Considering Hydration During Winter

Even in winter, many people choose to be outside and reap the benefits nature still has to offer. For me, this is definitely true! I know how hard the cold can be so being properly prepared is essential to both enjoying your ride and developing the necessary toughness to maintain your routine. In the end, you will come to appreciate the warm days even more and most important of all; the experience will help you cultivate discipline that will carry over to both the next season and your daily life. A significant mistake most of us make during winter rides is forgetting to drink enough fluids simply because we don’t feel that thirsty. However, according to W. McArdle (2006), “dehydration is a serious risk during vigorous cold-weather exercise. For example, colder air contains less moisture than air at a warmer temperature, particularly at higher altitudes. Fluid volume loss increases from respiratory passages as incoming cold, dry air fully humidifies and warms to body temperature (1L of fluid can be lost daily). In addition, cold stress increases urine production, which also adds to total body fluid loss. Ironically, many people overdress for outdoor winter activities. Sweating begins as exercise progresses because body heat production exceeds heat loss. This discrepancy can magnify if individuals consider it unimportant to consume fluids before, during and after strenuous exercise in cold weather.” Last weekend was warm enough for me to ride Lookout Mountain in Golden, CO. During the uphill climb, I felt confident and comfortable so I was more focused on reaching the top than drinking enough water. Once I hit the downhill section of my ride, a certain physical unsteadiness began to set in. Because I had been sweating earlier and my gear was not properly designed to absorb that type of moisture, I immediately began to shiver as I started my descent and I couldn't stop shivering for a considerable amount of time. Not surprisingly, I was struggling to keep my handlebars straight and because I was dehydrated, my body took much longer than usual to recover. I learned a lot from that experience but perhaps the most important lesson was how hydration in winter goes far beyond simply guzzling liquids; our gear and awareness also play a critical role in preventing dehydration. In short, being prepared goes far beyond what we have in our water bottles! We often ignore how critical hydration really is to allowing our body to maintain its core internal temperature (thermoregulation). Every biochemical reaction requires water; this explains why hydration is crucial to both improving your performance and keeping you safe and warm.  During your ride, always pay attention to the fluids you are taking in and losing!

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