Adventure Travel – How to Stay Sharp in the Tropics
Water of Life (or how to stay sharp in the tropics)
As a Scotsman I’ve grown up believing that the “Water of Life” was the amber nectar Scotch Whisky.
As an active sportsman and a resident of a tropical island, I’ve modified that thought (well slightly at least!) to see that simple water is all there is to life really.
Your body is made up of 90% water which accounts for about 60% of your total body weight. It’s not just part of us, hell it IS us! At one time the average human body carries about 40 litres of water. It is the flow that carries all our oxygen and nutrients to all the corners of your body; and on the way back it carries away al the contaminants and baddies. It is the way your body lubricates joints, raises and lowers your body temperature and helps digestion and your metabolism.
Most of the human race does not drink anywhere near enough water for a healthy life. If you are human then the chances are you can’t tell me when the last time you drank a good long draft of simple water, pint made? Although saying that, in the past few years we have been getting better with the trendy new bottled water; Fiji Water™ being one of the most successful (and the prettiest bottles!). The experts say that we should be drinking about 3 to 4 litres of water every day or in terms of your real body size about 8cc per kilogram (or in old speak about ½ ounce for each pound). If you ever get to the point where you think “hey I’m thirsty, I need a drink”, you’re already on the back foot and about 1½ litres on the wrong side of thirsty! That’s 5% under your optimum level, unbelievable.
In the Matava Office in Kadavu we are actually pretty good at it in a way (smug!), and in other ways terrible (too much Starbucks® coffee!). However we do recognise that most people do a lot better when they’re drinking a huge amount of water. Chances are that if you start drinking a couple of bottles more than you currently do then you’ll just like, you know, feel better. It’s also true that your body absorbs water better in small amounts as opposed to swallowing a whole litre at once every ½ hour. Both Richard and I use a CamelPak™ when hiking. This means we’re sipping water every 4 or 5mins which doesn’t fill you up and slosh about inside you and slow you down. It also means you never feel thirsty, a great step one of fighting the water battle. It’s quite common for us to have our guests at Matava come back from a dive or hike and report that they’re “just not feeling right”. The first answer we give them is to sit down and drink a full bottle of water from their Matava water bottle (about 1 litre) and then talk to us. 99% of the time it works a treat!
When you don’t drink enough water your energy levels just plummet. During the activities onboard dehydration can lead to accidents by causing progressive loss of coordination and inability to concentrate. It can also predispose you to various ailments such as heat exhaustion and stroke. Just because you’re not sweating doesn’t been you aren’t losing water either. Your body can lose up to a quart of water a day just through breathing.
Now onto a simple subject that tends not to come up around the dinner table much but is possibly the best indicator of your hydration level, the colour of your pee! If your water levels drop to a low or critical, then one of the first things you’ll remember is that you’ll not be able to remember the last time you peed. Then you’ll notice that your urine is dark yellow and not much of it. (When you’re properly hydrated it’s normally clear). It’s likely that you’ll have lower tolerance levels, feel exhausted, you’re not able to concentrate and life is just kinda fuzzy. Headaches and fatigue are classic examples of dehydration.
In doctor’s language, there are three levels of dehydration:
Mild: your mucus membranes dry out, your pulse is normal, your urine noticeably yellow, and you feel mild thirst.
Moderate: your mucus membranes are extremely dry, your pulse is weak and rapid, your urine is very dark, you feel very thirsty.
Severe: mucous membranes completely dry, disorientation, drowsy, tired, no urine output, inability to make tears, and shock like (rapid weak pulse, rapid breathing, pale skin)
One of the discussions we have between us in the office is should you drink water or sports drinks? We argue about the benefits of one over the other endlessly, but the real answer is that both are good.
Sports drinks do provide energy, maximize fluid absorption and they replace minerals lost during activity, something simple, pure water doesn’t do. However many of the sports drinks on the market have a huge amount of sugar in them, and your body uses up water to digest the sugar instead of using it to rehydrate you! (And don’t even think of confusing sports drinks with Energy Drinks!
RED BULL may have just bought a small island and resort in the Fiji Islands, but don’t confuse the drink with being beneficial for rehydrating. These drinks may feel good for a while but they run mostly on a good jolt of caffeine and sugar which doubly dehydrates you!)
The bottom line is that you need to drink. So if the only way you can feel good about drinking is to flavour your water with Gatorade™ or any other of the host of sports drinks out there, then go for it. Just don’t forget to supplement your intake with at least a litre or two of pure, simple water… your body will thank you for it and your performance will be noticeably better.
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