When spring approaches and the weather gets nice, there’s nothing better than throwing on a pair of running shoes and getting some exercise outdoors. The only problem? Temperatures that are warmer than winter’s but still relatively cool make it easy to forget a very serious exercise-induced concern: Dehydration. Recent research shows that exercisers can actually lose more water in colder, spring-like weather than at any other time of the year.
How spring dehydration happens
When you work out, you typically get hot and begin to sweat. Sweating causes your nervous system to send a signal to the brain that says, “I’m about to get thirsty — hydrate me!” But in cold or cool weather, the brain doesn’t get that thirst signal in the same way. In fact, some people don’t get a signal at all; they are lax in replenishing their water stores and put themselves at risk for dehydration.
Signs and symptoms of serious dehydration
A good rule of thumb: If you notice two or more of these symptoms at the same time, especially after any outdoor activity, sip some water and contact your doctor immediately.
- Dry, sticky mouth
- Muscle weakness and extreme, sudden fatigue
- Extreme thirst
- Irritability and a sense of confusion
- Lack of sweating
- No urination (or urine that’s dark yellow in color)
- Rapid heartbeat
Who’s at risk of becoming dehydrated in cooler weather?
Endurance athletes. Because they work out so often, they’re already more likely to experience dehydration than others.
Coffee and tea drinkers. The more caffeinated beverages you drink, the more you’re going to have to urinate, and the more water your body loses.
Tips to avoid springtime dehydration
Understanding why cold weather dehydration happens is the first step in preventing it. Here are a few more tips:
1. Drink lots of water. If you know you’re going to go outdoors to exercise or perform other physical activities, drink before, during and after your outing. And depending on your activity level, the typical eight glasses of water a day may not be enough. Talk to your doctor about how much water you should be drinking.
2. Try a sports drink. Most will help you restore your electrolyte balance after an intense workout. Try drinking one or two servings before and after exercise.
3. If you’re thirsty, stop working out. Your body will tell you when you’re thirsty or when you’ve been working out too hard. Learn to listen to your body and cut your activities short if you sense dehydration is looming.
4. Weigh yourself. Some super-endurance athletes weigh themselves before and after a workout to gauge how much fluid they’ve lost during an activity. If, when you weigh yourself, you’ve lost more than one pound, replenish your water stores, fast.
5. Eat water-rich foods. Drinking water isn’t the only way to get fluid into your system. You also can stay hydrated by eating water-based fruits and veggies, like watermelon and cucumber.
Regardless of the season or weather conditions, be sure to drink up. You’ll feel better and you’ll reduce your risk of dehydration.