Fueling Through the Seasons

How to Hydrate During Changing Weather

by Tanis Smith, Road-racer, B.H.K., B.Ed., CanFit Pro PTS

Fall can be a tricky time of year - some days feel like summer, other days remind us that winter is on its way. Most of us have figured out a routine that works in the hot weather. When it comes to the cool weather do we need to be hydrated to the same level?

Let’s look at the 3 keys to hydration during exercise (in any weather):

  • to hydrate effectively,
  • replenish electrolytes,
  • to provide energy for working muscles to enhance performance and speed recovery

What does hydrate effectively mean? It is recommended that a fluid intake of 2-3L per day is ideal – not too much, not too little. One of the easiest ways to check for hydration is to assess urine colour (see the chart). Thirst can also be used to assess hydration levels but it is not always reliable. If you are thirsty – you are already dehydrated.

Most people have heard of electrolytes but what are they really? Electrolytes are electrically charged ions in the body regulating the flow of nutrients into and waste products out of cells. Remember back in high school learning all about the flow of solutes from areas of high to low concentration? Who knew that’d be important! Simply, all we need to know is that if electrolytes are not properly balanced, our body cannot function to its full ability. In fact, muscular contraction is dependent on sodium and potassium to regulate it (called the sodium-potassium pump) showing just how important electrolytes really are. Most sports drinks will contain sodium and potassium as their main electrolytes with a higher amount of sodium. Remember, when you sweat you’re not only losing water, you’re losing electrolytes (mainly sodium (Na)). This is why even a 2% decrease in body-water will have negative effects on athletic performance (decreases in VO2max).

Finally, effective hydration also means providing energy for working muscles. Carbohydrate (CHO) intake during exercise has been shown to improve performance – a 6-8% solution of CHO is the best. This is another benefit of HoneyMaxx. Not only does it rebalance you, it also improves performance!

How to Adapt to Weather Changes

The elements of hydration remain the same regardless of the weather. The main difference is that in the summer heat there is a greater stimulus due to humidity and temperature (you may feel more thirsty in the heat). As the weather cools, it may seem as though you are not sweating as much. However, our body’s thermoregulation system is in overdrive trying to adjust to cooler weather. Our bodies try to hold onto excess body heat instead of sweating, which drives up body temperature. This in turn can cause further sweating, sometimes even greater than in the summer! What does this mean for hydration? This means that hydration is just (if not more) important than in the heat. Use the tips above about using urine and thirst to assess whether you are staying properly hydrated or not.

Things to think about as the weather cools down:

  • dress in layers – remove as needed
  • keep your sports drink handy during longer training runs and/or workouts
  • pre-run hydration is key: drink as soon as you wake and consistently throughout the day
  • carry a water bottle to get your 2-3L/day
  • don’t think because you aren’t soaked post-run that you didn’t sweat

Tanis Smith is an aspiring national runner from Oshawa, Ontario.   She holds a Human Kinetics degree from the University of Windsor and is a CanFit Pro certified personal trainer.   She's also fast...with a half marathon personal best of 1:21.  You can follow Tanis at tanissmith.com.