Why do I drink so much water?

3:05 a.m. on October 19, 2008 (EDT)
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I've discovered that I require a lot more water than the majority of hikers in my group (it's annoying to have to carry two 3-liter bladders on a 5 hour day hike) What is it that determines one's water requirements? I know of a guy that can hike all day without needing even a sip of water. Does it have to do with cardiovascular fitness? I have Asthma, does that have something to do with it? What can I do to lower my need for so much water?

10:13 a.m. on October 19, 2008 (EDT)
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I too have asthma, and sometimes I think I drink too much water. It seems to help lubricate and loosen things up. I feel I breath better when I can sip regularly.

May I ask what, if any, medications you have been prescribed for your asthma?

1:55 p.m. on October 19, 2008 (EDT)
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I have Albuterol but I didn't take it yesterday, very rarely do I take it though..

4:25 p.m. on October 19, 2008 (EDT)
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Im amazed about the amount of water you have to carry. In winter I have a one liter with cold water, and a thermos with 1/2 liter warm fluid for the meals. This is enough for a long days walk. In summer I have just a bottle with 1/2 liter and refill it regularly. In the mountains here all running water is drinkable, never a problem to find enough.

I too have asthma. After I started with Seretide and Atrovent I had a new life. Never problem with the astma at all, as long as I kept away from horses.

5:05 p.m. on October 19, 2008 (EDT)
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"I know of a guy that can hike all day without needing even a sip of water." - being dehydrated is nothing to scoff at - he may not feel thirsty or perhaps he's just trying to "tough it out" and show people - but consuming a couple liters of water over a five hour hike is nothing to be ashamed of - perhaps you're body is just more comfortable fully hydrated than some others.
Just keep lugging and chugging - personally if I get dehydrated my back starts to hurt -

8:57 p.m. on October 19, 2008 (EDT)
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Depending on the weather, the general recommendation of sports medicine and wilderness medicine doctors is 1 liter per hour during vigorous exercise. The amount goes down with less vigorous exercise (strolling on your hike with lots of stops for "Kodak moments", rather than hiking at a brisk pace, for example). The amount increases during weather that is dry (which happens in winter skiing, high altitude, and other low humidity conditions, like desert hiking) and during hot, humid weather. So starting with 6 liters for 5 hours sounds about right. You might get along with 4 liters, with drinking a final liter at the end of the hike back at the car.

If you are taking prescription medicines, check the side effects list - many medicines have a diuretic effect and some slow the absorption of water. Ask your doctor (instead of asking on internet discussion sites - your doctor knows your situation best, plus while many of us here are trained in wilderness first aid, we are far from medical experts, though you will get lots of strongly stated bia... er, opinions on websites, all too many of which are flat out dangerous).

But, I do know, by the time you FEEL thirsty, you are already very dehydrated. One way to determine how dehydrated you are (used for long distance races) is to weigh yourself just before setting out, then weigh yourself right after finishing. In long distance endurance races, you will get pulled if you have lost more than about 5% of your body weight. Keep in mind that 1 pint of water (a half liter) is 1 pound. If you are down, say, 5 pounds, you are short 2.5 liters of fluid. Your macho friend is almost definitely dehydrated. To some extent, it is related to aerobic fitness, but in the OPPOSITE sense - you actually sweat MORE rapidly when you are fit, at least according to the most authoritative sports medicine books. Take a look at Paul Auerbach's Wilderness Medicine books (the condensed version is easier to search than his huge and very complete volume). Auerbach is considered the leading authority on wilderness medicine. Carmichael says the same thing in his training books for bike racing.

8:57 p.m. on October 19, 2008 (EDT)
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If everything checks out medically, I would drink as much water as I felt I needed.
I drink a good bit of water myself and I feel my body functions better that way.

As far as the extra weight of carrying so much water, a poster on another website I visit suggests using dehydrated water to cut down on weight.

11:57 p.m. on October 19, 2008 (EDT)
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You might be able to offset some of that thirst by also throwing in an electrolyte additive, like Gatorade (one of the best) into your fluids. Are you also getting enough calories for your physical output? And, to err on the side of caution, are you at risk for diabetes, which thirst is a symptom?

