Hydration 101

How Much Water Do We Need?

You’d think that would be a simple one sentence answer wouldn’t you. However the issue is much more complicated. With people getting caught in the day to day hustle, they find that they have drunken very little water or liquids by the end of the day. Dehydration is a serious issue and something many backpackers and outdoorsmen and -women face when they do not pack adequate liquids for their adventures in the backcountry.

The usual advice to drink 8 glasses of water simply won’t cut it anymore, especially because you are an athlete ( a bakcountry athlete nonetheless ) and athletes get rid of liquids more rapidly, meaning they must be replenished more often.

“The National Academy of Medicine now recommends about 9½ cups a day for women and about 12 cups a day for men,” notes Sam Cheuvront, a physiologist at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. “That includes all fluids: coffee, tea, juice, milk.” (It doesn’t include the two to three cups of liquid you’re likely to get from your food.)

In fact, that’s how much the average adult consumes (which influenced the Academy’s advice). Exception: people over 70 average only about 7 cups a day.

But what does all this really mean? Why am I showing you this if you are an athlete and know you require more? I am showing you where the baseline is, because if you are not meeting these requirements, then you are surly not meeting your personal requirements for hydration. It comes down to how much water and liquid you lose over the duration of your activities during the day.

Here are some things that may matter when evaluating how much water you lose in a given day:

Heat or Exercise 

Heat or physical activity ( like that of an athlete ) boosts your fluid needs. “It’s not just sweat,” says Cheuvront, who notes that his views are not official U.S. Army or Defense Department policy. “Heat or exercise also increases the water that’s lost through breathing and the water that evaporates from the skin.” The more force you exert out, the more fuel you are going to have to put in. It is our responsibility to know our own bodies and exercise commitments so that we can properly evaluate how much liquid we need to perform at optimal capacity. Because that is what we are all about here at Bakcountry F&N Lab – giving you the tools and information you need so that you can perform your best when competing or when in the backcountry, where it matters most.

* For more on energy replenishment: Balancing Your Calories In and Out | Bakcountry Athlete Journal


“If you eat a lot of salt or protein, your kidneys need more water to excrete the excess,” says Cheuvront. “So the more meat and high-sodium restaurant food and processed foods you eat, the more water you need.”

Hopefully by now, after reading some of our posts about eating healthy you are not spending as much time in crummy restaurants. However, it is easy to eat meals high in sodium and as athletes we need some of the electrolytes it provides, as well as the amino acids from proteins. This makes athletes like you and me more vulnerable to becoming dehydrated from the food we eat. Solution? Drink more water!


“The general consensus is that moderate caffeine intake doesn’t dehydrate you,” says Muñoz, assistant professor of health sciences at the University of Hartford.

In one study (funded by an industry-​backed foundation), researchers randomly assigned 59 young men to get roughly 450, 225, or 0 milligrams of caffeine per day. (A Starbucks grande Pike Place Roast has around 300 mg.) After five days, “there was no difference in hydration markers measured over 24 hours,” says Muñoz.

This means you can still have your cup of joe – good thing because I probably wasn’t giving mine up – however if you drink more than moderate amounts you will probably want to dilute it with other liquids, preferably water.


Most athletes try and minimize their alcohol intake for obvious reasons. But if you do have that glass of wine or brew with your buddies, remember that alcohol is a diuretic. “Alcohol turns down a hormone that tells the kidneys to retain fluid,” Muñoz explains, so “If you drink alcohol, try to drink more water than you normally would,” she suggests.


Age can also play a role in the onset of dehydration. Older people simply lack the thrill for thirst. And if they do drink their liquids, “they aren’t able to concentrate their urine as well” explains Munoz. That means more trips to the bathroom.

The increase in medications often taken by older adults can also have an impact on their liquid intake needs. It’s best to try and stay hydrated, even if it means more bathroom breaks.

How Can I Tell If I’m Hydrated?

Well, its similar to not eating yellow snow. Urine color isn’t the best way to determine if you are hydrated or not, but it can be the easiest way to get a general idea. According to Munoz, the sweet spot is the “color of lemonade.” ( If your urine is colorless, you could actually be over hydrated ).

For a more systematic approach, you can check what Cheuvront calls the WUT criteria first thing in the morning:

  • Weight: Down more than 1 percent from your average morning weight.
  • Urine color: “Apple juice or darker.”
  • Thirst: “Not just a dry mouth, but so dry that it’s hard to form saliva.”

“If two of these criteria are present, it’s likely that you’re not getting enough water,” says Cheuvront. “If all three are present, you’re almost definitely dehydrated.”

Bottom Line

The fact of the matter is that you need to drink liquids or else you will not be able to perform at high levels – mentally or physically. Period. For bakcountry athletes this is extremely important for safety when in the wilderness. Always be sure to bring adequate liquids, both water and electrolytes, and snacks/fuel on your adventures. If you are unsure if you have drunken enough, you probably should drink more. And the best option for liquid choices is always good ole’ H20.

If you found this useful feel free to leave a like or comment below. Similarly, we would love to hear what you guys want to see discussed on our forum – just say so in the comments below!

As always, hydrate and be #BakcountryStrong


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