We all know hydration is important for our bodies, but how’s this for proof? Up to 60 percent of the human body is water, but our brains are composed of 70 percent, and the lungs are nearly 90 percent water. Feeling like a human fish tank yet?
Now that the holiday season is upon us, there are two potential dehydrating factors in play: winter air and alcohol consumption. Being aware of how both elements affect the body’s water supply will help you avoid feeling the consequences of dehydration.
Dehydration can accelerate conditions like hypothermia, frostbite and fatigue; something outdoor sports enthusiasts need to think about. “Exercise and recreation at higher altitude increases the risk of dehydration because you breathe more to compensate for the relative lack of oxygen in the air,” says Virginia Mason sports medicine physician William Callahan, MD. “That means you’re losing even more water through evaporation when you breathe.”
Dr. Callahan also recommends layering winter clothing properly to avoid excessive sweating – another cause of dehydration during strenuous winter activities. “Dress so you can shed a layer if you’re overheating, which may leave you too cold if clothing becomes damp from sweating.”
Even if you’re not planning an alpine adventure, winter air is colder and drier, depleting the body as it works to humidify and warm the air. The trouble starts when we skip drinking water because we don’t feel thirsty. But whether we feel it or not, our bodies are hoping we’ll replace at least a couple liters of water a day. Of course all of this doesn’t have to come from camping out at the water cooler. Water-based foods, including fruits and vegetables, replenish H2O too (provided we eat them!) Also, herbal teas and other noncaffeinated beverages can be a more pleasant and winter-friendly way to increase your water intake.
Speaking of beverages, another dehydration culprit this time of year is alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means you lose more fluid than you gain when you drink it. This happens because alcohol interferes with a hormone that helps the body reabsorb water.
With this hormone blocked, people urinate more frequently and voilà – they become dehydrated.
In addition to losing water after drinking alcohol, electrolytes and minerals tend to go with the flow as well. So consider adding a sports drink to your hangover recovery plan, which has ingredients to help get you hydrated more quickly.
Better yet, try to avoid dehydration in winter in the first place, by creating a system to help ensure you get the water you need. Keep a water bottle at hand that can be refilled to provide what should be your daily water intake so you know you’re drinking enough. Remember to drink water before, during and after strenuous winter activity. During party season, try chasing every alcoholic drink with a glass of water. It won’t replace everything you’re going to lose when imbibing, but it will reduce the deficit. Just remember that when it comes to proper hydration, drinking water is a must, for all seasons.