The winter months are colder, therefore we sweat less and need to consume less water, right? Wrong. A common misconception about exercise in colder weather months is that the body requires less hydration. However, just because you don’t feel warm or exceptionally sweaty like you do just looking at the WOD on those sweltering summer days, that doesn’t mean you’re not sweating or in need of some H2O. In fact, it is more common than one might think to become dehydrated in the winter.
Because sweating causes a loss of both water and salts from the body, sweating-induced dehydration is a major concern for athletes. Through sweat, not only do athletes lose water, but electrolytes as well. The body has mechanisms to help prevent dehydration (thirst), but this usually doesn’t kick in until 1-2% of body water is lost and performance is already in decline. Beyond performance impairment, other symptoms of dehydration may include headache, fatigue, dizziness, fainting, nausea, and thirst.
Sweat evaporates faster in the cold air, leading you to believe you’re not drenched in sweat at the end of a workout. The sweat definitely still poured, it just evaporated faster in the cold dry air than it would on a humid summer day. Ever see your breath in the air on a cold day? That’s your breath in the form of water vapor, leaving your body, i.e. more fluid loss. One of the most confusing aspects of winter hydration though, is the fact that the feeling of thirst doesn’t present itself in the same way that it does in warmer weather. Due to the increased constriction of blood vessels and lack of blood flow to extremities (more blood flow to the core to conserve body heat in the major organs), your body doesn’t get the same “thirst” response as it does in the warmer months. This results in less water consumption, and more dehydration. The bottom line is if you’re breathing, you should be consuming water. Water consumption is essential to the growth and repair of not only your muscles, but to every major organ and cell in your body as well. As long as you continue to hydrate efficiently, your muscles can recover faster and you can continue to crush your workouts.