Sweltering summer temps are a distant memory. With the arrival of cold weather, you might not feel the need to hydrate as often. But, with cold weather workouts on the horizon it’s a great time to discuss hydration in the winter months. We talked to some personal trainers about the affects of cold weather on our workouts and our hydration needs. Here are some solutions to keep us prepared and performing.
Cold air is drier than warm air.
Cold, dry air holds less moisture. Therefore, with every inhale, the dry air sucks moisture from the inside of our lungs and throat before being exhaled. “Have you ever seen your breath as you exhale in cold weather? What you’re actually seeing is tiny droplets of your body’s water being expelled and thus being lost to the surrounding environment,” says exercise scientist and personal trainer Brett Knopf. To prevent dehydration, you’ve got to replace the lost moisture.
“Nose breathing is an essential skill that all cold weather exercisers should aim to master,” says Golden Gloves Finalist and personal trainer Mitchell Senat. “Inhaling through the nose works in several beneficial ways,” explains Senat. “One is that it helps to humidify the incoming air to limit the drying effect. It also limits the volume of air entering your body. [This] again helps to control how much dry air is entering your lungs. The nose filters the air [of] dust and micro particles that won’t help you during exercise.” To help warm the air before it enters your body, you can also try wearing a mask or balaclava.
Sweat evaporates quicker in colder weather.
“You may not feel like you’re sweating very much in the colder climates. The colder temps are helping the surface of your body stay cooler,” says Knopf. “But, much of what is happening is that when you sweat in cold weather it evaporates quickly before it drips down your face. [This] gives you the illusion that you’re not losing much water.” This may make you feel like you don’t need as much water replenishment post-workout. But, failing to drink up leaves the body in a negative water balance until dehydration symptoms fully kick in.
Try layering to create a warmer outfit. This will help keep your muscles from freezing up, and allow you to move as fluidly as you like during your workout. It will also physically remind you post-workout that you have sweat a ton and need to replenish fully. Senat says that you should “stay on the same hydration plan you always use.”
He adds, “No matter the climate, drink plenty of water during exercise and especially post-workout. If you weigh yourself pre- and post-workout, you will most likely see your weight drop after a hard bout.” To combat this, Knopf says, “Try drinking 20 ounces of fluid for every pound lost.”
Urine production increases in cold weather.
In colder climates, the body’s tissues constrict slightly. This causes an increase in overall blood pressure. In response, the body attempts to extract some of the water from your bloodstream. In doing so, it increases the flow of blood to vital organs and tissues. Therefore, the easiest way for the body to get rid of water is through urination; so, expect to pee more in colder climates!
Drink more fluids. “Start your day with 25-40 [ounces] in the morning before you do anything else,” suggests Knopf. “You should be aiming for at least a half of an ounce of water for every pound of body weight you have.” he adds. If you’re very active, make it one ounce of water, per pound of body weight—just to be safe.
The thirst response is delayed in cold weather.
As mentioned above, the body naturally directs a majority of its blood flow to the internal organs and tissues in cold climates to maintain a healthy internal temperature. This is a survival response aimed at protecting your vital organs from freezing and malfunctioning. All good right?! Well, yes, for survival it is great. For modern humans looking to exercise in this climate, it could pose a challenge, because our thirst reflex is not triggered as quickly, potentially causing us to forget to drink fluids.
Again, try to stay on a hydration schedule. If you know how much water you need to consume daily, based on your body weight and exercise duration, be sure to hit that mark, no matter how thirsty you feel. Knopf concludes, “If drinking a ton of water is not easy when you’re not as thirsty, try taking in fluids in different forms. For example, warm soups, non-caffeinated teas, and electrolyte beverages might make drinking fluid more palatable.”