Although you may not realize it, drinking water and staying hydrated are just as important in the winter as during the summer months. That’s because – regardless of the temperature outside – water is vital to both organ function and digestion. It carries nutrients and oxygen throughout the body. It controls blood pressure and also lubricates the joints. You’ve probably noticed that during the winter your skin can get very dry and without proper hydration, the dryness can even become painful.
How can I be dehydrated when I barely sweat?
In cold weather your body loses water the same way it does in warm weather, through breathing, sweating and urinating. When you can see your breath, that’s a visible sign of water loss! The combination of heavy clothing and high-intensity exercise can actually lead to increased sweating. It’s important to dress in layers when we exercise outside so we can pull off clothing that might make us overheat and lose more water.
“But, I just don’t get as thirsty in the winter.”
The natural response that triggers thirst is dulled in the winter so we’re generally less likely to feel thirsty and to drink water voluntarily. To make matters worse, we’re less able to recognize dehydration as we age.
But it’s crucially important to drink the same amount of water as you would in the warmer months. Many studies suggest that even mild dehydration can have negative effects on both your physical and mental performance.
Set a daily water goal
Set a daily water goal to help you stay hydrated. Everyone is different but a general rule is to drink about one-third of your body weight in ounces of water each day. Food can also have a big impact on your hydration. Instead of salty crackers and chips, try healthier snacks with higher water content like cucumbers (96.7 % water), celery (95.4% water) and radishes (95.3% water). Here’s a list of foods that will help keep you hydrated.
Winter dehydration can catch us off guard because we’re not expecting or worried about it.
Remember, these factors contribute to cold-weather dehydration:
- Breathing cold, dry air causes the body to lose significant amounts of fluid.
- Sweat turns to vapor in cold weather so we’re less likely to rehydrate.
- In the winter, many people don’t have a bottle of water handy because they don’t feel thirst as acutely as they do in warm weather.
- Working out in cold weather can increase your chance of dehydration because your lungs need to work harder to humidify and warm that air up.
- You sweat even more when you’re wrapped in layers of clothing that keep you warm during cold weather activities.
To avoid dehydration in cold climates:
- Take fluids with you before you leave the house.
- If you don’t feel like drinking water, try a warm non-caffeinated drink, such as hot herbal tea to help you stay hydrated.
- Drink often, even if you’re not thirsty.
- Your urine should be light straw colored or clear. If it is darker, you’re likely dehydrated.
- Help hydrate your body by choosing healthy snacks with higher water content.
- Beware of common symptoms of dehydration including fatigue, lightheadedness and even irritability.
The bottom line
Water is the basis of all life and that includes your body, which is over 60% water. If you’re not a regular water drinker, you’ll be amazed at how much better your body functions when you drink even one-third of your body weight in ounces. Most likely you’ll get hooked and continue this practice for the rest of your life!