Have you ever returned from a winter ride and discovered that little or no water was missing from your water bottle? The body mechanism that gets us to reach for the water bottle in the summer heat doesn’t seem to work when the weather is really cold. But even though we don’t feel as thirsty during these winter months, we need to make sure we are properly hydrated. In fact, staying hydrated in the winter is just as important as it is in the summer.
I was reading a backpacking guide earlier this year, and I came across some excellent cold weather advice that I tucked away in my memory for winter. In Ray Jardine’s book, The PCT Hiker’s Handbook, he had this to say about cold weather hydration:
In alpine conditions, hikers must be particularly careful to avoid dehydration. As they breathe cold air, their lungs exude additional moisture used to warm the air. And breathing heavily in cold air exacerbates the moisture losses. Furthermore, water’s vapor pressure is lower at higher altitudes, resulting in increased evaporation within the lungs. The resulting dehydration hampers circulation and the body’s ability to warm its extremities. Therefore, drinking copiously is essential in preserving body warmth while hiking in wintry, alpine climes.
The last two sentences in Jardine’s quote above really got me thinking. Keeping fingers and toes warm during winter cycling is tough, but staying well hydrated will help. You can think of water working in your body the same way coolant/antifreeze works in engines. A properly hydrated body will help keep you cooler in the summer, and warmer in the winter.
I’ve found that one of the reasons I don’t drink as much as I should in the winter is that water in the bottle gets uncomfortably cold to drink. I can only sip it at best without getting brain freeze. I’ve started thinking of ways I can hydrate better without forcing myself to drink freezing water.
Drinking a lot of water a couple hours before you go out riding would be beneficial. This would prevent you from starting the ride in an almost dehydrated state. There are also a number of insulated bottles and CamelBak style drink systems designed to keep your water cool in the summer. I imagine they’d work in the winter the opposite way, by keeping your water from getting too cold or frozen.
What are your ideas for keeping properly hydrated during the winter?