No Heat, No Thirst?
The heat of summer usually has people thinking more about hydration and drinking water, but as the temperatures dip during the winter months, should your fluid intake decrease, too? Without the heat of summer impacting the amount you sweat and frequent feelings of thirst, it’s easy to disregard the need for fluids during the colder months! We often don’t associate dehydration with the winter. However, staying hydrated during the winter months is just as important, if not more important, as staying hydrated during the summer months, for several reasons.
Why is hydration important?
Despite the weather temperature outside, your body is dependent on water to function properly. With your bodyweight being about two-thirds water, your body requires water in order to regulate body temperature, deliver nutrients, filter waste, lubricate joints, hydrate skin, aid digestion, and protect the brain and spine. Simply put, almost all bodily functions and bodily fluids depend on water.
Fluid loss during cold months
Cold air is often dry and lacking moisture, and when breathing in dry air, our nasal passages, throat, and lungs can lose moisture. Layering up in clothes to go outside can lead to an increased body temperature, resulting in water loss through sweat. Additionally, because the cold air needs to be warmed and moistened before entering the lungs, fluid loss through breathing occurs as well. Therefore, heavier and deeper breathing during physical acitvity can lead to greater fluid losses in cold weather. Furthermore, increased urine loss may occur as a side effect as your body attempts to conserve heat in the winter.
So how do we make sure we are staying properly hydrated when we feel less sweat and thirst during cold months?
How to tell if you're dehydrated in the winter
Besides the first obvious sign of thirst there are other signs of dehydration to look out for. The easiest sign to monitor is the color of your urine. Pale, odorless, and plentiful urine is often an indication you are well hydrated and a concentrated amber yellow color is a sign of dehydration. Other signs of dehydration include constipation, dry mouth or chapped lips, and skin, headaches, difficulty concentrating, irritability, feeling faint or dizzy and a rapid heart rate.
How to stay hydrated in the winter
There are a number of ways you can make sure you stay hydrated in the colder winter months. If you find it difficult to drink cold drinks when it’s cold outside you can opt for drinking warm fluids like warm water, herbal teas, and warming broths, all count towards your hydration! You may also add other citrus flavors like lemon, lime, and other pieces of fruit to your water if you don’t enjoy plain water. You can also drink your food! You can make homemade winter soups or increase the intake of water rich fruits and vegetables such as green leafy vegetables, cucumbers, strawberries, melons, oranges, pineapple, tomatoes, lettuce, and celery. Avoid consuming excessive caffeine as it is a natural diuretic that can contribute to dehydration in high amounts. Drink one glass of water first thing in the morning. Drinking water first thing in the morning helps fuel your brain since our brain is made up of over 70% water. Other benefits from beginning your morning with water include rehydration after not drinking water throughout the night, increased energy levels, increased mental performance, and an increased metabolism.
Sécher M, Ritz P. Hydration and cognitive performance. J Nutr Health Aging. 2012;16(4):325-329. doi:10.1007/s12603-012-0033-0