It’s well known that the body’s thirst response is reduced throughout the winter months, when it’s darker and colder. The body doesn’t feel like it needs as much fluid as it would normally in ambient/warm temperatures. It is debated that once you are thirsty, you are already in a dehydrated state – so building a plan is key for successful performance.
Many athletes have been shown to start exercise in a dehydrated state (Magee et al., 2017) so make sure you’re hydrating well before you exercise, even in the cold. This should be 5-10ml per kilo of your body mass in the hours before. So, for an 80kg athlete = 400-800ml (Thomas et al., 2016). Sweat loss during colder exercise has been show to range between individuals. For example, in a football match played in 4-6 ° C, sweat rates ranged from 820-2270ml for 90 minutes (Maughan et al., 2007). This has also been shown in endurance athletes (Smith et al., 2021) and even ice hockey players (Palmer & Spriet, 2008). This may be due to exercising whilst wearing layers of clothes, hats and helmets– highlighting the importance of a hydration plan, even when competing in cold environments.
Top 5 tips for hydrating in the winter:
Eat hydrating foods: We actually get a large proportion of fluid from the food we eat, not just what we drink. Foods like cucumber, strawberries, watermelon, oranges, soup and yogurts are all good daily options. A great snack to have pre-run would be: 150g Greek yoghurt + Handful berries.
Maintain 2-3L per day: On top of eating hydrating foods, plan to consume between 2-3L per day. If you struggle to remember – get a 1L sports bottle and plan to drink 3 per day!
Add flavour: Some individuals struggle to drink plain water all the time. While water is the best drink, sugar free cordial and other flavour enhancers help promote drinking. Also consider that teas, coffees and diet drinks all contribute to you 2-1L per day.
Know your sweat rate: Hydration is highly individualised and it’s hard to tell an individual how much to drink during and post-exercise without knowing their sweat rate. Find this out by weighing yourself pre- and post-exercise and working out the difference, then factor in the weight of anything consumed during exercise. Aim to drink enough during sessions so you don’t lose more than 2% of your body mass. Aim to replace 150% of the fluid lost during exercise in the hours after the session. Here’s an example:
Pre weight = 90kg
Post weight = 89kg
Session duration = 60 minutes
Weight of drink consumed during session = 200ml (200g)
90-89 = 1kg + 0.2 (weight of drink consumed) = 1.2L per hour (sweat rate)
Add electrolytes: If you have a high sweat rate (>0.5L per hour) then you will likely have moderate to high electrolyte losses. Electrolytes are needed to regulate fluid balance and can improve physical and mental performance. Include electrolytes pre and/or during exercise which induces sweating. Blue Fuel Hydrate contains a specific 350mg of sodium to aid hydration.
Maughan, R.J., S.M. Shirreffs, J.B. Leiper (2007) Errors in the estimation of hydration status from changes in body mass. J Sports Sci 25:797-804.
Magee, P. J., Gallagher, A. M., & McCormack, J. M. (2017). High prevalence of dehydration and inadequate nutritional knowledge among university and club level athletes. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 27(2), 158-168.
Palmer, M. S., & Spriet, L. L. (2008). Sweat rate, salt loss, and fluid intake during an intense on-ice practice in elite Canadian male junior hockey players. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism, 33(2), 263-271.
Smith, J. W., Bello, M. L., & Price, F. G. (2021). A Case-Series Observation of Sweat Rate Variability in Endurance-Trained Athletes. Nutrients, 13(6), 1807.
Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). American college of sports medicine joint position statement. nutrition and athletic performance. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 48(3), 543-568.