Or, you might just like a lot of water :)

12:04 a.m. on October 20, 2008 (EDT)
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I just realized...you are the one with hallux limitus...how's that working out for you? Did you get inserts, or what? I picked up a new pair of boots; still figuring them out as to how to tie them; I need to get them stretched a bit because they still cramp my feet across the the ball of my foot. I decided I should get a foot replacement :)

4:49 p.m. on October 20, 2008 (EDT)
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I'm starting to believe that perhaps the need for all this water is a result of the asthma, coupled with being in bad aerobic shape. When we start going uphill, I start the huffing and puffing and my mouth dries out so I sip. All those little sips add up rather quickly.

As for the functional hallux limitus, no luck yet. I bought $320 orthotics from the podiatrist in May but had not gone on any hikes of any consequence since I bought them because that's the start of the hot vegas summer. But since it has started cooling down, I've noticed that these orthotics aren't doing much of anything for my feet. They still hurt like hell about 3 miles into the hike. Going up is actually easier than coming down the mountain. Coming down, my legs and feet feel very unstable and shakey. Trying to keep up with the group is just as tough going down as it is going up...

So I have an appointment with the podiatrist in two days, again..

By the way, here's picture's of the 4.4 mile, 1,350ft elevation gain hike that I drank about 5 liters of water on:

http://picasaweb.google.com/dax702/MagicMountain101808

Isn't "dehydrated water" an oxymoron? If not, what is that?

5:48 p.m. on October 20, 2008 (EDT)
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Isn't "dehydrated water" an oxymoron?

That's an old Steven Wright bit. "I bought dehydrated water...bit I didn't know what to add." I like his "dry" humor;-}

An oxymoron is someone who doesn't know how to breathe!

7:01 p.m. on October 20, 2008 (EDT)
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Yes, mouth-breathing does dry one out faster, which increases the need for water. Still, looking at the photos and being reminded this is Lost Wages, that's a climate (all year around) that calls for LOTS of water.

You can buy cans of Dehydrated Water, clearly labelled with the list of ingredients and nutritional information. REI used to have them every year - for a couple weeks around the beginning of April each year. The originals were made by Bernard, one of the early commercial dried food companies back in the 1950s or 1960s, as an advertising gimmick. I had one of the cans for a while (don't remember what happened to it). Their food was kind of blah like most of the dried foods at the time, but it was ok for a few days of backpacking. Mountaineering expeditions did use them, since there weren't a lot of choices before freeze-dried methods were developed. I have seen some more recent versions as well.

7:30 p.m. on October 20, 2008 (EDT)
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dax702,
thanks for posting a link to your pictures, I enjoyed them.
You guys looked like you had a good time!

9:16 p.m. on October 20, 2008 (EDT)
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Here is a photo of a Bernard's can of dehydrated water -

Whooohooo, Dave's link to a photo thing works!

9:24 p.m. on October 20, 2008 (EDT)
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OOOOH....I bet you can make a good alcohol stove with that can after you make your water. What a great idea, and multi purpose too!

10:05 p.m. on October 20, 2008 (EDT)
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Trouthunter, you're welcome, I have lots of pictures from this area on google picasa so feel free to check them out.. What exercises do you guys recommend for getting into better cardiovascular shape. We've got a short treadmill in the gym that lets you set up to a 50% incline so that would probably be about the best simulation for walking up hills and scrambling...It seems if I wasn't breathing so heavy trying to catch my breath on these hikes that I would require as much water.

10:35 p.m. on October 20, 2008 (EDT)
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Yeah, I started to post something about breathing through the mouth since I catch myself doing this a lot, it will dry you out.
I personally combine stretching, weight lifting, and cardio.
I'm not a fitness expert, but I like an Eliptical Trainer, others like treadmills and stair steppers.
The reason I like the Eliptical is: because it what I own, it is low impact, and great for endurance when resistance is set to about medium.
I'm sure the same is true of a treadmill. I use high repetition leg extensions and presses to train for those hard, steep climbs. I'm not super strong but my endurance has really improved by using low weight, high rep weight training.

