Water, Water, Everywhere! Hydration Counts - Even In Winter!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

It might be cold outside, but that doesn't mean that hydrating properly is unnecessary. In fact, maintaining proper hydration levels is even more important during winter because the body doesn't indicate thirst in the same way as in warmer temps. 

I learned this the hard way last winter when I was training for my first half-marathon. The half took place last February so my training plan had me outside in winter. I ran up to as much as 10 miles without hydrating at all. Why not? During cooler temps, the body doesn't sweat as much, one of the prime indicators of dehydration as well as thirst. I wasn't thirsty and I wasn't sweating very much. 

Sweat regulates your internal body temperature. Water is lost as vapor in exhaled air but the kidneys increase urine production. During exercise outside in the cold, your body will feel warm enough as the heart rate increases, but it will also feel cool enough that you will not feel as dehydrated. 

Finishing the 10 miles, I didn't feel thirsty at all, but I knew I'd lost some fluids and decided to re-hydrate with a sports drink. Boy, was that a mistake! Let's just say I experienced gastrointestinal distress with the worst stomach cramps ever. I'd had the same sports drink before after running a shorter distance. Was there anything wrong with the sports drink or had I run too far? Not necessarily.

According to the American Council on Exercise, beverages containing less than 5% carbohydrate do not provide enough energy to enhance performance and those with more than 10% carbohydrate or more are associated with intestinal cramping, diarrhea, and impaired absorption. The sports drink I had fell within the appropriate carb concentration levels. 

So what went wrong? There is no way to tell now. My stomach could just be sensitive to carb concentrated beverages on longer runs, especially when dehydrated. Different bodies react differently. If you have no problems now with a sports drink, then you likely won't. If you do, water is always available and reliable! After that experience, I decided to stick to good old natural H2O. I've also learned that I should stay hydrated throughout runs by running with a water bottle whether the Georgia humidity is sucking the potassium and fluid right out of my body or if we're having 10 degree Fahrenheit windchill factors!

So how do you properly hydrate when exercising? The body needs at least 8 - 10 8 oz of water daily and even more so for exercising individuals. According to the National Athletic Trainers' Association, the following fluid-intake guidelines are recommended during exercise:

  • 2 hours prior to exercise, drink 500 - 600 mL (17 - 20 oz)
  • Every 10 - 20 minutes during exercise, drink 200 - 300 mL (7 - 10 oz)
  • Following exercise, drink 450 - 675 mL for every 0.5 kg body weight lost (or 16 - 24 oz for every pound)

No matter how you hydrate or re-hydrate, it is best to find out through trial and error what works for you. Don't wait until a race to try something different. Luckily, I found out before the half! Stick to what works for you, but remember to

If you'd like to weigh in or just have questions on hydration, email me at sher@divasrun.com.

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