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Hydration Guidelines for Athletes in the Winter

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winter hydrationGo to any baseball or softball game on a 90-degree summer day and you’ll see parents pushing water on their young athletes. We all know how important it is to hydrate when it’s hot outside.

But what about winter? How careful should you be about hydrating when you’re playing basketball in a gym? Or spending the day on the ski slopes?

First, let’s talk about what happens to the body when you get dehydrated. Your cooling system shuts down, blood flow is decreased to the skin and sweat output drops—the opposite of what must happen to stay cool. This contributes to further increases in body temperature. Excessive heat buildup then leads to early fatigue and increases the risk of developing heat-related illnesses.

Is any of that even possible in the winter? Yes.

While it’s certainly less common than in summer, dehydration can happen any time of the year. Think about the snowboarder who bundles up in winter gear then goes all day without taking a break to eat or drink. Or the high school wrestler who limits his food and water intake before a match because he is trying to make his weight class.

Happily, it’s easy to stay hydrated with a little effort. The good news is that doing so will keep you healthy and enhance your athletic performance.

Years ago, it was thought that water was always the best choice. Research has since proven otherwise. If you’re doing yoga for an hour or just having a light workout, water is fine. But when you go for a 10-mile jog or play two tennis matches in a row, you’ll need to start replenishing lost electrolytes. And that’s exactly what properly formulated sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade are designed to do. Because they contain a small amount of carbohydrates, they allow fluid to be absorbed more rapidly than plain water.

How much do you need to drink? General guidelines are to drink 8 ounces (1 cup) before a workout and then 4 to 8 ounces for every 15 minutes of activity. You can also weigh yourself before and after exertion. For every pound lost, you’ll need to drink 20 ounces of liquid to rehydrate.

There are also some drinks to avoid. Carbonated beverages can cause stomach cramps and nausea. Avoid drinks that are high in carbohydrates—like lemonade or punch—because they are absorbed slower than water or sports drinks. Caffeinated beverages, including energy drinks, should never be consumed during exertion as they can actually make dehydration worse.

Are you looking to enhance your athletic performance in a safe and medically controlled way? Contact us today to learn more about Fisher-Titus Medical Center Athletic Training Services.

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