How athletes can effectively tackle dehydration on snow

Posted on July 11, 2019 by

When out on the snow a nice cool drink may not be what hits the spot as much as it does in warmer activity. However failure to replenish fluid requirements of the body can lead to dehydration.

When dehydrated, thirst can be an ineffective tool to encourage fluid consumption. The symptoms of dehydration are:

  • Dry eyes or mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Other signs which show you are dehydrated is dark or pungent urine or very long periods without urination

Logistically it might be easier to not drink fluids and avoid frequent trips to the bathroom because of:

  • Limited access to facilities
  • Wearing multiple layers
  • Carrying equipment

But competing and training when you aren’t adequately hydrated impacts performance, mental focus and concentration, some pretty important areas in potentially life risking winter sports.

How do winter sports athletes become dehydrated if they aren’t sweating?

If you don’t get your layering right during activity and can’t remove a layer during heat producing heavy activity then you are likely to still lose fluid though sweat.

If you aren’t sweating a lot there is another way your body loses fluid in the cold.

As you breathe in the surrounding cold and dry air, your body humidifies and warms the air as it hits your mouth and nose and travels to your lungs. After oxygen exchange at the lungs the expired air warms up the pathway the cold air just travelled, both using body fluid and energy to do so.


What to do to stay hydrated in the snow

When you are active in the cold you may not want to, or need to, drink the volume of fluid that you would if training and sweating in humidity and heat.

  • While you want to be drinking regularly over the day, if you’re not sweating as much you may not need the amount of electrolytes found in sports drinks
  • You don’t want to miss out on the carbohydrate provided in sports drinks as a fuel source for activity and metabolism
  • If drinking less sports drink (such as Powerade) you may need to add an additional carb snack and sip on water to replenish your fluid and fuel needs

Water, sports drinks and even low fat milk varieties are the best choices for rehydration during the day or directly after activity as juice and soft drink can be too sweet or acidic, this can also slow the absorption of fluid from the gut which slows down rehydration and can delay recovery.

For more information on hydration see the Guide for Athletes on When to Drink.


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