Most of us think of dehydration as a summer problem.
The days are longer (and warmer!), and you’re sweating more. To compensate, you drink more water and eat water-rich fruits and vegetables. You also go to the gym when it’s too hot to complete an outdoor workout.
What many people don’t realize, however, is that it’s just as easy to become dehydrated in the winter. And because few people recognize the signs of dehydration in the winter, it can be even more dangerous.
“In a dry or high-altitude setting, you can have sweat turn right into vapor instead of forming on the skin,” says Dr. Ralph E. Holsworth, director of clinical and scientific research for Essentia Water and medical director of Southeast Colorado Hospital in Springfield, Colorado. “For instance, if you have been skiing and see someone steaming, then their sweat has already turned to water vapor, visualized as steam.”
Dehydration — no matter which season we’re in — is always dangerous. After all, up to 60% of a person’s body weight is water, and it only takes a 1- to 2% drop in that percentage to cause dehydration.
Why is hydration so important? That’s easy: Water is vital to both organ function and digestion. It also carries nutrients and oxygen throughout the body, controls blood pressure and lubricates joints. Without enough water, your skin can become dry and wrinkled.
Each day, the body loses about eight cups of water, and that fluid needs to be replenished. When you become dehydrated, your blood becomes thicker, making your heart work harder. Also, as you age, the body is less able to recognize dehydration. The initial thirst signals aren’t triggered and sent to the brain, making it especially important to be aware of how much water is consumed.
If you’re unsure about whether or not you’re dehydrated, look for the signs, which include headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, muscle cramping, nausea and vomiting. Your urine will be darker than usual, too. You’re also more likely to experience dry mouth, chills and dry or flushed skin.
3 ways to stay hydrated
Carry around a water bottle. You know it’s important to drink water before, during and after a workout, but drinking water during the day can help stave off dehydration, too. You’ll replace the water that your body needs for its daily functioning and (hopefully!) add a little extra before your spin class.
Eat water-rich fruits and vegetables. You can get some of the water from fresh produce. According to Karen Owoc, a human-performance specialist and professional member of the American College of Sports Medicine and the International Society of Sports Nutrition, although watermelon is usually the first fluid-rich fruit people think of, lettuce is 95% water. And oranges and apples are 88 and 84% water, respectively.
Choose the right clothing. Clothes can make a big difference when it comes to reducing sweat. Light-colored clothing reflects the heat during the summer months. Light-weight, loose clothing allows for better air circulation and helps sweat evaporate more quickly all year round. If you’re exercising outside, be sure to dress in layers so you can pull off clothing that may be making you too warm later on.