Hiking Hydration 101: The Importance of Electrolytes

Hiking Hydration 101: The Importance of Electrolytes

Maintaining proper hydration and avoiding fatigue are essential for a successful hike. While drinking water is a key part of staying hydrated, it may not be enough to keep your body performing at its best. This is where electrolytes come in. Electrolytes are minerals found in your body that help regulate fluid balance, muscle function, and other important bodily processes. Sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium are all examples of electrolytes. During intense physical activity like hiking, it's easy to lose electrolytes through sweat and other bodily fluids.

Benefits of electrolytes for hikers

  1. Improved hydration: Electrolytes help your body retain water, which is crucial for proper hydration. When you sweat during a hike, you lose not only water, but also electrolytes. By replenishing these minerals, you can help your body absorb and retain water more effectively, preventing dehydration.
  2. Reduced fatigue: Electrolytes play a role in muscle function, and a deficiency can lead to muscle cramps, weakness, and fatigue. By keeping your electrolyte levels balanced, you can help prevent these issues and maintain energy and endurance on the trail.
  3. Prevention of heat stroke: Electrolytes also help regulate your body temperature, and a deficiency can increase your risk of heat-related illness like heat stroke. By replenishing electrolytes during a hike, you can help prevent your body from overheating and maintain proper temperature regulation.

Best sources of electrolytes

There are several ways to replenish electrolytes during a hike. Sports drinks are a popular option, as they are specifically formulated to provide electrolytes as well as hydration. However, these drinks (think Gatorade) typically aren't the best for you as they contain a lot of sugar, as well as artificial flavors and colors. 

There are also a few companies that make electrolyte supplements. These supplements can come in the form of powders, pills or ready-made liquids. Our favorite, and the only one we feel comfortable recommending, is Redmond Re-Lyte Electrolyte Powder. They have quite a few flavor options to choose from, and all their electrolyte supplements are sugar free! The powder is super easy to dissolve in your water and can be sipped on throughout the day.

You can also eat foods high in electrolytes, such as bananas, avocados, and coconut water. While these options also have the benefit of providing a satisfying snack, the amount of electrolytes per serving aren't as concentrated as you would find in an electrolyte supplement such as Re-Lyte.

One way to ensure that you have easy access to hydration and electrolytes during a hike is to use a hydration backpack. These packs have a built-in reservoir for water, as well as a tube and bite valve for easy drinking. Some even have pockets for carrying electrolyte tablets or powders, allowing you to replenish your electrolytes on the go. Check out some of our favorite options here.

Remember: More is not always better

Too much of a good thing can actually be bad, so it's important to note that it's possible to consume too many electrolytes. This can lead to side effects like bloating and diarrhea. It's best to stick to the recommended dosage on sports drinks and electrolyte supplements, and to adjust your electrolyte intake based on the length and intensity of your hike.

In summary, electrolytes are an important factor to consider when hiking, as they play a crucial role in maintaining proper hydration, preventing fatigue, and regulating body temperature. By replenishing electrolytes during a hike, you can help your body perform at its best and enjoy a more comfortable and enjoyable outdoor experience.

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