“When you are thirsty it’s too late to think about digging a well.” Japanese proverb
The average adult human body is 50-65% water. Water carries nutrients to cells, and carries waste products away from cells. Lean tissue (muscles and organs) is more than 70% water. Water serves as a body lubricant, and through sweat, helps maintain body temperature.
Water is lost through breathing, the skin, urine, sweat and feces. It is critical to maintain body water stores, yet most people wait until they are thirsty before they consume fluids.
Again…the tricky thing about water is…once you become dehydrated it’s too late. Therefore, most athletes and exercisers try to avoid a state of under-hydration. It is better to think about drinking fluids on a fixed interval of time, rather than relying on thirst.
In the cold weather body temperature normally drops. Your metabolism increases to warm and humidify the air you breathe and you tend to burn slightly more calories to stay warm. Breathing in cold, dry air forces your body to warm and humidify that air and with each exhalation, you lose significant amounts of water. Winter athletes need to consciously drink more fluids to replace the water that gets lost via respiration. Add this to a decreased desire to drink (because the thirst mechanism is reduced in cold weather) and you can see why one of the biggest nutritional needs during winter exercise is replacing lost fluids and getting proper hydration. Dehydration is one of the main reasons for reduced performance in the cold.
Symptoms of under-hydration include:
- Irritability, headache, fatigue
- Weakness, dizziness, nausea
- Having a dry or sticky mouth
- Dark urine
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 7-10 ounces of fluid 20 minutes before exercise. Drink water or other fluids at the rate of about 5 ounces every 20 minutes during exercise. (One cup equal 8 ounces.) Sports drinks which contain low carbohydrate solutions and some sodium will work as well, if not better.
If you are losing weight after exercise, this means you are not properly hydrated at the start. Make sure to replace your fluids with one pint of liquid per each pound of body weight lost after exercise.
For the rest of us, make sure to drink water after exercise to replace sweat loss. Sweat loss can be as much as 1 -2 liters per hour (1 liter equals about 4 cups)
“When the well is dry, we learn the worth of water.”