Hydration and exercise go hand and hand, and that’s especially true with winter sports. Here’s why: Many wintertime activities, like snowshoeing, skiing or snowboarding, are extremely strenuous, requiring athletes to hydrate more often and in greater volume to avoid dehydration.
The most obvious reason for this is that intense exercise increases sweat rate, i.e. we use up our body’s finite fluid reserves faster. But winter exercise also contributes to dehydration in a number of unique ways. Thus, it’s important for athletes to prevent dehydration to offset the performance declines associated with dehydration.
Unfortunately, preventing dehydration during exercise isn’t easily understood. Do we need to hydrate before, during or after an event? How much do we need to drink to rehydrate? And what should we be drinking? Here are a few answers that might help this winter:
Pre-Hydration Is Essential
Starting exercise dehydrated can greatly impact your performance. First, this creates a net fluid loss that can accelerate the onset of dehydration.
That’s why athletes who participate in multiple intense activities each day – a skier or snowboarder, for example – can develop chronic dehydration. The best way to combat this is with pre-hydration. First, you should assess your hydration level; checking urine color is one particularly strong indicator. Recognizing your hydration status can determine how much you should drink, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association recommends athletes consume 500 mL of fluids 2 hours before exercising.[i]
Hydration During Exercise
Ideally, your hydration during exercise should match sweat and urine loss, according to NATA.[ii] This is especially important because hydration influences cardiovascular, thermoregulatory, and muscle function during exercise. But that’s not always possible, especially with sports that limit the opportunity for rehydration like hockey or endurance running.
For activities like snowboarding where you can drink often, athletes should consume small amounts throughout the day to offset sweat and urine loss. And if regular hydration is limited by the competition, athletes should consume fluids whenever possible, as well as focus on rehydration following exercise.
Another point to consider: There are a number of factors that increase sweat loss, and thus, increase the need for hydration during exercise. These factors include the intensity and length of exercise, and environmental temperature and humidity.
Rehydration After Exercise Is Important
Forgetting to rehydrate after exercise can disrupt several important physiological functions. For instance, rehydration is critical for cardiovascular function and muscle repair.
For proper rehydration, it’s important to replace sweat loss. This isn’t an easy figure to calculate, but it is an extremely accurate way to maximize rehydration. For instance, your sweat loss is measured by taking body weight prior to exercise in a properly hydrated state, and comparing that to your weight after. For instance, 1 to 2 percent dehydration, which is when we begin to feel thirsty, is a loss of 1-2 percent of body weight.
Additionally, the composition of what you drink is important, especially following intense exercise. Water isn’t always the best rehydration drink, because it doesn’t encourage us to drink and it can lead to a slight increase in urine production. Instead, adding electrolytes like sodium to your rehydration drink encourages voluntary fluid intake and helps the body conserve fluids. Plus, when sodium is combined with sugar, water and sodium are absorbed faster.
For optimal hydration, the NATA recommends athletes drink a volume that’s 150 percent greater than sweat loss for maximum hydration.[iii]
DripDrop is a rehydration powder that’s formulated based on science. It contains a precise ratio of electrolytes designed to help you rapidly rehydrate following exercise.