Hydration In Winter... How Important Is It?

It's quite funny, in summer you’re hot and sweaty so a glass of water makes so much sense... but when you’re shivering your way through winter, not so much. As the mercury drops and we delve deeper into the winter, hydration tends to slide under the radar as we don't sweat as much, and this lack of hydration could be harming performance.

Hydration - The Youth Academy

Although fluid requirements are greater in hot, humid environments, a number of factors mean dehydration in winter remains a very real possibility even though we don't imagine this to be the case...

Firstly, let’s consider the change in the behaviour of young athletes that occurs in cold weather:

  • Wearing warm clothing
  • Use of indoor training venues
  • Turning on heating & other things to stay warm

These climate controlling behaviours mean that the body retains heat and must increase sweat production in order to cool itself. This can mean that the difference in fluid loss between a summer and winter session may not be as different as you thought...

On top of this, the rapid evaporation of sweat means you’re less likely to be aware of the extent of the fluid lost. Meanwhile, a reduced sensation of thirst in cold weather means dehydration is more likely to go unnoticed, and therefore, less likely to be rectified.

Why does dehydration matter?

Fun fact: the human body is 50-75% water. Yep, despite how proud you may be of your musculature, you’re not a protein powerhouse, you’re mostly fluid. Turns out this fluid is pretty important for a variety of things, including maintaining blood volume, regulating body temperature, and muscle contraction. Losses of just 2% body fluid have been shown to:

Water - The Youth Academy
  • Increase body temperature
  • Increase heart rate – you’re now working harder than you need to!
  • Increase glycogen use – you’ll be burning through fuel stores faster than usual and may bring about early fatigue
  • Decreased mental acuity – slower reaction times, shortened concentration and poor decision-making… safe to say tactics and precision will not be your strength
  • Increase perception of fatigue – you’re not actually running on empty but the mental game is tough and it sure will feel as if you are

Clearly, a good hydration strategy is a resource young athletes should be tapping into...

Keeping Hydrated

Though it may seem grotesque & unconventional when determining the adequacy of hydration we recommend turning to the toilet bowl. Anything darker than a pale, straw colour urine indicates that you may need to improve your hydration game. While all liquids can be effective in meeting your fluid needs, our clear favourite for general hydration purposes is plain old water

For many, the above advice would be more than adequate, but throw sweat losses from exercise into the mix and things get slightly more complex. Unfortunately, there’s no single recipe for success here. At The Academy, we like the insight that can be gained from the use of pre- and post-exercise weights to determine fluid losses during exercise. To maintain good hydration fluid should be consumed at 150% of the difference between these weights. Additionally, the duration and intensity of training should be considered to determine whether glycogen and electrolyte replacement is necessary as well...

A solid hydration plan is a key strategy for athletic performance. And over the winter months, we hope to see all our Academy athletes arrive with their water bottle in hand and prepared just as if it were a hot day of summer

Nick Maier