Dr. Judith Brown, a professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, says that even under normal conditions the average person doesn’t drink enough liquid. To maintain body fluid levels at high altitudes she recommends drinking water rather than other liquids because it’s rapidly absorbed by the body.

“The more sugar something has, the more slowly it is absorbed. Fruit juice by itself is too sweet, so I dilute it half and half. Soda is bad because of the sugar - not only because it’s more slowly absorbed, but also because you need fluid to digest sugar. So sugar actually causes you to lose fluid. Nothing makes you thirstier than a Coke.”

Caffeine is a mild diuretic and can increase water loss, says Dr. Brown. There’s no particular need to avoid coffee or tea, however; just don’t rely on them for increasing your fluid consumption.

Before they suffer from such early signs of altitude dehydration as nausea, weakness, and lack of concentration, climbers have a simple technique for determining whether or not they’re getting enough liquid: the appearance of their urine. A very light color generally indicates good liquid intake. A dark color is considered a warning they must increase intake of fluids.

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