Updated: Feb 26, 2022
Written by: Natalie Faella, MS, RDN, LDN | December 16, 2021
“Stay hydrated!” When was the last time you heard that? Maybe it was the instructor of your hot yoga or spin class, or yourself reminding your kids to drink up on a hot beach day. These are the settings that typically come to mind when you think about when and where hydration is important — during hot sunny days, strenuous physical activity, or after sweating a lot. But what about during the winter?
It’s important to stay hydrated year round. You can get dehydrated at any time of year, and might even be more at risk for dehydration in the cold winter months because drinking water can be further from your mind. For example, when you’re putting on your coat and running out the door to do errands, you may not think about taking a water bottle with you like you would if you were running out to your hot car on a summer day. Besides just thinking about it less, studies have shown that our sense of thirst is actually decreased by up to 40% when we are cold.
This makes sense to me. The very last thing I want when I’m freezing is an ice cold glass of water. And besides trying to stay warm, the winter’s lack of humidity is drying. Just think about it — when do your lips, hands, face, and hair feel most dried out? Pair that decreased humidity with indoor heating systems and it makes sense why even the inside of your nose feels like a desert. Thats because these dry indoor environments actually increase the amount of water our body loses during the day — even from doing simple things like from breathing.
Ok, so we can definitely get dehydrated in the winter. But why does any of this matter?
Why is hydration important?
It is crucial for heart health. Drinking enough water helps the heart pump blood throughout the body so our muscles, tissues, cells, etc. get the oxygen and nutrients they need. By being adequately hydrated, we can spare our heart from having to work harder to get its job done.
It regulates body temperature. Maintaining adequate fluid levels is a requirement for the body to thermoregulate. When the body over heats, it releases water (through sweat) to cool down. We then must replace this water so that the body can stay cool and not over heat. Ever notice how you feel hot when you're dehydrated? (Like the morning after having too many cocktails/wine?)
It’s needed for proper brain functioning. Hydration is not only important for our physical health, but for our mental health, too. Studies have shown that dehydration negatively impacts our focus, cognition, memory, mood and stress response.
It helps excrete wastes. The body gets rid of toxins and other waste products through sweat, urine and bowl movements. We need adequate hydration in order to produce all 3 of these. It’s especially important for our kidneys to filter out waste.
Adequate hydration is also important for healthy skin, lubrication of our joints, proper digestion, and to help us fight colds, infections, and viruses. It can also help us stay in tune with our hunger and fullness cues because we can often mistaken feelings of thirst for hunger.
So how do we know if we are not drinking enough water? What does dehydration look like?
By the time we feel thirsty, our body is already dehydrated, so it’s important to stay ahead of this by drinking water regularly throughout the day. Some other signs of dehydration include:
low heart rate
darker/more concentrated urine
lack of appetite but craving for sugar
How much water do you need?
This will depend on a several factors like age, weight, physical activity level, environment, etc. A general recommendation and good starting point is 2.7 liters per day for adult females, and 3.7 liters per day for adult males. This looks like about 6 tall kitchen glasses of water for females and about 8 of those glasses for males. If your urine is clear and you’re not feeling any other signs of dehydration, you know you’re having enough. (Note: if you’re taking B vitamins or a multivitamin, your urine will likely be more yellow, even if you are hydrated! This bright, neon yellow color is from the excess B vitamins leaving your system).
So take this as your reminder to keep a full water bottle nearby throughout the winter so you can stay healthy, happy, focused, and hydrated. This is also a great excuse to buy yourself or a loved one a cute new water bottle for the holidays!
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