I find that wearing my loaded pack with hydration while I use the Eliptical Trainer is a great workout, my wife cracks jokes, but hey, you use muscles with a pack on that you don't without a pack.
I'm even thinking about putting some artificial trees around my workout area. HaHa
There are several good books on fitness & nutrition as it relates to hiking and climbing.
I will check out your pictures.

4:48 p.m. on October 22, 2008 (EDT)
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I think you can learn to get by on less water, IMHO. Can't prove it though. But I know when I was a kid, we all drank a lot less water during physical activity. If you listen to most experts now, you almost need a mouth administered IV constantly, for the slightest activity. A lot of people survive in bad parts of the world, where 3l a day would be a luxury.

9:05 p.m. on October 22, 2008 (EDT)
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skiNM,
The water intake recommendation actually includes fluid you take in with and in your food. So when you eat soup, drink coffee/tea/hot chocolate, or if you eat fruits and vegetables that have a high moisture content, you should include that fluid as well. In tropical climes, there is a large amount and variety of very moist fruits. For example, when Barb and I were in Tanzania last December, we had huge amounts of fresh pineapple (sweeter and juicier than anything I have ever had in the US), mangos, oranges, melons of several varieties, and a wide variety of vegetables. This reduced the amount of straight water that we needed, even when I was hiking up Kili for 6 days. The porters on Kili were drinking a similar amount of water as I was, plus eating the large quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Contrast this with the usual backpacking trip where the food is freezedry, snacks probably include jerky and dry salami, and dried fruit, added to the high amount of exertion you are putting out.

I suspect that as a kid you drank a lot more water than you remember, especially when you include the fluids in other forms. As I posted earlier, the amount you need depends on the activity. Professional athletes and elite amateur athletes (well, as amateur as Olympic-level competitors are) are provided with fluids at the rate that has been quoted here (roughly 1 liter per hour, more or less, dependent on conditions). Recall that there have been a number of incidents in the past few years of professional athletes dying of heat illness (heat exhaustion, heat stroke), with the autopsies reporting severe dehydration. The studies by USOC, IOC, and professional leagues show that performance is improved immensely when fluids are taken in at that type of rate (read Carmichael's books, for example).

One liter an hour is not very much, actually, particularly when you are getting it by sipping from a hydration bladder. It amounts to a half cup per 7 or 8 minutes (which is 1/4 the amount served as a typical fast-food "small" drink), or the equivalent fluid of a medium fast-food drink per hour (not even the "extra-large" I see so many people gulping during their 15 minutes in the drive-through line).

And by the way, having spent a fair amount of time travelling and living in 3rd world countries, most of those people drink fluids at similar rates, even though much of the water is of far poorer quality than I would touch in untreated condition unless I had no other source.

11:30 p.m. on October 22, 2008 (EDT)
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Because you're thirsty?

Seriously though.

Do you sweat more than your fellow hikers, or are you just "feeling thirsty" and that's why you drink? Other than your asthma, if you've ever had a hot weather related injury, you may have a damaged internal thermometer, making you run a little hotter than your friends and requiring more water. (I've seen this in a co-worker who was an ex-wrestler that had damaged his hypothalamus--the thermometer--and made him drink 2 to 3 times more water than the rest of us). Or, if it's physiologically or psychologically related to your asthma, and your needs are being outdone by your input, you need to be sure that you're not jumping on any hikes without a good breakfast and some snacks during the hike to avoid an exertional hyponatremia, where you dilute the sodium levels in your blood and cause, funny enough, symptoms of a hot weather injury that can lead to serious medical conditions. This is a very, very remote chance (I've been through some pretty horrid conditions, with heavy weight and over long distances and time and I've seen this once in about 7 years), especially if you have a healthy diet, but it's something you should educate yourself on.

1:01 a.m. on October 23, 2008 (EDT)
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I too only usually need about two litres of water a day, even after 20 years of hiking in the Grand Canyon and doing long bicycle tours. And from home I usually freeze mine the night before and wrap the bottles in a towel to keep them frozen most of the day. I usually take bottles of Gatorade Mix.

