2018 certainly arrived with some wickedly cold temperatures here in the Upper Midwest! We’re certainly hearty souls however, as temperatures dipping into the negative teens during the first week of January didn’t stop us from seeing outdoor hockey games, crowded jogging paths and slopes full of skiers.
Winter activities and cold-weather exercise can be exhilarating and a great way to fight off the winter blahs, but make no mistake—dehydration is still a risk when playing in the cold temperatures. It’s easy to forget about hydrating when exercising in the cold—our bodies don’t get as hot, and sweat evaporates more rapidly in the cold air.
When it’s cold out, our bodies thirst response is diminished by up to 40 percent (even when dehydrated). This happens because our blood vessels constrict when we’re cold to prevent blood from flowing freely to the extremities. Our bodies do this to conserve heat by drawing more blood to its core.
When this happens, however, our body is fooled into thinking it’s properly hydrated because you don’t feel as thirsty and your body doesn’t conserve water. So in cold weather, athletes are less likely to drink water voluntarily and their kidneys aren’t signaled by hormones to conserve water and urine production increases.
Diminished thirst response and increased urine production are two of the leading factors that can lead to dehydration in the cold. Cold temperatures also cause increased respiratory fluid loss (when you can see your own breath, that’s water vapor that your body is losing). The colder the temperature and the more intense the exercise, the more vapor you lose when you breath.
It’s common to think that dehydration isn’t something you have to worry about in the winter, but keeping hydrated and drinking lots of water is every bit as important in the cold. Winter dehydration can cause exhaustion, muscle fatigue, cramps, loss of coordination and even a stroke. Dehydration also leaves your body more susceptible to winter colds and flu.
Not drinking enough water can also make it harder to keep off extra pounds during the shorter days when we tend to exercise less and eat more. When properly hydrated, your body is better able to break down fat for energy and your appetite is under better control.
Drink water before, during and after exercising in the cold temperatures. It’s obviously harder to do in the winter because you many not feel as thirsty and may feel like you’re not really sweating.
Just because you’re cold, it doesn’t mean your body isn’t thirsty—stay hydrated! Even if it’s just one extra glass of water a day, you will feel and function a lot better in the cold winter months.
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