Listen to your body
‘A general advice for over 40,000 walkers concerning the amount of fluid one has to take while walking, cannot be given.' Professor doctor Maria Hopman, professor in exercise physiology at the Universitair Medisch Centrum St. Radboud in Nijmegen, draws this important conclusion from the research she and her fellow researchers conducted during the Four Days Marches in 2007.
The research results show that for some people two litres of fluid every walking day is exactly the right amount they have to drink, whereas others are to consume at least ten litres on a walking day to keep their fluid level balanced. So if a general advice is impossible, how are walkers to know what applies to them?
The most important is the preparation! During the training walks it is recommendable to weigh yourself prior to and after the walk (preferably without clothing). You should also register for yourself how much you drink, starting from the moment you weigh yourself until the weighing after the walk (cup of coffee (125 ml), plastic cup (150 ml), coffee mug (250 ml), glass of lemonade (200 ml), bottles (mentioned on the bottle). When you add these amounts together it will give you the litres you consumed. If you gained weight, you drank too much; 1 kilogram equals 1 litre. If you lost weight you did not drink enough; similarly , every kilogram you loose equals 1 litre of fluid. In this simple manner you will gain insight in how much fluid you should take. Repeat this regularly, especially in different weather circumstances.
Listen to your body! You do not have to wait to drink until you are thirsty, but you do not have drink the entire way. Do not avoid drinking because going to the toilet is not practical at the moment. That would be a wrong decision that may have serious consequences, especially when the weather is warm.
The most important results of the 2007 research: walking the Four Days Marches while the outside temperature rises to a maximum of 26 degrees Celsius will not cause overheating. Even though all walkers did exhibit a rise in temperature, none surpassed 39 degrees Celsius. The same research shows that the amount of fluid the walkers consumed differs greatly, varying from 0.3 litres to 1.2 litres during walking. On average, walkers drank between 2.6 and 3.2 litres.
An important question is whether they drank enough to prevent dehydration (and, in addition, problems such as overheating and fainting) or did they possibly drank too much (which may cause life-threatening blood-dilution)? The research shows that five percent of the walkers had drunk too much, whereas sixteen percent of the walkers drank too little. If one transports these results to 40,000 walkers, it results in 2000 walkers drinking too much and 6400 walkers drinking too little.
Dangers of drinking too much or too little
Drinking too little (most common):
• Worsens the achievement
• Increases the risk of overheating
• Increases the chance of fainting
• May cause fluctuation in salt concentrates in the blood causing cardiac arrhythmias
Drinking too much (more and more common):
May cause the blood to dilute . A walker may develop brain oedema which may even result in death.
• It is of utmost importance that you eat steady and regularly. When giving way, take sweets containing dextrose.
• Drink water, tea or sports drinks, as carbonated drinks are less suitable. We advise you against using alcoholic beverages, since combining alcohol with physical exercise threatens your health.
• Using stimulants or tranquillizers is strongly advised against!