12:52 p.m. on October 23, 2008 (EDT)
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Looking back at the posts of the folks who claim only "needing" 1 or 2 liters per day, I should note that I can do my typical daily training hikes and rides without drinking anything or just a cup or two during the activity. My typical training activity is a hike up one of the local peaks (typically 6 to 10 miles, 2000 to 2800 ft of climb, 2 to 3 hours, around 2000 to 3000 kcal according to my Polar HRM) or a bike ride around a variant of the infamous Noon Ride loop (21 to 35 miles, 500ft of gain on the "flat" course to 2500 ft on the Old La Honda variation, similar kcal range, 1.5 to 3 hours, depending on the plethora of stop lights getting to the rural riding sections, and the 11% average grade of the 3.3 miles of the Old La Honda section which takes me 35-40 min these days).

So if I applied the criterion that many of the "1 liter" group seems to be doing, I could claim "no water needed". However, you should be including ALL the fluid you take in during the day, including the fluid content of the food you eat and fluids you drink during meals. I have heard some people who claim, during discussions of nutrition in our backpacking training courses that not only do they drink only 1 or 2 liters a day during backpacks, but they pee a liter at a time during the 2 or 3 rest breaks, plus their morning and evening evacuations - add it up, it amounts to 3 to 5 peed out, plus their sweat. If the intake is only the claimed 1 or 2 liters, and the output is 3 to 5, that's an excess of 3 to 4 liters, which would show up as a drop of 6 to 8 pounds in weight per day - not very likely!

So my question to the 1 and 2 liter posters is - first, are you including all the fluids you have at the meals during the day and those malt beverages you have afterward, as well as the moisture in your food? Or, how much weight do you drop during a week-long backpack, if you really are taking in only one or two liters per day?

I strongly suspect you are taking in far more fluids than you claim. The real test is the one used by the professional athletes and in endurance competitions - weigh yourself before starting the exertion and right afterwards. The difference in your weight before and after is the amount of fluids you have lost through sweating, breathing, and the pee breaks.

rdavis makes a good point about hyponutremia. However, that is a very low probability for someone in good health doing a high exertion activity. And it is easily countered by using a hydration mix (Hydrolyte, Cytomax, etc) in your drinking fluid and/or a gel like Gu.

5:06 p.m. on October 23, 2008 (EDT)
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Researcher: Drinking Lots Of Water Overrated

WASHINGTON -- New research is debunking an old theory that drinking lots of water can be good for you.

Dr. Stanley Goldfarb at the University of Pennsylvania examined previous research on the topic and concluded drinking lots of water is overrated.

Goldfarb looked for evidence that water flushes toxins out of your system and found there is no evidence to support that.

Nor was there research to support the idea that lots of water improves skin tone or relieves headaches.

He did say, however, that drinking water can help you lose weight, but there is no evidence that the pounds you take off will stay off.

The Institute of Medicine backs up Goldfarb's findings.

It said most healthy adults do fine without drinking a lot of water and recommended simply drinking when you are thirsty.

Stop drinking water people. Stick to Jolt and other energy drinks when on the trail. It'll make your wilderness adventures more interesting. ;)

5:31 p.m. on October 23, 2008 (EDT)
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I'm just talking about the actual water I drink from the time I take my first step on the hike, to the time I'm back at the car, I can easily go through 5-6 liters. And I very rarely have to pee at all on any of these hikes. Does this mean that my body is using up every ounce of that water?

6:10 p.m. on October 23, 2008 (EDT)
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I too am only drinking about 1-2 litres depending on exsursion. I usually take dry snacks like cashews or granola bars. Sometimes I carry little cans of mandarian orangea, but they only contain about a 1/2 cup of liquid. Often I leave home on a day hike with two litres and come home with one left after a average day of 10 miles.

6:21 p.m. on October 23, 2008 (EDT)
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There is an old joke about a farmer, who thought that the horse was eating far too much hey. So he started to give the horse a little less every day. Some weeks later he met on a neighbour, and this asked about the horse and the hey. "Yes" said the horse owner, "I managed to wean him of eating hey. But I was unlucky and he got sick and died. Otherwise I would have weaned him of drinking water as well."

