Friday, December 12, 2014

Winter Hydration

Peaks Coaching Group Winter Hydration

It’s an easy mistake to make: not hydrating enough during winter workouts. The colder weather tends to dull our sense of thirst, plus water is less appealing in the cold. We also typically don’t sweat as much. So it’s easy to assume you don’t need much water (if any) during a cold weather workout, but you do! If you're overdressed, you may be sweating even more than you would during a workout in warmer temps. Your body also loses fluid through respiration, which is magnified with heavy breathing in the cold.

So who cares? Well, hopefully you. Studies have shown that more than a 2% loss of body weight from fluids can hamper performance. Not to mention the fact that water is an essential nutrient to the human body, involved in 98% of all bodily reactions. You may feel physically unwell if you are chronically dehydrated.

So how do you know if you're dehydrated after a workout? You may be able to tell by the color and volume of your urine; if it’s dark and concentrated, you're likely dehydrated. And if you have barely any urine to expel despite not peeing in a long time, you are definitely dehydrated! Ideally your urine should be almost clear to pale yellow. (Some vitamins and foods can alter the color of your urine, however, so if you're taking supplements, be aware that they may be part of the discoloration. The same is true with beets and beet juice, which can turn your urine pink!) Another tip-off for dehydration after a workout is feeling more tired or fatigued than usual. If the dehydration is extreme, you may feel dizzy or nauseous.

How much water do you need during cold weather workouts? Recommendations vary, but you generally should drink 6-12 ounces every 15-20 minutes (18-48 ounces per hour) during exercise. That’s a pretty wide range, I know. You don’t want to over-hydrate, either, or you'll risk uncomfortable stomach sloshing, excessive bathroom breaks, and even dangerous hyponatremia (salt deficiency) in rare cases.

The best way to figure out how much fluid you specifically need is by doing a sweat rate test. To do this, weigh yourself naked before your workout, then complete a 60-minute run or ride without eating or drinking anything during the activity. Don't use the bathroom, either. Once your hour is up, immediately weigh yourself again (again naked). The difference between your starting and finishing weights (remember there are 16 ounces in 1 pound) is your sweat rate in ounces per hour. For instance, if you weigh 1.5 pounds less after a 1-hour run, you should aim to drink 24 ounces per hour (16×1.5= 24). If your workout will last longer than 60-90 minutes, consider adding a sports drink for carbohydrate and electrolyte replacement, but water is enough for anything shorter.

Keep in mind that your sweat rate will be slightly different during different conditions, at different intensities, and during different activities, so you may want to do this test several times under a variety of conditions. For instance, if you're at altitude (as in, say, cross country skiing), you need even more water than at lower elevations. At the very least do the sweat rate test once in the summer and once in the winter so you can pinpoint differences in your sweat rate between the seasons.

Are you struggling to meet your fluid needs now that you know them? Try using room temperature water during workouts, since cold water is certainly not appealing when your body is already cold. Adding flavor can sometimes help make water more palatable, so try throwing a lemon wedge, cucumber slice, or splash of sports drink into your bottle. You can also use warm beverages like hot chocolate or soup broth for your post-workout fluid replacement (or even during your workout, if your stomach can handle it). Try taking small, frequent sips instead of chugging a bunch at once. It might help initially to set a goal and keep an eye on your watch; for example, you might commit to taking a couple of sips every 5 minutes.

It’s also important to maintain good hydration throughout the day. You may have heard the “8 glasses per day” (64 ounces) recommendation, but that’s not enough for everyone. To roughly calculate how many ounces of fluid you need per day, measure your body weight in pounds and divide it in half. That number in ounces is about how much water you need just for daily life, not including exercise. For example, a 135-pound athlete would need about 67.5 ounces a day, and more for exercise. But that’s just a rough estimate. Again, one of the best ways to know if you're hydrated is to pay attention to your urine color; if it’s anything other than pale yellow, you need more water. If you can smell it, you really need more water! Go drink up.

Happy hydrating!

Photo Credit:

Jen Sommer is a registered dietitian, a certified specialist in sports dietetics, a former NASM certified personal trainer, and a self-appointed mountain girl. As a cyclist, skier, hiker, and runner (among other things), she knows firsthand the importance of proper nutrition and training. She offers nutrition coaching and consulting through Peaks Coaching Group. Find more great tips, recipes, and articles at Jen's blog, Mountain Girl Nutrition and Fitness