5 Winter Hydration Tips for Runners

A woman sips from a water bottle during her run.

Ever noticed that upon returning home from a winter run, you’re barely sweaty even though you just worked hard? You might be inclined to think that because your hair and body are conveniently dry, you feel less thirsty, and because running typically feels easier in colder conditions, that the need to hydrate isn’t as pertinent as during the hot summer months. However, these characteristics can be the perfect storm for falling into a cycle of dehydration, which you definitely want to avoid no matter the time of year.

Dehydration is still possible in the wintertime, as it’s what happens when the body loses more water than it’s taking in, according to the American Heart Association. Not only that, but proper hydration also plays a role in preventing hypothermia, which is definitely something to be aware of if you ever find yourself doing a long run or race in treacherous winter conditions (Boston Marathon 2018, anyone?).

Being dehydrated can also result in other uncomfortable physical symptoms, including dry skin and chapped lips, as well as side effects like high heart rate, fatigue and constipation. Lastly, if you find yourself dealing with the flu or a cold, drinking fluids can help you recover quickly. Read on for five tips to help you stay hydrated in the winter.

1. Determine approximately how much water you need

There’s no set volume of water that absolutely everyone must aim to get – fluid intake needs are actually very individualized. A good rule of thumb is to take your weight in pounds, divide it in half, and aim to consume, at minimum, that number in ounces every day. So, for example, if you weigh 130 pounds, aim to drink at least 65 ounces of water per day. From there, you can establish a routine, such as drinking a glass or bottle before and after every workout, at meals, as you work at your desk, etc.

2. Wear or carry your hydration while running

Two runners run with hydration bottles.

I know this is easier said than done for most people to start, especially if you’re a minimalist who likes to carry as little as possible. I can relate – I don’t even like to carry my phone on the run if I don’t have to. It’s also not as easy to rely on water fountains in many colder climates, as they may be shut off completely during colder seasons. Fortunately, technology has evolved in recent years, and there are so many hydration options on the market, from handheld bottles to hydration vests, and even collapsible flasks that can fit in a shorts pocket, whether they’re full or empty. My current go-to is the Nathan ExoShot 2.0 14oz Handheld, a soft flask bottle that feels super light compared to the hard plastic ones I used for years.

3. Eat or drink warm fluids during the day

Yup; uncaffeinated liquids can help promote good hydration, too. If you’re sensitive to ice-cold water, especially in the winter, go for a cup or two of herbal tea or clear, brothy soups at lunchtime. Don’t forget about fruits and veggies either, as there are several water-rich options, like melons, cucumbers and tomatoes that totally count toward hydration, too. And don’t worry; you don’t have to give up your morning coffee, as moderate caffeine intake hasn’t been shown to cause dehydration. Just know that less is more and it shouldn’t count toward your daily fluid tally.

4. Set yourself up for post-workout rehydration

Two runners sit while mixing an electrolyte mix.

If you’re able to just step outside your door to run, hit the fridge as soon as you get home to rehydrate, or leave a bottle waiting for you as soon as you step back inside. If you have to drive yourself to a race, park or other location for a group run, pack a water bottle or electrolyte drink, in addition to a protein bar or drink to replenish nutrients if it’s a long run or hard workout.

5. Drink consistently during a race

Keeping your hydration in check is especially important when you’re trying to perform at your best. The good news with road races is that there is typically enough water provided, so you won’t need to carry your own. However, you’ll have to be disciplined enough to grab a cup and sip from every aid station, start to finish. I have had my most successful marathons and half marathons when I’ve done this, even when temperatures have been in the 20s or 30s.

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