Tips for staying hydrated in the winter
Water keeps us moving
By: Jonathon Spitzer, AMGA Mountain Guide
As the seasons shift from fall to winter so do our daily routines and patterns. With the colder shorter days, it is easy to forget to drink enough water and often difficult to stay properly hydrated. As a mountain guide and ski guide for over fifteen years I’ve created a few patterns to help me reduce my chances of getting dehydrated while being active in the winter.
Before diving into those, why is this important? Our bodies function at a higher level when hydrated. We are less likely to get sick and proper hydration can help prevent muscle cramps. In addition, many researchers agree you are less likely to get frostnip or frostbite when you are hydrated. During the warm and hot summer months, it is easier to remember to drink and often I find myself on an active day in the mountains drinking over 3.5 liters of fluid throughout the day. In the winter it can be difficult to drink that same amount even though my body might be working just as hard. Below are three tips I recommend trying this winter to help keep your body hydrated.
- Pre-hydrate: If I’m going to head out ice climbing or on a big ski tour, I start my day off not just with a cup of coffee but also with 2 large glasses of water at my house. Having this water before leaving my house causes me to pee more but helps ensure that before I even leave the car my body is already hydrated. To top it off, on the drive to the trailhead I typically find myself drinking a cup of Chai tea with honey and HANAH ONE mixed together.
- In the field - This can be the tricky part. In the summer, I commonly bring 2 liters of water in either water bottles or a hydration system in my backpack. In the winter, a hydration system will often freeze and become useless. I have found having 2 liters in water bottles can work but many times on those bitter cold and damp days I find it impossible to drink cold water. Over the last few years, I’ve been using a combination of a 0.75L thermos with hot tea. For my second water bottle I put boiling water in a hard Nalgene bottle right before I leave my house. Then I place that hot water bottle inside a water bottle parka which keeps it warm all day long. You can also wrap your water bottle in a puffy jacket to keep it warm if you don’t want to bring a water bottle parka. A few hours later, when I’m ready to drink this water it is warm and refreshing. More often than not, I will put some sort of electrolyte flavor mix (or HANAH ONE) in this water to make it more appetizing.
- Post-hydrate - For years this was the challenge. I found myself eating that big greasy cheeseburger and fries with a pint of beer or two! Now, don’t get me wrong I still love diving into that grease filled burger and enjoying that beer. Today, I try to integrate drinking at least 1 – 1.5 liters of water from when I get back to the trailhead and before bed. So how do I accomplish this? First, I fill a thermos of hot water in the morning that I leave in my car. When I return from my adventure in the afternoon/evening that water is lukewarm and feels good to drink on the drive home. Second, at home or at a restaurant I try to drink 1 large glass of water first, before sipping on a beer. I’ve found this makes me enjoy the beer more and not drink it as fast. Lastly, before going to bed, I’ll sip on another small glass of water.
Our bodies can often compensate for being dehydrated for a single day quite well. When compounded on many big days, we are trying to fight off a cold, or we have additional stress going on in our life, this is when being hydrated can help make the difference. For me being active for multiple days in a row is common and drinking the correct amount of water helps me prevent muscle cramps, thus resulting in injury prevention. This winter, I would encourage you to find a routine that works best for you to help you stay hydrated and healthy.
About AMGA mountain guide Jonathon Spitzer
Jonathon Spitzer spent four years in the American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA) training program and is fully certified in all three disciplines—rock, climbing and ski. He is the second youngest to ever to do so. During the spring and summer months, he guides throughout the Cascades, Alaska Range, British Columbia, French Alps and in Red Rock, Nevada. In the winter, he is a helicopter ski guide and avalanche educator. He grew up hiking, climbing and skiing around Washington state. These days his hobby has become his profession, and he can be found splitting his time between Washington, Utah, Nevada, California and Europe.
Check out these other blogs for tips and tricks to stay healthy this winter season:
- Put to the test: HANAH ONE + a professional mountain guide
- Life on the road: How HANAH Hero Jimmy Chin stays at the top of his game
- Angel Collinson + Mark Carter share tips for training
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