Have you ever gone on a run in scorching hot weather, and come back to feel that you could drink gallons upon gallons of water … you’re just dripping with sweat, burning hot, and absolutely parched? (picture source)

How about when you come home from a run in freezing cold weather … do you feel the same?  Want to guzzle a gallon of water? cold weather running(picture source)

Yeah … me neither.  I’ve already explained the importance of water and how up to 75% of Americans are already dehydrated, and I’m pretty good at drinking water throughout the day, but I’ve always noticed that running in the extreme cold just doesn’t leave me as thirsty post-run as exercising in hot temperatures.  Maybe because I sweat far less when it’s cold, or because I was so focused on getting into a hot shower after a cold run, I always thought it was fine to be a little more lax on rehydration after my cold weather runs.  But it’s not!!

Did you know that it’s actually possible to get MORE dehydrated while exercising in cold weather?  I am not going to go into many details here (read this study write-up for a better explanation), here are the basics: as your body loses water from exercising, your blood volume usually decreases.  But in cold weather, your body goes to extra work to direct blood away from your extremities and into your core (to protect your vital organs).  So, the mechanisms that usually encourage you to rehydrate (including decreased urine production and increased thirst) don’t happen during cold weather, and you don’t feel like you need to rehydrate.  The study cites decreased thirst by up to 40% in colder weather!

Unfortunately, it’s often harder to drink water during your workout when it’s cold outside.  I usually plan my runs to go by public water fountains, but they’re generally shut off when temperatures dip below freezing).  So, for “normal” runs (about an hour for me), I’m trying to focus on rehydrating after the run.  When my race was cancelled this weekend due to ice, I brought my Nathan hydration pack with me on my longer run.  I thought the water would freeze since the temperature was 22 degrees Fahrenheit, but the combination of my body heat and the movement kept it liquid the entire time! (If you missed my post on dressing for cold weather exercise, check it out … I definitely needed to follow those tips this past weekend, and I got a chance to remember how much wearing Yaktrax and dodging ice patches slow you down!) yaktrax

**If you’re still looking for a holiday gift for a runner or athlete in your life, I’m going to have a product review coming soon that you may be interested in!  Stay tuned!**

So tell me in the comments … Do you tend to be less thirsty in the cold weather?  Any tips for cold weather exercise?

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18 Comments

  1. Amy @ The Little Honey Bee on December 11, 2013 at 7:37 am

    Even though I’m not running in the cold, I don’t like working out and then drinking something cold. I’ve actually been drinking tea during my spinning classes to force myself to stay hydrate. I’m not sure if the warm water is okay but I’m hoping it is!
    Amy @ The Little Honey Bee recently posted…Workout Eats [WIAW 24]My Profile

    • Megan Lyons on December 30, 2013 at 10:14 am

      That’s a great idea! As long as it’s not scalding hot, I say go for it. (The only reason I’d avoid scalding is because you’re moving around and I’d worry you’d take a big gulp and burn yourself). Many people say the temperature of the water has different impact on your body (things like “you’ll burn more calories if you drink icy cold water”), but the difference is SO minimal (we’re talking 1/2 a calorie per glass) that I believe it’s far more important just to drink the water no matter what temperature it is!

  2. Sara @ LovingOnTheRun on December 11, 2013 at 9:08 am

    I do tend to be less thirsty in cold weather running, BUT I always try to drink just like I do when i am running in the heat because You never know when your body is getting dehydrated! It is still very important!
    Sara @ LovingOnTheRun recently posted…Chin Up ButtercupMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on December 30, 2013 at 10:15 am

      I agree, Sara. It’s harder to make myself drink during cold runs, but I know I need it!

  3. Michael Anderson on December 11, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Great post and very important, Megan!

    I am actually pretty good – but some of that comes from how type-A linear I am … I have a big cup of water before I go, then refill and leave it on the island, then drink it when I return. If I am REALLY thirsty I will get even more, but having that routine makes sure I keep hydrated.

    Also, I find that on windy days (this morning was about 18F but with strong winds making wind chill about 1F) that are very dry in the winter I get really thirsty as my membranes dry out.
    Michael Anderson recently posted…Recipe Sharing – Vegetarian LasagnaMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on December 30, 2013 at 10:17 am

      That’s a great routine, Michael. I don’t like to chug water right before I go because I feel like it’s sloshing around in my stomach, but I definitely always have a glass when I get back. BRRR – your temperatures are sounding cold, although I’ve been seeing some shorts-runs for you since your initial comment, so I hope it’s warming up a bit!

  4. Allison @ Life's a Bowl on December 11, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    I definitely am guilty of not drinking enough in general, let alone during the colder months when all I crave is warm drinks (and food)! I have noticed that I don’t sweat that much when it’s cold outside but the moment I step foot inside I sweat like an animal and my cheeks get bright red 😛
    Allison @ Life’s a Bowl recently posted…Living in a Winter WonderlandMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on December 30, 2013 at 10:20 am

      I also feel like I’m not sweating while exercising outdoors in cold weather, but then I sweat more once I walk in the house! It’s a really interesting mechanism – I’d like to look into it more. And yes on craving warm drinks and food!

  5. Arman @ thebigmansworldman on December 11, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    Definitely when it’s cold, water goes on the backburner- purely because I’m swapping it out for tea/hot drinks. Sometimes that works alright (if they are decaf). Whenever I workout in Winter too, my drink bottle is usually half full by the time I get home- Summer its finished half workout!

    Thanks for another informative post!
    Arman @ thebigmansworldman recently posted…WIAW- The heavy handed editionMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on December 30, 2013 at 10:22 am

      All this talk about warm drinks is making me want to heat up my own decaf tea right now! Hope you are enjoying your warm weather in the Southern Hemisphere, though!

  6. Tonya@Healthy, Fit, and Frugal on December 12, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Absolutely. My coffee intake has increased since it’s gotten chillier here in LA. But it’s also REALLY dry so that does help somewhat to remind myself to drink more water.

    • Megan Lyons on December 30, 2013 at 10:34 am

      I am definitely craving more warm drinks in winter, too, Tonya!

  7. Jillienne @ ChasingRaspberries on December 12, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    This is so true!!! I always get dehydrated in the winter.
    Jillienne @ ChasingRaspberries recently posted…Tinsel TriathlonMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on December 30, 2013 at 10:35 am

      Me too, Jillienne!! Drink up today :).

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