Winter Hydration: Why You Need It and How to Achieve It
Winter is here, and whether you’re admiring those silent, snowy landscapes from indoors or prefer to be out skating or sledding, one thing’s for certain: staying hydrated this winter should be as much of a priority as it is in the warmer months.
How do you ensure that your body is properly hydrated? First, you must understand how your body responds to different seasons.
Summer vs. Winter
Summertime sees our bodies dealing with the heat by increasing our blood flow to the skin’s surface. Our bodies also sweat during the warmer months to help keep our skin cool, and our hormones adapt to allow us to hold and store more water. As we continue to be exposed to hot weather, our bodies become more efficient at keeping us cool.
In winter, the goal is to keep the body warm, and the most efficient way to accomplish this is to warm the blood. During cooler months, the body’s blood vessels constrict, we increase our metabolic rate by shivering, and consistent exposure to the cold can cause increased blood flow to the hands and feet.
However, despite the many defenses our bodies have, the cold weather robs them of moisture. During winter months, the more heat and sweat we produce, the more is absorbed by the dry and thirsty air around us.
A Diminished Sense of Thirst
If you find that you’re not reaching for bottled water as much in the winter as you do in the summer, you’re certainly not alone; this is a common occurrence with most people. Not only are we less likely to drink water because there are fewer indicators of lost moisture, such as sweating, but our sense of thirst can drop as much as 40% during the winter months.
Why We Need to Stay Hydrated in Winter
The reason we need to stay hydrated in winter is because the body’s rate of dehydration increases during cold temperatures. Our bodies conserve warmth by constricting the blood vessels in the fingers and toes. When this happens, blood flow to the kidneys increases.
The increased blood flow to the kidneys causes a reaction called cold-induced diuresis, otherwise known as increased urination, which also releases moisture from the body. Winter also causes the body to lose moisture through respiration, which is evident when you can see your warm, humid breath on cold days.
How Cold Weather Affects the Lungs
Our lungs function best when the air we’re breathing is at body temperature and at 100% humidity. Air with these properties is abundant during warm summer months. However, winter air cannot hold this amount of moisture.
The colder it gets, the harder our lungs have to work to heat and humidify the air so that we can breathe. We can lose up to 50% more moisture from our bodies on a winter’s day than we do in the summer, which is another reason to ensure there’s always a source of purified water nearby.
When a body is at rest, its average ventilation rate, or rate at which moisture is lost via breathing is about 5 liters per minute. In winter, however, this amount can grow exponentially when the body is in motion, such as during exercise.
Changes in the body’s ventilation rate, along with all of the other changes that occur in the body during the winter months must be adequately dealt with in order to avoid dehydration, and there are a number of ways to accomplish this.
What to Put on Your Body
The easiest and quickest way to avoid dehydration in winter is to prevent moisture from escaping the body. This can be done by checking the outside temperature before venturing out, and then ensuring you are prepared for it.
Layering clothing is the most effective means of insulating the body from the cold. The first layer should consist of a top and bottom that lays close to the skin and keeps moisture away. The second layer should be warm and moisture-wicking as well; wool is a good example. A third layer should provide additional insulation from the cold, and the final outer layer, a barrier to wind and moisture from outside.
For the extremities, insulated and waterproof gloves as well as a thick scarf will help the body to retain moisture. Equally important is to ensure that you have something which covers your face, as well as a thick hat to insulate your head and repel wind. For the feet, moisture-wicking materials like wool can keep feet warm, and thin socks underneath can provide additional insulation.
What to Put in Your Body: Water
The first and most obvious item that comes to mind when hydration is needed is water. Whether it’s water from the tap, spring water, or water that comes from another source, basic H2O can provide the body with the moisture it needs.
As stated previously, the thirst reflex can be far weaker in the winter than it is in the summer. This means that you will need to switch your thinking to one of preventative maintenance. For example, you know that your body will require more hydration in the winter; therefore, you will need to provide it with enough fluid to prevent dehydration.
You may have heard that when the body receives cold fluids, it must warm them up in order to be able to process them. The very act of warming up the fluids you drink has the added benefit of burning calories. However, this is not the ideal scenario in winter. The goal during cooler months is to get as much moisture into the body as efficiently as possible.
In the case of drinking fluids, they should be warm at the time of ingestion. This will help your body keep its core temperature up from the inside, and can be accomplished by ensuring you have an insulated bottle with you.
The amount of water you need to drink daily will depend on what you are doing. More activity will require more hydration. One of the most accurate indicators of hydration is the color of your urine. Urine that is light yellow or clear indicates adequate hydration, where urine of a darker color means that more fluids are needed.
What to Put in Your Body: Food
Just as the water you get from your home water filter, the moisture content of foods can also contribute to your body’s hydration. During winter months, foods like nutritious soups can provide that warm fluid that your body can easily absorb.
You can also get a higher amount of fluid into your body by eating foods that have a high fluid content, according to a report by CNN. Vegetables like celery, Brussels sprouts, and collard greens all contain high amounts of moisture that will be readily absorbed by the body.
Fruits are another ideal way to increase your body’s fluid levels. Most fruit contains high amounts of moisture, but for winter, fruits like oranges, pomegranates, and apples can provide an added boost of sniffle-busting vitamin C as well.
Other Sources of Fluid
There are also many different types of fluid that you can drink to hydrate your body. You can infuse hot water with lemon for simple and healthy hydration, and can also drink any number of teas, including black or green tea.
Making ‘green juice’ in your blender can also provide you with the hydration you need. Think dark green and leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, combined with dark blackberries and blueberries. The liquid portion can be plain water, or you can substitute water with kefir, or drinkable yogurt. Kefir contains billions of probiotic bacteria that can help keep your intestinal flora healthy, protecting you from viruses and disease.
When making any hydrating teas, smoothies or soups, the quality of the water you use is absolutely essential. To that end, having a system for the purposes of filtering and purifying tap water is critical.
Filtration, private label, coffee, and water products from companies like Water Event Pure Water Solutions help to ensure the body receives the quality of water needed for proper hydration during the winter months.
You’ll also increase your chances of being able to perform as expected in cold temperatures.