Pretzels making you thirsty? You’ll probably reach for a glass of water. Coming in from the cold? You’ll probably go for a cup of something hot to warm up. In the cold winter months nothing sounds better than cozying up with a hot cup of coffee, tea or cocoa, and likely the last thing on our minds is throwing back a cold glass of water. The fact is that we do need water during the winter, even if we don’t feel like we need it as much as in the sweaty summer months. During the winter months sweat evaporates at a more rapid rate than during the summer, and since we aren’t as noticeably sweaty in the cold months we are less likely to guzzle down as much water.
Most of the water lost during the winter is actually through respiratory water loss. Our lungs are “fluid-filled” and need water to carry out respiration, i.e. breathe. When we breathe out in the winter and can “see our breathe”, that’s water vapour being let out from our lungs, and the colder it is the harder our body works to breathe. In cold weather, our blood vessels vasoconstrict, meaning that they contract, which narrows the pathway for our blood to move throughout our body. It becomes harder to breathe in cold weather because our heart has to do double the work to get blood back to the lungs*.
Oxygen delivery to our lungs is dependant on our blood flow, and especially during vasoconstriction we can give our heart a hand by drinking more water. Water helps increase blood flow by increasing the volume of our blood, and the force it has when being pushed through our narrowed blood vessels (in the cold). The higher the blood volume, the faster it can get to our lungs and the easier it will become to breathe in the cold air.
Despite knowing how important it is to stay hydrated in the winter it does become difficult to drink enough. The recommended amount of 8 glasses of water a day doesn’t fit for everyone’s needs depending on age, activity level and other health conditions. It doesn’t hurt to get a professional recommendation and our dietitians are happy to talk to you about your water needs.
Know what you need but still not motivated?
Try adding a flavour boost to your water, keeping a pitcher in the fridge to stay cold and accessible, or even pre-portioned water bottles for on the go during the week.
Here are some fun combinations to try:
- Cucumber, grapefruit and orange
- Mint and raspberry
- Lemon and lime
- Strawberry, lemon and basil
- Apple, ginger and lemongrass
Be good to your heart, stay hydrated!
*Blood cells are the vehicles for oxygen to move throughout the body
Breathe (2016). Your lungs and exercise, European Respiratory Society, Sheffield, England, 12(1), 97-100.
Fronius, M., Clauss, W. G., & Althaus, M. (2012). Why Do We have to Move Fluid to be Able to Breathe?. Frontiers in physiology, 3, 146. doi:10.3389/fphys.2012.00146
Dietitians of Canada (2014). Facts on Fluids- How to Stay Hydrated, Unlock Food, retrieved from: http://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Water/Facts-on-Fluids-How-to-Stay-Hydrated.aspx?aliaspath=%2fen%2fArticles%2fWater%2fFacts-on-Fluids-How-to-stay-hydrated
Koch, D. (2016). Dehydration is a risk even during the winter, Ithica Journal, retrieved from: https://www.ithacajournal.com/story/news/2016/11/16/dehydration-risk-even-during-winter/93989536/
Muller, M. D., Gao, Z., Drew, R. C., Herr, M. D., Leuenberger, U. A., & Sinoway, L. I. (2011). Effect of cold air inhalation and isometric exercise on coronary blood flow and myocardial function in humans. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), 111(6), 1694-702.
Pittman RN. Regulation of Tissue Oxygenation. San Rafael (CA): Morgan & Claypool Life Sciences; 2011. Chapter 2, The Circulatory System and Oxygen Transport. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK54112/
Popkin, B. M., D’Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition reviews, 68(8), 439-58.