While it's common knowledge that staying hydrated in hot weather is critical, we talk less about how staying hydrated in cold weather is just as important. Because cooler temperatures cause less sweating and thus less thirst, hydration may not be a top priority. Staying hydrated is essential no matter what time of year it is. And, especially in the winter, there are numerous reasons why getting enough fluid intake is a legitimate concern.
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Whether you're a serious endurance athlete, a winter sports enthusiast, or a combination of the two, we've compiled the top reasons from sports scientists and pro triathletes why it's critical to stay hydrated and healthy when training during the winter months, as well as some tips on how to do so.
Causes of Dehydration in Winter Months
The body's thirst response decreases by approximately 40% during the winter. When the body is cold, blood vessels constrict, preventing blood flow to the extremities. As a result, more blood is drawn to the human body's core. As a result, you are not thirsty during the winter, and your body does not conserve water. This is why, in cold weather, we drink less water; the kidneys do not conserve water, and urine production increases, potentially leading to a condition known as cold-induced urine diuresis. Furthermore, wearing extra clothing, as well as respiratory fluid loss, can result in extreme dehydration.
Signs of Dehydration in Winter
Detecting dehydration, especially in the winter, can be difficult. Checking some of the common signs can assist you in ensuring that you are adequately hydrated.
- Keep an eye on the color of your urine. Get a chart to check the color of your urine if possible. The darker the color, the more dehydrated you are.
- Weigh yourself in the morning regularly to see if you are slightly dehydrated or retaining water.
- Check your weight before and after exercise to see how much sweat you produce and how much fluid you need to replace. Keep a mental record of the amount of urine you pass. If the volume is lower than normal, you are dehydrated and should begin drinking water.
How to Stay Hydrated
Keeping track of how much fluid you're losing is a good way to keep up with your body's hydration needs. Many factors influence how an athlete sweats during a winter workout, including exercise duration, temperature, body weight, and clothing type.
Calculate Your Sweat Rate
Calculating your sweat rate is an easy way to determine how much fluid you typically lose through sweat.
- Record your body weight without any clothes on before your workout.
- Dry off and re-record your weight after your workout.
- During your workout, keep track of the fluids you drink, how much you drink, and how frequently you drink them.
- Subtract your pre-exercise weight from your post-exercise weight, then multiply by the amount of fluid consumed. This figure represents your fluid loss during exercise.
- Subtract your fluid loss from the number of hours you worked out. Then divide that figure by the number of hours you exercise per week.
This final number is your sweat rate, which will give you a better idea of how much fluid you need to replace after your winter workout.
Warm Yourself Inside and Out
Andy Blow, the sports scientist, and Precision Hydration founder, recommends that athletes dress warmly with multiple layers, paying special attention to their hands and feet. Dressing properly will keep your body temperature balanced by preventing too much blood from sending to your core. Furthermore, drinking warmed fluids keeps you warm and hydrated.
A sports drink designed to be warmed up and then stored in a water bottle carrier for easy access throughout your workout is an easy way to hit both marks. Choose an insulated water bottle with a double wall of premium H2O products to keep your drink warm for up to 12 hours (and cold for 24 hours in hot weather). Because it will never rust or leave a metallic taste in your mouth, H2O Capsule water bottles are the best. Furthermore, it is BPA-free and non-toxic, so you don't have to worry about chemicals leaching into your body over time.
Drink More Than You Think You Need
Drink as many fluids as you would when training in the heat, even if you don't feel thirsty, to stay properly hydrated in high-altitude, cold-temperature environments.
The type of fluids is also an important consideration. Athletes will require more carbs for long-distance running because the body requires extra energy to maintain heat and adjust to elevation changes. Simply drinking water will not suffice, especially since H2O only replaces 50% of fluid losses. Sweating also causes sodium loss, which is why we recommend filling an insulated water bottle with a sports drink containing 460 to 800 mg of sodium per liter. This will ensure that your salt, carbohydrate, and fluid losses are replaced adequately during training.
Pre-hydrate and Rehydrate
Pre-hydration is also critical for achieving the best results during training or workout sessions. It improves your overall performance and helps you avoid chronic dehydration, which is especially important if you engage in several high-intensity activities per day. Checking your urine color, which should be a light yellow shade, is one way to see if you're hydrating enough before exercising.
Rehydration after exercise is equally important — it is necessary for cardiovascular function and muscle repair, and it will also help replace any fluids lost through sweating. You'll have a better idea of how much fluid you need to replace after a winter workout session once you know your sweat rate.
Drinking plenty of water is essential in the summer and the winter. Because your immunity is low in the winter, you must stay hydrated and drink clean water to avoid infection. Install a water purifier and carry a half gallon water bottle with you wherever you go to stay hydrated.
Now that you know how much fluid you need to consume for peak performance during the winter, it's time to exercise, hydrate, smile, and repeat!