In the summer we think about dehydration a lot. We know that hot weather can deplete our fluid reserves, and that adding stress to our system like hard work, illness or particularly hot spells can deplete it faster so we need to take care.
We’re less used to thinking about hydration issues in winter, and as the season is rapidly approaching, it’s time to take a look and find out what’s important to help you maintain your peak of health and wellbeing throughout the year!
Is Rehydration Important in the Winter?
In brief: yes. You’re not protected from dehydration simply because the weather is colder. For one thing, you’re using up your fluid reserves all the time, whatever the weather! Every breath transfers water vapour from your lungs into the air around you. Whatever the season, you need to make sure you’re topping up with water regularly to redress that important balance.
There are also specific hydration issues that affect you in the winter: your body uses more energy to keep you warm, resulting in increased water loss, the air is drier when it’s colder, which means your lungs use more water and lose more through breathing, and extremely cold weather can also suppress your sense of thirst to a degree, meaning you lose awareness of how dehydrated you are becoming until the situation is really serious!
It’s as important to have a plan for rehydration in the winter as in the summer. Think about the risks you’ll be encountering: not just exercise sessions and other hard work, but exposure to dried out air (whether that’s because it’s cold outdoors and heated inside!), spending time wrapped up in non-breathable fabrics (and therefore perspiring heavily) or simply getting cold and not being conscious of how thirsty you may have become. Make plans specifically to counter those risks as well as keeping yourself topped up on a ‘normal’ day.
It’s important to remember the variety of rehydration methods available to you: a cool glass of water is a relief in summer, but on a cold January day may be extremely unwelcome! Hot drinks like tea, coffee and hot chocolate do rehydrate you – though they may not be the best thing for your health otherwise and the diuretic qualities of caffeine make caffeinated drinks less effective hydrators. You could also consider hot fruit infusions as a welcome wintery hydrator without the downsides of tea and coffee.
You’re not just losing water when you’re dehydrated – you also lose electrolytes. These are soluble salts that are stored in your body’s water reserves and used for important functions in your body – like maintaining a regular heartbeat!
Use a rehydration product like ORS, or sports rehydration drinks to make sure you’re rehydrating in the most complete and healthy way.