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It goes without saying that drinking enough fluid is essential for a healthy functioning mind and body. According to the NHS, “in climates such as the UK’s, we should drink about 1.2 litres (six to eight glasses) of fluid every day to stop us getting dehydrated.” However, our fluid intake needs to increase in hotter climates and during exercise as our body will sweat to help regulate our core temperature. This rise in temperature means we need to compensate for the loss of fluids through sweating, by drinking more. Before embarking on the magnificent West Highland Way, be sure to familiarise yourself with this handy hydration helper on how to prevent dehydration on your walk.

Before your walk

In the morning of your walk, prepare your body by drinking around 500ml of water roughly 2-hours before you depart. It’s also a good idea to limit your caffeine intake as drinks such as coffee, tea and energy drinks can cause you to lose fluids and bring on the urge to make more rest-stops! Sodium helps keep our body in balance, so be sure to add a little extra salt to your breakfast meal before leaving.

On your walk

As a rule of thumb, you should drink every mile or approximately 20-minutes. Plain water is the optimal fluid for rehydrating our bodies; however, adding a little flavour is also acceptable. If you’re going to be walking for any more than 2-hours, then taking an additional drink such as an electrolyte sports drink or a salty snack is ideal. The salt will help water absorption in the body. 

Trust your body, and if you feel thirsty or dry-mouthed, then it’s because you need a drink. Don’t put it off, if you can, take a drink of water as and when you need. We know that your body will lose more fluids in warmer weather, but did you know that you’ll also lose more fluids at higher altitudes and when humidity is low? Keep this in mind for climbing days and when the sun decides to come out!

After your walk 

At the end of a productive day on the West Highland Way, be sure to have a big drink of water replenishment. It’s also advised to have an electrolyte-based energy drink also to top up your sodium and sugar levels. Of course, a wee dram of whisky wouldn’t go amiss later in the evening either!

Symptoms of dehydration

It’s important to be aware of the symptoms of dehydration so you can monitor how you’re feeling on your walk and to notice when you need to top up your fluid levels. According to the NHS, here are the most common signs of dehydration in both adults and children:

  • feeling thirsty
  • dark yellow and strong-smelling pee
  • feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • feeling tired
  • a dry mouth, lips and eyes
  • peeing little, and fewer than 4 times a day

Dehydration can happen more easily if you have:

  • diabetes
  • vomiting or diarrhoea
  • been in the sun too long (heatstroke)
  • drunk too much alcohol
  • sweated too much after exercising
  • a high temperature of 38C or more
  • been taking medicines that make you pee more (diuretics)