First, before I begin, let’s be clear: Nuun have sent me a supply of their electrolyte tablets but only after I had been using them for a couple of years and after I asked if they could help support the walk. There are, as they say, other electrolyte brands available but I have found the one that works for me and am very pleased Nuun could support me.
Now, with that declaration duly noted, let’s talk about hydration. In simple layman’s terms, I’ve really noticed the difference when I hydrate using an electrolyte during a long walk and certainly afterwards. In particular, it keeps cramp at bay and seems to ease the muscles stopping them from tightening as much as they might. In combination with a few stretches and use of far infrared clothing (I use Absolute 360 but I’m sure there are others 😉 ) this provides essential rehydration enabling me to go further more often. This will, of course, be critical during the repetitive day-on-day walking involved in heading from the southernmost to the northernmost point of the UK. I should add that some people advise against stretching after exercise but while it might suit me I think we are all agreed on the need to stretch prior to any exercise, however vigorous.
There is a very comprehensive and certainly more scientific explanation of the timing, need and process of rehydration by the British Hydration Foundation (BHF). If you want to know why and how to rehydrate then I would certainly get over there. One obvious give away that you are dehydrated is a darkening of your urine while feeling thirsty is just another message from the brain. Additionally, the BHF lists the hydrating qualities of all sorts of drinks. One of the things to be careful of is that many drinks while rehydrants also contain calories… Nuun, by the way, contains less than 8 calories per serving ;). If you want an alcoholic drink at the end of the day etc. then you’re better off choosing lager, bitter or cider… The BHF can tell you why.
Why do I choose an electrolyte over just water? The ‘How Stuff Works‘ website explains:
Electrolytes are important because they are what your cells (especially nerve, heart, muscle) use to maintain voltages across their cell membranes and to carry electrical impulses (nerve impulses, muscle contractions) across themselves and to other cells. Your kidneys work to keep the electrolyte concentrations in your blood constant despite changes in your body. For example, when you exercise heavily, you lose electrolytes in your sweat, particularly sodium and potassium. These electrolytes must be replaced to keep the electrolyte concentrations of your body fluids constant.
Water alone cannot provide such an extensive or fast rehydration and, of course, a flavoured electrolyte tastes better than water after several days and several litres!
Let me know your favourite forms of hydration and stories of dehydration. I’ll keep you appraised of mine when I get walking in April.