Winter Hydration: It’s More Important Than You Think!

Lindsay Berra - The Upside Blog by

by | Read time: 6 minutes

We’ve all experienced the feeling of over-exerting ourselves on hot, humid, summer days, when sweat drips off of our foreheads and soaks our tank tops, and we just can’t down enough cool glasses of water to quench our thirst. Then, the winter months roll around, and we pretty much forget about staying hydrated. But, it’s just as easy to get dehydrated when it’s cold outside, and in some ways, it’s actually more likely.

But whether it’s August or February, sweltering or freezing, staying hydrated is critical. Water is involved in every cellular process in our bodies, so keeping our fluid intake at an optimal level is essential to maintaining our overall health.

Woman in Snowy Woods Drinking Water to Represent Concept of Winter Hydration |

Water is life

Water makes up anywhere from 55 to 75% of our body weight, depending on our age. Maintaining that level of water is essential for a healthy metabolism. If the amount of water in your body drops below optimal, your blood volume decreases and the heart has to work harder and beat faster to keep blood circulating. By staying hydrated – essentially, drinking more water than you lose – you help your heart to more easily do its job.

Additionally, a 2012 study showed that just two percent dehydration impairs performance in tasks requiring attention, psychomotor and memory skills. Being properly hydrated can also keep your bowels moving smoothly, prevent kidney stones and support weight loss.

Defeating Winter Dehydration: Know the Signs

Symptoms of chronic dehydration can include dizziness, fatigue, headache, unclear thinking, muscle cramps, dry skin, dry mouth or chapped lips, dark-colored urine, and of course, thirst. However, studies have shown that thirst alone is not the best indicator of proper hydration levels. In fact, most nutritionists agree that if you wait until you are thirsty to drink, it is often too late.

“If you feel thirsty, it’s very likely that you are already mildly dehydrated,” says Kroger nutrition program development manager Taylor Newman, PhD, RDN, LD. “And if you go to the bathroom and your urine isn’t pale yellow or clear, that’s a good indicator that you need to be drinking more.”

Cold weather decreases our natural thirst response

“In hot weather, our bodies let us know when we’re thirsty, because our thirst response is very effective in hot weather,” says Newman. “But it’s much harder to sense thirst when it’s cold outside.” In fact, that thirst response can be diminished by up to 40% when the temperature drops. And if you don’t feel thirsty, it’s unlikely you’ll drink enough. When your body gets cold, it attempts to conserve heat by diverting more blood to the core to maintain a proper body temperature. This fools the body into thinking it’s properly hydrated.

The weight of winter clothing adds up.

Summer clothing like shorts and tank tops weigh next to nothing. However, winter boots, heavy jackets and the many layers we pile underneath create a lot of added bulk. Those extra pounds make your body work 10% to 40% harder than it normally does, which makes you sweat at a higher than normal rate.

But, because that extra sweat is absorbed by those inside layers rather than just running down your skins like in the summer months, and because sweat evaporates much more quickly in cold, dry air, there’s a good chance you won’t notice. “In the winter, you have to pay more attention to how much you are sweating,” Newman says. “If you sweat a lot, you have to drink a lot.”

If you can “see your breath,” you’re losing water.

“When you exhale on a cold day and can see your breath, that’s physical proof that you are losing water,” Newman says. What you’re actually seeing is water vapor in your breath from the moisture in your mouth and lungs, condensed into tiny drops of liquid water and ice that hang in the air. Each time you “see your breath,” you’re actually watching fluids leaving your body. The colder and drier the air, the more water you lose this way, and the more water you need to replenish. Additionally, central heating makes inside air dryer during winter, which will lead to extra fluid loss through breathing.

You need to drink more than you think. 

You’ve probably heard the directive that we should all drink eight, eight-ounce glasses of water per day. However, in reality, 64 ounces is far short of what most nutritionists recommend. The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine sets daily water consumption for men at 125 ounces per day and women at 91 ounces per day, but, as Kroger nutritionist Taylor Newman explains, 20% of that amount comes from food and 80% comes from fluids.

“That means men must consume about 100 ounces of water per day, and women must consume around 72 ounces per day to meet that 80 percent,” says Newman. “However, if you’re active and you are sweating more, and therefore losing water at a quicker rate, it will increase your needs.”

What if you just don’t like to drink water?

“There are many people who simply don’t like the taste of water,” Newman says. “However, there are plenty of options that are more flavorful and still provide hydration.” Try making infused waters with fruits, vegetables and herbs, like lemons, limes, cucumbers and mint. Infused water can also be purchased at the grocery store, along with flavored seltzers if you prefer something bubbly.

However, remember to choose options without added sugar or sodium. No-sugar electrolyte supplements are also an option, as are unsweetened fruit juices and low-fat milk and milk alternatives. If it’s too difficult to drink cold beverages in the colder months, try hot water with lemon or hot herbal tea. Even black coffee counts toward your liquid consumption.

Carry that bottle everywhere

If drinking water is hard for you, try setting a goal of drinking a certain amount of water each day, and hit your goal. A good trick is to carry a half-gallon (64-ounce) water bottle with you, or send your child to school with one, and to try to finish it before the end of the work or school day. Or, carry a smaller bottle and resolve to drink and refill it a certain number of times to hit your goal.

You can also try splurging on a fancy water bottle, and letting your kids pick out their own. If you like the bottle, you’ll be more willing to tote it around all day. And if you have the bottle with you in the car, at work, at school, at the gym, in the grocery story, when you’re on line at the bank and when you’re just lounging on the couch watching TV, you’ll be much more likely to keep taking swigs.

Don’t forget your fruit and vegetables.

As mentioned above, 20% – or one-fifth – of our hydration comes from the food we eat.  Newman points out that many fruits and vegetables consist of 90 to 95% water. Adding those fruits and vegetables that have a high water content into your diet, like watermelon, cucumber, zucchini, celery, tomatoes, apples, oranges and pears, can help to increase your overall hydration. And that high water content will also help you to feel fuller for longer!

You can also increase your intake of both fluids and vegetables by eating soups during the winter. However, Newman points out that it’s important to watch sodium levels in packaged soups, as large amounts of sodium will make you more thirsty.

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