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Drinking for Fitness Walking - Tips and Guidelines

Hydration Guidelines and Gear for Walkers


Updated July 24, 2014

Women Walking with Water Bottles in Hand
© Terry Vine / Brand X Pictures / Getty

Drinking and walking do go together - as long as the drink is water before, during and after your walk.

Before You Walk:

  • Drink Before You Walk: Prepare for your walk by drinking a tall glass of water (17 ounces or 500 mL) 2 hours before your walk. This will allow time for any extra to pass through you body before you hit the trail.
  • Limit Caffeine: Avoid caffeinated beverages before your walk. They cause you to lose fluid, making you thirstier as well as making you take inconvenient stops along the way.
  • Salt Before a Long Walk: Before long walks, have a bit of extra salt with your meal or snack so you will have enough sodium to stay in balance.
  • Plan for More Water: Carry water with you or plan for water stops along the route where you will be able to get a full drink of a cup of water every 20 minutes. A water fountain may not be able to deliver enough water for you to get a full cup.
  • Walking Water Calculator: Find out how much water you should be taking along to ensure you have enough at hand.

Drinking During Your Walk:

  • Plain Water: For walks of an hour or less, plain water is the best drink.
  • Salty Snack or Electrolyte Sports Drinks During Long Walks: When your walk is going to be longer than an hour, a sports drink or salty foods such as pretzels can help with water absorption in the body as well as replacement of salt and energy
  • Drink When Thirsty: The old rules of drinking before you were thirsty were tossed out 10 years ago. The USATF in 2003 and the International Marathon Medical Directors Association in 2006 say walkers and runners should trust their thirst mechanisms and drink when thirsty.
    Drinking Guidelines for Distance Walkers and Runners - International Marathon Medical Directors Association 2006
  • Drinking When Sweating: If you are sweating more than usual, drink more than usual.
  • High Altitude: You lose even more fluids at high altitudes, in heat and low humidity and need to drink more than usual. Again, let thirst be your guide and drink as soon as thirsty.
  • Flavor Your Water: Make your water taste good so you will want to drink more. Add a squirt of lemon and keep it cool. Flavorings for your water

Drinking After Your Walk

  • Replenish: After your walk, end with another tall drink of water.
  • Electrolytes, Too: After a long walk, do not overdo on plain water, use sports drink and/or salty foods to replenish salts as well.

Signs of Dehydration

  • nausea after exercise
  • dark yellow urine or no urine
  • dry, sticky mouth
  • dry eyes

Pure Clean Water

  • Tap water from a municipal water supply in the US or Canada is perfectly fine for most purposes.
  • Some walkers prefer the taste of filtered or designer water. Be sure to clean and dry single-use bottles before refilling them.
  • Do not drink water from a lake or stream unless you filter or purify it. In many places there are nasty parasites such as Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium in the "unspoiled" mountain streams - because they are in the local squirrels and other animals.
Next Page: Sports Drinks When Walking

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