Is Hydration On The Mountain A Cheat Code?

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If I were to ask how often you drink water on the mountain, what would you say? My guess is that many of us would apprehensively admit to not drinking much at all. But as they say, never assume! The fact of the matter is, staying hydrated on the hill is challenging. Water bottles are impractical to hold, plastic bladders are awkward, and adding one more item to hold while bundled is a pain. Hopefully this article convinces you otherwise because staying hydrated could be one of the best moves you make for your performance, recovery, and overall wellbeing. Disclaimer, reach out to your local health professional first with any specific questions regarding your personal health. Now, back to the article.

The US Department of the Interior states that adult men are made up of around 60% water with women being slightly less and babies a bit more. We all know that we need to drink water, but what does ‘staying hydrated’ actually mean?

The body is constantly in a battle of ‘homeostasis‘ a self-regulating process to maintain stability for survival. It will do everything in its glorious power to keep you performing. Staying hydrated means many different things but ultimately it means having adequate fluids/ electrolytes within the body to maintain a healthy balance or homeostasis.

The National Council on Aging describes the benefits of hydration here:

  • Improved brain performance
  • Improved digestion
  • Improved energy
  • Weight Loss management
  • Decreased joint pain
  • Temperature regulation
  • Improved heart health
  • And much more
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So you may be saying,

Yeah Mark, I already know drinking more water is healthy but how does it help my snowboarding? Keep reading, the good stuff is coming…

Firstly, let’s dive into how many calories one is potentially burning while snowboarding.

A Harvard study listed three weight classes and what one might burn within 30 minutes of activity. For Downhill skiing at 155lbs. (I weigh 163lbs) one would be estimated at burning up to 432 calories per hour. As you can imagine, the heavier you are, the more calories you would potentially burn. This estimate is actually on the lower end of a few other researched articles. So, if Im spending five hours on the hill, I have burned up to 2160 calories on the hill. Great, now im in a calorie deficit but how does that affect my hydration? You see, our bodies require an exponential amount of electrolytes and water to utilize the energy systems to keep our muscles contracting, heart pumping, brain functioning, kidneys working, lungs expanding, neurons firing, etc. Without this, our performance and overall function begins to decline with time.

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Dr. Andrew Huberman of Huberman labs states:

Typically we are going to lose 1-5 lbs. of water per hour of exercise varying tremendously on many factors. Based on this, once you lose 1-4% of your bodyweight in water, you are going to experience about a 20-30% reduction in work capacity. Your ability to generate effort of any kind including strength, endurance, etc. You are also going to experience a decline in mental operations.

Dr. Andrew Huberman – Huberman Labs

Lets do some math:

  • I weigh 163 lbs
  • I snowboard for 5 hours with no water intake between
  • Based on the minimum, lets say I lose 1 lb of water per hour
  • Ive lost 5 lbs of water during my time and burned 2160 calories.
  • Ive lost over 3% of my bodyweight in water = up to a 20-30% reduction in work capacity.

I can further define work capacity as my ability to perform anaerobic (quick bursts) or aerobic (endurance based movements) over a period of time. There is no possible way I can perform at my optimal levels if I’m fatigued.

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So what is the solution?

First let’s dive into what exactly electrolytes are and what their roles are. Electrolytes vary within the body as Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Chloride, Bicarbonate, and Phosphate. For todays articles, let’s discuss the first three mentioned (sodium, potassium, magnesium). This is a VERY superficial view of these electrolytes and it can get extremely complex.


  • Regulates fluid balance in blood flow
  • Helps conduct nerve impulses
  • Regulates blood pressure
  • Increases absorption in gut


  • Fluid balance
  • Conducts nerve impulses
  • Helps with blood pressure regulation


  • Regulates muscle contractions
  • Regulates blood sugar levels
  • Aides in ATP production (For energy)
  • Builds bones

How much do we need before/ during/ after exercise?

Dr. Andrew Huberman suggests that we consume 3.2-4.8g of sodium and 4g of potassium. This amount changes at altitude as our bodies work harder to maintain homeostasis and amounts may go up 50-100%. Also remember, we are obtaining these electrolytes through our foods we ingest.

Another solution I continue to utilize in all of my athletic endeavors is adding a supplement to my water so I can continue performing at my best. At 34 years young, I need all the tools I can use to stay injury free on the mountain, trails, rocks, etc. We have used LMNT electrolytes for years now because they are no nonsense, taste great, and are easy to pack. Each packet includes 1000mg sodium/ 200mg potassium/ 60mg magnesium/ and stevia leaf for flavor. I personally drink electrolytes before/ during/ and after my mountain sessions carrying a small 10oz water bottle in my pocket to stay fueled. If you are interested in trying LMNT out, we are offering a free gift with every purchase. You can try 1 packet of each flavor and see which one fits you best.

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How much water to drink during exercise?

There are a number of journals and beliefs here. We also need to take into account weather as exercising in heat may require more fluid intake. At the same time, Stephen A Mears, et al. found that the athletes studied in cold versus heat lost similar levels of body mass water and cumulative water output being greater with cold weather athletes.

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) recommends that athletes consume 6-12 oz. of water every 15-20 minutes.

Dr. Andrew Huberman recommends:

The simple rule is… your body weight in pounds divided by 30 will give you the number of ounces of water that you should drink about every 20 minutes when exercising or doing mental work.

Dr. Andrew Huberman – Huberman Labs

The above equations looks like this: (163 lbs. / 30 = 5.43 oz. every 20 minutes)

Lastly, TP Backes, et al., recommends athletes consume .236 liters (8 oz) every 15 minutes of exercise.

So what does it all mean? TRY to consume 5-12 oz. of water every 15-20 minutes on the mountain.

Some solutions for hydration on the mountain:

  • Take a few gulps of electrolytes before, sip on a small water bladder during, and rehydrate afterwards
  • Try taking a water break every hour or two in the lodge
  • Try hiding a water bottle in the woods that you can return to periodically throughout the day

At the end of the way, it will take you being proactive but my challenge for you is to see if you notice a difference.

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