Did you know that athletes are less likely to hydrate regularly in cold weather, but they’re still at risk of being dehydrated? There are a few reasons that athletes drink less in the cold weather, but most importantly, many will have a decreased sensation of thirst compared to those training in hot environments despite generating sometimes large amounts of sweat. Athletes may also struggle to drink enough as they work around frozen water bottles, layers of clothing, and outdoor terrain. Often, young athletes will simply skip sipping for the sake of convenience.
Here, TrueSport Expert Stephanie Miezin, MS, RD, CSSD, and Director of Nutrition at Canyon Ranch, shares a few ways to keep yourself hydrated even when temperatures have dropped.
Have a hydration plan in place
“We have to realize that if we want to have a good time doing winter sports, then hydration is going to help with that,” says Miezin. You need to override that feeling of not wanting to drink at all, and having a plan, like drinking one 16-ounce water bottle every hour of practice, makes it more likely that you’ll actually stay hydrated.
Set reminders as needed
During indoor winter sports like figure skating or hockey, breaks are often part of practice or games. In these cases, your reminder to drink might be as simple as putting your bottle right on the bench with your stuff, so you can’t miss it when you pause. “Anytime you’re back on the bench, take a sip or two of water—be intentional and bring your attention to your hydration plan,” says Miezin. Mountain sports and any outdoor winter sport becomes more challenging since you may not be able to carry water with you and need to take breaks in less structured settings. In these cases, you may need to set a timer on your phone to remind you to go in and take a drink, or you could decide that every three runs down the mountain, you’ll take a drink break, for example.
Ensure that your water is easy to access
Whether your water is on the bench in an insulated bottle to keep it from freezing, or you’re wearing a hydration pack with a bladder filled with water under your parka, know where your water is and make it as easy to access as possible. Starting with lukewarm or warm water in your bottle will also keep the water from freezing for longer. It’s also worth taking your equipment into account when deciding what bottle to use. For instance, taking off hockey gloves may be inconvenient, so a softer plastic bottle that’s easy to pick up and squeeze without removing gloves can ensure that you’re able to drink more often.
Find beverages that won’t freeze fast
This is more applicable to mountain sports where temperatures are below freezing and you need to have your bottles or hydration pack with you, or sitting at the base of the hill exposed to the elements. “In that case, consider bringing a beverage that has some electrolytes or sugar added, like a sports drink, because that will take longer to freeze than water.” And again, insulated bottles can make a big difference in keeping your water at a reasonable temperature.
Find beverages that make you want to drink
One of the major barriers to hydrating in the cold is a decreased drive to drink. Because of this, you want to choose beverages that are going to increase your desire to drink them, says Miezin. “This could be a sports drink. It could be water with fruit or herbs in it. Warm drinks are great too—hot apple cider, herbal tea, or even hot chocolate can be great for hydration, and you’ll actually want to drink them between runs on the ski hill. A hot chocolate break is much more enticing than a regular water break!”
Talk to your coach
Your coach may not be aware of how hard it is for you to grab that drink of water in the two-minute break that they call mid-way through practice. If you need extra time to drink adequate amounts of water, talk to your coach about lengthening breaks in practice.
Hydration during cold weather and winter sports can be tricky, but it’s just as important to hydrate in the winter as it is in the summer. Make sure you have a hydration plan in place, set reminders as needed, and ensure that your water is as easy to access as possible.