The winter months can cause many changes in an athlete’s routine; from the times of day they train, to the foods they eat (thanks to the holiday season), to the environments they train in (i.e., indoors vs. outdoors). One thing that must remain constant though, and should be a huge priority in any athlete’s nutrition plan, is hydration status.
It is not uncommon for athletes to begin neglecting their own hydration needs as the temperatures begin to drop. They may feel like their sweat rate is less when compared to the warmer months, and that their sensation of thirst may be suppressed, therefore causing them to think that their need to drink fluids as often as before is unnecessary. However, proper hydration must be maintained all throughout the year, especially for those who are active.
Although sweat rates might FEEL less when training in the winter months, water lost due to sweat, respiration, and urination still compound to significant fluid losses. Without proper replenishment of water and essential electrolytes during training, an athlete is at risk for real health and performance detriments.
Signs of Dehydration and its Effects on the Body
Signs of dehydration are relatively easy to spot, and it is the responsibility of both the athlete, as well as the coaching staff, to ensure everyone is monitoring their own hydration status regularly.
Early signs of dehydration can include cognitive changes, such as dizziness, unusual irritability, loss of concentration, etc. Physical signs of dehydration can include early fatigue and loss of performance. Another physical sign of dehydration is producing dark urine when using the bathroom; a clear sign that the body does not have enough water to properly clear out the waste concentrated in the kidneys.
How to Keep Your Athletes Hydrated in the Wintertime
Recommendations for proper hydration in cold weather match those for warmer conditions:
1. Continuous and incremental water consumption throughout the day
2. Frequent water breaks during practice or competition (water break every 15-20 minutes)
3. Consume sports drinks during practice or competition to provide water, electrolytes, and necessary carbohydrates to maintain energy levels
4. Slowly and gradually consume 2-3 cups of water after practice to match the weight lost due to sweat (i.e., 1 pound of weight lost due to sweat needs to be replenished by approximately 16-24 ounces of water)
5. Continue to encourage athletes to maintain a healthy, balanced diet
If health or nutrition concerns are suspected, recommending that an athlete visit a trusted physician or certified dietician is always a great option to consider. These individuals are trained to help, and are able to dive deeper into the athletes individual needs, allowing them the best opportunity to remain healthy and enjoy their sport to the fullest.
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