley, G. (May13th, 2013). Should You Drink Sports Drinks Instead of Water? Nutrition.

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