How to stay hydrated when you're stuck at 35,000 feet.

By Andy Blow | 3 Minute Read

Travelling abroad for races can take plenty out of you before you've even arrived at the start line for your event and travel can have a significant effect on your hydration status.

Precision Hydration are no strangers to travelling to far flung corners of the globe and we wanted to share our top-six pieces of hydration advice for when you next have to keep your tray tables stowed and your seat in an upright position...

 

Contents:

  1. Drink to thirst to counter the low humidity
  2. Start the journey hydrated
  3. Stick to water
  4. Carry an empty bottle
  5. Eat fresh fruit and vegetables
  6. Add sodium to retain more fluid
  7. Further reading

 

1. Drink (to thirst) to counter the low humidity.

The air inside the cabin of a plane has a humidity level of between 15 and 20 percent, whereas the typical indoor humidity on the ground is more like 30 to 65 percent (depending on where in the world you are) and this is why you 'dry out' when you fly.

The combination of not being able to take liquids through airport security, pricey shops in the Departures lounge, and a fear of getting stuck in a long queue for the bathroom the moment the seatbeat sign goes off can all contribute to a desire to drink less than we usually would when we're travelling. But it's really important to take steps to stay hydrated to counter the effects of this lower humidity.

 

2. Start the journey hydrated

We're not talking about preloading here, but it definitely helps to make sure you're in a good state of hydration before you board the plane. We've blogged before about how to tell if you're dehydrated and it's a good idea to think more about your hydration status in the days running up to your flight.

 

3. Stick to water

In another recent blog we looked at how well different drink hydrate you and, whilst coffee, soft drinks and alcohol might not actively dehydrate you, they are not going to be as effective as water, so go easy on the caffeine, sugar and booze.  

That's especially the case if you don't drink those sorts of drinks regularly.

It's tempting to enjoy a glass of wine or a coffee on the plane (particularly when it's included!), especially when you're on vacation, but if you want to be fresh when you land, it's best to steer clear.

 

4. Carry an empty bottle

Most airports have water fountains and many longer haul aircraft have places you can fill up at so you don’t need to keep asking for bottled water, or wait for meal times. It's also a great way to save money on exorbitantly priced bottled water if you're flying with an airline that doesn't include drinks in the price of your ticket.

 

Water melon
Image: Scott Webb via Unsplash (copyright free)

 

5. Eat fresh fruit and vegetables

These contain a lot of water which gets released slowly as you digest them. Berries, pineapple, cucumbers, and watermelon are all good.

 

6. Add sodium to retain more fluid.

Sodium helps you absorb and retain more of the fluid you're taking in, so adding some to the water in your bottle during your flight can be useful.

We all use our lightest (250mg) electrolyte drink when we travel and it's usefulness as a day to day background hydrator is one of the reasons we developed it in the first place (though, obviously it's useful during exercise for people with relatively low sweat sodium concentrations too).

If you do fall behind on staying hydrated, an electrolyte drink is a decent solution for catching up, especially when you need to get on with whatever you're doing at the other end.


Anyway, I hope you find this useful next time you're jetting off somewhere!

 

Further reading

Andy Blow - Founder and Sports Scientist

Andy Blow

Founder and Sports Scientist

Andy Blow is a Sports Scientist with a BSc Honours degree in Sports and Exercise Science from the University of Bath. An expert in hydration, he has co-authored a number of scientific studies and books.

He was once the Team Sports Scientist for the Benetton and Renault Formula 1 teams and remains an adviser to the Porsche Human Performance Centre at Silverstone.

Andy has finished in the top 10 of IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 races, as well as winning an XTERRA World title. It was his own struggles with cramp that led to him specialising in hydration and founding Precision Hydration.

More articles by Andy

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