It’s that time of the year – the temperature drops, the days get shorter, and flu season starts. Before you lose hope all together and prepare to hibernate for the season, know that by focusing on proper nutrition, hydration, and preventing cold injuries, you can be active and avoid the winter blues.
Everyone has heard the stories of dehydration taking athletes down for the count. However, it is also a condition that is attributed to under performance on the job and during regular exercise. In 2009, New England Division I athletes were randomly tested for levels of hydration during periods of rest and activity in a study published in the Journal of Athletic Training. Of the athletes participating in the study, which included men and women across different sports, 66% were found to be dehydrated and 13% of that number were significantly dehydrated. The findings suggest that less attention is paid to hydration levels when it is just as important a factor in optimal performance as a quality training and nutrition plan.
Water and other fluids are used by your body for temperature control, to maintain healthy blood pressure, to break down nutrients for cells, and to keep joints functioning smoothly. Dehydration is when the amount of fluid leaving the body is significantly greater than the amount entering the body. In addition to perspiring, this condition can result from fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. Less frequent urination and/or dark-colored urine, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, and confusion are common symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The United States Army has a helpful recommendation for water consumption – 50% (sedentary activity level) – 75% (active activity level) of your body weight in ounces of water. Now that you have the right amount of fluids coming in, controlling perspiration is the other factor. Wearing easily breathable, moisture-wicking gear is essential in cold temperatures, as dampness will increase the rate at which your body loses heat. Other ways of staying hydrated during winter activity include putting electrolyte tablets in your water filters; avoiding caffeine and alcohol prior to physical activity; and carrying a water bladder.
Cold Weather Injuries
When exercising or spending long amounts of time outdoors during winter, knowing how to avoid cold weather injuries will make the season much more enjoyable. Hypothermia is an example of a condition brought on by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. The condition occurs when the body’s core temperature drops below 95 degrees (average core temperature is typically 98.6 degrees). Some symptoms include confusion, slurred speech, shivering, and memory loss. Treatment for hypothermia is similar to treatment for frostbite (see below). Once again, the most important thing you can do is plan ahead. Will you be traveling long distances on your snowmobile or when cross- country skiing? Pack a bag with the items necessary to sustain you for the night. Same goes for if you are spending time in unfamiliar terrain- bring the gear you will need should you become disoriented and have to spend the night outside.
Frostbite is an injury that results when your skin is exposed to cold temperatures (most frequent cause) for a prolonged period of time. Your “skin” consists of multiple layers of tissues. As frostbite progresses, deeper layers of the skin are damaged by the cold. There are simple things you can do to plan ahead to protect yourself, including thinking ahead about how long you will be in cold conditions and dress accordingly. This includes multiple layers and warm accessories. Accessories are crucial – the most vulnerable part of your body are your
appendages, ears, and nose. Wool socks, boots, and headgear will keep the most at risk parts of your body protected. Lastly, stay dry – this is incredibly important as water moves heat out of the body 25x faster than under dry conditions.
Want to fuel your body for cold weather activities? According to research conducted by the United States Army, the demands resulting from activities (traversing ice/snow terrain) while carrying gear and at times, equipment, can increase energy expenditure up to 20% (sample consisted of military personnel). It has also been documented that there are slight increases in metabolic rates during periods of being exposed to the cold. Increasing your daily caloric intake when training can offset the stressors experienced by the body when exercising or being active during the winter season.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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