• Allison Koch, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN

7 Tips For Staying Hydrated During The Frigid Winter Months In Chicago

Brrr… sub-20 average temps, no sign of the sun in weeks and if you still run outside, you’ve likely mastered the number of layers to wear when it falls into the 20s, teens, and single digits. Or you’ve found a route that best avoids the snowy, slushy, slippery sidewalks your neighbors just can’t seem to keep shoveled. It’s officially winter in Chicago.


As runners, we spend a lot of time worrying about what to wear when the temps drop or where it is safest to run. But what about your nutrition – more importantly – your hydration? When it gets colder out, you may think it’s not as important to stay on top of your hydration routine. Or you may not want to be bothered with carrying a water bottle in the cold. Well guess what? Dehydration can happen no matter what the thermometer says. And during the winter months, you may be more prone to it thanks to:

  • A decrease in thirst sensation compared to in the summertime so you are less inclined to drink

  • A reduction of sweat mistakenly making you think you aren’t losing moisture (you are) so you aren’t thinking about replacing it

  • Cold diuresis – or that feeling when you step outside into the cold and all of a sudden you have to pee and/or pee more frequently

Whether you are training for a virtual winter race, building base mileage for the (very hopeful) return of spring/summer/fall racing, or just running for fun, staying hydrated before, during and after can and will make a difference in how you perform and how you feel. Just 2 to 3 percent of body weight lost from sweat can result in a decline in performance as well as medical complications. The more the better? Not necessarily. Overhydrating can also have serious health consequences. This is why it’s so important to figure out what’s best for you to stay hydrated without over-or undoing it. Note I said what’s best for you – everyone is different in how much and how often they need to hydrate. So how can you tell if you are adequately hydrated?


I talked about this as well as provided guidelines for how much to drink before, during, and after workouts in an earlier blog post you can find on the topic here. These recommendations are relevant no matter the temperature outside. Today, I want to focus on tips specifically aimed at helping you stay hydrated when the temperatures drop and you just don’t feel like drinking.

  1. Stay on top of your daily hydration goals – don’t rely on your thirst to signal you to drink. A general rule of thumb: aim for at least half your body weight in ounces of water per day. So, for someone who weighs 150 pounds, that’d be 75 ounces or about 9-10 cups/day. Do you struggle with remembering to drink throughout the day? Try setting a timer on your phone to remind you on the top of each hour to take a drink (or two). Or check out some smart water bottles and/or apps aimed solely at getting you to drink more water.

  2. Continue to carry a hydration system – especially on longer runs. Find one that works for you and stick with it. Not a fan? Find a safe place along your running route that you know you’ll pass at least twice and drop a bottle. Depending on the temps, you may want to make sure it’s warm water in your bottle or if you are dropping it, make sure it’s in a heat-sensitive thermos to ensure it doesn’t freeze.

  3. Heat it up! Especially pre-workout. Try drinking decaf hot tea, herbal tea, broth, or just plain water with a splash of lemon. This not only helps hydrate but warms you from the inside out. Post outdoor long run, nothing tastes better than a warm mug of hot cocoa. If made with cow’s milk or if you add a scoop of protein powder, you’ve got a nice recovery beverage that not only hydrates but provides a perfect carbohydrate to protein ratio that refuels and repairs your muscle tissue.

  4. Don’t forget about fruits and veggies. Yes, I know it’s winter and there isn’t an abundance of fresh, seasonal fruits and veggies available to us. But that doesn’t mean you should forgo adding them to your plate. The foods you eat contribute to your hydration status and fruits and veggies are key to helping you stay hydrated. Especially great right now? Apples, citrus fruits, cucumbers, celery, squash, broccoli, pears, carrots, grapes, and any/all leafy greens.

  5. Take it to go. Always have a reusable bottle with you. It not only reinforces you to stay hydrated but is better for the planet than the plastic variety.

  6. Go easy on the alcohol and caffeine. Both are considered diuretics (causing you to pee more frequently) and contribute to dehydration. Need that cup of joe to get out and go? Then by all means, continue to have it. Just be sure to also include a cup or two of water to go along with it!

  7. Going long? Consider adding salt and/or electrolytes. Why? Salt and electrolytes help you retain the water you drink. I like to explain it to the athletes I work with using the following scenario: water is a plane, and the salt and electrolytes are the copilots—making sure the water gets to where it needs to go. You don’t need either – but no one wants to be in a plane that’s set to autopilot – at least not for a long time!



Fuel Yourself Better in 2021 -- Winter Virtual Group ‘Nutrition for Runners’ Program Kicking Off in February!


Have you struggled with figuring out how to fuel your body to support your running goals while still being able to enjoy you’re your life? Then consider joining me for my next virtual group ‘nutrition for runners’ 8-week program kicking off in early February. Curious about what is included? Each week we meet virtually to discuss a different topic in the world of running and nutrition. Things like pre-, post and during workout nutrition, how to fuel rest days, gut health/issues on the run, supplements, women’s health, and much more. You have access to me via email, a private Facebook group for accountability, as well as weekly challenges, goal setting and homework assignments which I provide personalized feedback and recommendations on. Let’s make 2021 your best year yet – the one where you learn how to better fuel your body to support your performance goals! If you are interested, feel free to reach out to me (akoch@runningrdn.com) or complete the short application here.


Website: www.runningrdn.com

Email: akoch@runningrdn.com

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