Winter has arrived. Coffee and tea intake is up and water intake is down. You’re either moving less or you feel like you’re sweating less, but either way, hydration is not a top priority during the colder months. It should be.
In fact, low energy is a key symptom of an electrolyte imbalance, so if you feel sluggish and less motivated to train when it’s cold, you may very well be dehydrated.
Healthy hydration isn’t just about drinking water. It’s about maintaining an optimal fluid balance in your body. As the colder weather rolls in, you may not feel as thirsty, but you’re losing fluids and electrolytes nonetheless, and If these aren’t replaced, your performance will drop, and you won’t feel your best.
Here are 3 interesting reasons why electrolytes are important in winter:
1. You urinate more
Cold diuresis is your body’s way of preserving heat when it starts to experience a drop in temperature. The body’s first priority is to protect all of your internal organs. This means there will be reduced blood flow to the skin and more blood flow towards the centre of your body to protect those vital organs and keep them warm. As a result, you end up with the same amount of blood, just pumping through a much smaller space. Your kidneys kick into action and start to filter excess fluid in the blood to reduce blood volume. The extra fluid being filtered by the kidneys means an increase in urination frequency and, as a result, greater loss of water and sodium.
2. You lose more water through respiration
In the cold, the rate at which you use energy increases in order to maintain warmth in the body. Together with warm clothes, you end up still sweating during winter.
When shivering, the body taps into more of its glycogen (or glucose) stores to keep up. Breathing rate increases. Cold air also tends to be drier air. The combination of increased breathing rate along with the decrease in humidity, causes greater respiratory water loss. It is not uncommon for people to lose an extra 1-2 litres of water per day in cold climates!
3. Caffeine consumption goes up
If you find yourself reaching for more coffee and tea in winter, you aren’t alone. But you may be contributing to the loss of fluids. Caffeine is the most consumed psychoactive substance in the world. It may help boost your mood and elevate your mental and physical performance. But inside your body, caffeine passes through the gut and into the bloodstream, eventually reaching your liver, where it’s broken down into several compounds. Though caffeine is mainly known for its effects on the brain, research has shown that it has a diuretic effect on the kidneys, meaning your body makes more urine than usual. Caffeine may do this by increasing blood flow to your kidneys, which spurs them to release more water (and sodium) through urine.
- Don’t be fooled by the chilly temp. Hydration requires just as much attention in the wintertime as during summer.
- Remember, cold exposure depletes fluid and electrolytes at a surprisingly high rate. Urine volume increases, higher metabolic rate and warm clothes ensure you still sweat, and respiratory water loss rises.
- Extra caffeine contributes further to dehydration.
- To compensate, drink water with electrolytes throughout your winter activities, sipping beyond what thirst dictates. This water should contain enough sodium - about 1g per 800 ml to mimic healthy blood sodium levels.
- Reach for REVIVE! It contains 1 000mg sodium, 200mg potassium, and 100mg magnesium in each grab-and-go sachet - the ideal amounts and ratios for healthy hydration.
Co-written by Jess Mouneimne and Mark Myerson
Jess is a certified health coach, certified strength and conditioning coach and professional MMA athlete. Mark is the co-founder of Revive Labs and a certified keto nutrition advisor.