You know you need to drink plenty of water for your health, and it’s easy to think about hydration in the middle of the summer heat. In winter, though, a cold gulp of water is probably the last thing on your mind. That can be a problem. Even mild dehydration can dampen your mood and alter your ability to function at peak performance. Plus, without enough water, your metabolism slows and your heart is at risk. Your skin dries out, which causes painful cracking in cold air. You’re even more likely to develop a cold — not because it’s cold outside and you aren’t wearing a hat, no matter what mom said. Rather, cold, dry nasal passages are more susceptible to viruses and bacteria that are also looking for warm hosts.
With all these potential troubles, you need to take care of yourself. Here are four ways to make sure you stay hydrated throughout the winter months.
Drink Before You’re Thirsty
Because you aren’t getting the summertime cues from your body, including dripping sweat or overwhelming thirst, you may not remember to drink water until you’re close to feeling the effects of dehydration. To avoid this, sip water throughout the day. If you’re going to be outside and prefer a warm beverage, try mulled apple cider or another natural, caffeine-free drink (more about that later). Either way, an insulated water bottle that keeps your drinks at the right temperature is essential.
Of course, there is such a thing as over-hydration, too. If you drink too many fluids, you can throw off the equilibrium of sodium in your bloodstream. That can lead to water intoxication, which causes severe symptoms such as drowsiness and confusion and can even cause death. So, don’t force yourself to drink water when your body feels bloated already.
Dress Warmly, But Not TOO Warmly
Whether you’re heading out for a hike in the crisp air or hitting the ski slopes, the temptation to pile on the clothes in cold weather is strong. If you don too many layers, however, your body has to work between 10 and 40 percent harder to bear the extra weight of your clothing. Between that exertion and the heat you add from the layers themselves, you end up sweating more and losing fluids.
A good rule of thumb for being active outside is to dress for 20 degrees Fahrenheit more than the reading on the thermometer. This allows for the heat your body provides once you get moving.
Eat Your Water
Your food comprises around 20 percent of your daily fluid intake. To up that number and manage your hydration more easily, include water-rich foods in your diet. Pineapple, tomatoes, cucumber, brown rice and watermelon are just a few of the dozens of foods that contribute to your water totals. Try pairing several together for additional fluids and plenty of nutrients to push you through your day.
Skip the Caffeine and Alcohol
Of course, hot coffee and warm liquors such as bourbon are old stand-bys for warming up on frigid days. Unfortunately, neither one actually does much for your cold-weather health. Caffeinated beverages and alcohol both have diuretic properties, which means they strip water from your body and make you go to the bathroom more often. Alcohol also thins your blood, which makes you colder than you’d be otherwise. So, neither are quality choices during chilly weather. Opt for a mulled cider or herbal tea instead.
When you’re aware of how your body feels with proper hydration, you can take the right steps to protect yourself year-round. Enjoy the outdoors safely during the winter months by keeping your water intake balanced.