Hydrating for Cold Weather Exercise

When we think of healthy nutrition the first thought that often comes to mind is food! But food isn’t the only key factor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Hydration is a critical piece that is often overlooked, especially during the winter months when we aren’t sweating under a hot summer sun! In the winter we do not see the effects of water loss as easily as during the summer. We cover ourselves up in layers to keep warm so we don’t see the sweat our bodies are producing for a visual cue to drink more water. In addition, cold weather can even suppress thirst, making it easier to forget to take a drink of water.

Water plays a critical role within our body and its functions. As we become dehydrated, our water levels decrease, which also means the volume of blood in our body, decreases too. As blood volume goes down, our heart rate rises because it has to work harder to pump blood. It’s recommended that we drink 8 glasses of water a day. However, if you’ve been active outside such as shoveling, skiing, or skating, you’ll need more water to make up for water lost through sweat. If you exercise longer than 60 minutes you should replenish with a sports drink containing carbohydrates and sodium.

Thankfully it’s easy to get back on track with drinking water when it’s cold just like we do when it’s hot! Below are a few tips to staying hydrated in cold weather:

  • Carry a water bottle with you. Leave it out on your desk to keep it within reach while at school.
  • When you take a break in the ski lodge, first grab a drink of water before reaching for the cup of hot cocoa!
  • After coming inside from shoveling your walkway, first grab a quick drink of water before settling in with a warm blanket and that good book!

Just like in the summer, the easiest way to check for dehydration is to look at the color of your urine. You want it to be light yellow. The darker the color, the more dehydrated you are. This can be an important visual cue in the winter when we aren’t noticing our body’s sweat as much. Hydration is an important part of nutrition and the winter is a time when we often forget about the effects of dehydration. Be sure to stay on top of staying hydrated as you ski or shovel your way through the winter months!

-Nutrition Student Laura