Well back to realities. Bill the tread started by dax702 saying he drank about 6 liters on a short 5 hour hike. In my response I answered accordiong to that. I have better "control" of what I drink in winter, for there is so litle fluid water to be found. I did not in my response take into account the tea I have for breakfast or the supper I take at typical 8pm. The food we eat on winter trips are slices of bread and some nuts with rasins as high octane fuel when things are hard. On the wintertrip I posted pictures from we typical drank 2 liters the whole day, not more I'm sure.

There is no competition to drink as litle as possible, I'm just honest with you. In summer I drink as I walk from brooks and lakes, but it is not as much as 5 liters I'm sure. I took a trip some weeks ago to a summit close by. The top is 3450 feet, and I took a liter of fluid with me. On the way to the top I stopped for a cup of water 4 times (1 dl each), and on the way down two times. But coming back to the car 4 hours later I had even much of the water I started with left. Remember drinking the last bit in the car. Therfore I think it is astonishingly much water when someone say they drink 5 liters on a similar trip.

6:37 p.m. on October 23, 2008 (EDT)
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Seems to me that some people think that by proving they can function as well as those around them while depriving themselves of proper hydration or nutrition is the mark of manhood.
Usually it's the same ones who then brag about how many beers they can slam back and still function just as good as those around them. I used to have a hiking partner who called this hydration in advance.
For any further proof check out Gary's avatar.

Not trying to pick on you Gary, it was just convenient.
I like a cold one every now and then too.

7:18 p.m. on October 23, 2008 (EDT)
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The real question is how much is a "lot of water". Here is an experiment you can do quite easily to find your base transpiration rate. Just before you go to bed, weigh yourself and note the time. Do not drink any water during the night Immediately on getting up in the morning, weigh yourself on the same scales and note the time. The difference is the amount of water you lost through breathing and perspiration during the night. Divide by the time in hours and you get your base loss rate.

You probably should use one of the better scales, not a 10-year old spring operated bathroom scale. I finally broke down and replaced my old scale with an auto-zeroing electronic one that reads to the nearest 0.2 pound (3.2 ounces).

Do the same for one of your hikes, again being sure you do not drink any fluids from the time you weigh yourself before the start of the trail (or bike ride) until you weigh yourself afterward.

7:56 p.m. on October 23, 2008 (EDT)
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Good info Bill, I will give that a try.
I need to get a better scale anyway, mine is good to about +/- 1 lb.

3:41 p.m. on October 28, 2008 (EDT)
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Late as usual.

There are some serious problems that this may be telling you about your body's health.

Firstly, since you don't pee (PPPPP, pea?) a lot, you might have an abundance of sodium in your body. If you like salty foods, this might cause you to retain water. Check your blood pressure once in a while. Or if you're like me, I sweat white powder.

Secondly, and most important, it might be telling you to start watching out for diabetes. Since you don't feel thirsty all of the time, it might just be a precursor to Type 2, but it wouldn't hurt to mention it the next time you're at your doctor's office.

Both of these conditions aren't good for you, although I certainly think the first one makes everything taste better.

1:29 a.m. on October 30, 2008 (EDT)
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My blood pressure is always normal when I get it checked.. What do you mean, since I don't feel thirsty all of the time? I'm fairly certain that the need for the water is a direct result of the heavy breathing, coupled with the very very dry climate. My throat gets very dry from huffin and puffin and the natural instinct is to drink. So I think my main goal should be to get into better cardiovascular shape which is of course difficult with the exercise induced asthma..

7:55 a.m. on October 30, 2008 (EDT)
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Diabetes tends to make people feel thirsty. Don't know why, and I, as a diabetic, don't experience this myself. I put salt on everything, which causes me to retain water. This is supposed to elevate blood pressure, but again, I don't see this either. It's just that the two were tied together because they both cause some people to drink more water.

This probably doesn't apply to you, but it was just an FYI for people who do drink so much water.

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