Nourished Living by Dietician Kelly Hamlin MA, RD, CDN

Keeping hydrated as important in winter as warmer seasons

During the summer you often hear people say, “Gee, it’s hot out. I better stay hydrated.”

Well, guess what? Keeping hydrated is equally as important during the winter.

Don’t we use humidifiers in our houses during the cold weather months because heat dries everything out?

Have you ever noticed when you walk outside how dry the air can feel?

Not to mention how hot and sweaty we get sledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, etc. All these things affect our body’s hydration levels.

Water is critical for all body functions and is a natural internal moisturizer for your skin.

When you breathe in cold, dry air your body warms and humidifies that air.

And with each following exhalation you lose large amounts of water.

A dehydrated body can lead to exhaustion, muscle fatigue, cramps, loss of coordination and even stroke.

Dehydration can also leave your body more susceptible to common colds and flu, which are both more prevalent in the winter.

Here are some tips on how to stay hydrated in the cold weather.

• Regardless of the weather, the rules of hydration are essentially the same. Be aware of what the warning signs of dehydration are and make sure to drink plenty of water.

Keep a bottle of water handy, and drink even before signs of thirst appear. Thirst is a signal that your body is already on the way to dehydration.

• Monitor your urine, which should be light to clear. Dark, foul smelling urine is a sign of dehydration.

Just be aware that supplements, (i.e. Vitamin B) or foods (i.e. beets) or medications can also affect urine color.

• When exercising, pack water with you. If your activity is outside in the cold, keep your water bottle or camel (the water container, not the animal!) from freezing by insulating it or tucking it into your warmest layer of clothing.

• Some beverages are better than others at preventing dehydration. Water is all you need if you are planning to be active in a low to moderate intensity activity, such as walking, for only an hour or less.

If you plan to be exercising longer than that, or if you anticipate being out in the cold and highly active for more than a few hours, you may want to hydrate with some kind of sports drink.

Sports drinks not only replace fluids, but chemicals like sodium and potassium, which are lost through perspiration.

Too much or too little sodium and potassium in the body can cause trouble.

Muscle cramping may be due to a deficiency of electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium.

• Alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, teas, and colas, are not recommended for optimal hydration. These fluids tend to pull water from the body and promote dehydration.

Fruit juice and fruit drinks may have too many carbohydrates, too little sodium, and may upset the stomach.

If you’re going to drink fruit juices while exercising, you may try diluting them with 50 percent fruit juice and 50 percent water first.

Winter is an awesome time of year to be out and active! Just make sure you are fully hydrated and dressed appropriately. Layers that wick are usually best.

Have a great time out in this winter wonderland!

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