The effect of dehydration on the performance of athletes and sportspersons varies according to different weather conditions. Hot weather impacts performance more due to the combined effects of heat and dehydration, while similar activity in cooler conditions is easier.

Here’s how athletes can handle different weather conditions to stay hydrated:

Fluid intake during heat

Fluid Intake During Heat
Both dehydration and exercising in the heat in general can have adverse effects on heart rate, body temperature regulation, concentration and performance. The effects of dehydration tend to be progressive (i.e. the higher the level of dehydration, the greater the negative effect on performance).

Understanding the risks and being conscious of your hydration practices are important components of optimising performance on the field. Prolonged exertion in heat can also lead to heat stroke and related illness.

Knowing how your body responds when exercising in the heat is very important and provides a baseline for all performances. Commence your exercise well hydrated, and maintain a fluid intake pattern which matches sweat losses as closely as possible. It is a good idea to consider other ways to stay cool like ice towels, ice vests and cool water sprays.

Fluid intake during cold weather

The risk of dehydration when exercising in cool weather conditions can be as high as in hot conditions. However, evidence suggests that for the same level of dehydration, there is more impact on performance in hotter rather than cooler conditions.

Many sports are played indoors, and people train with more clothes on. So, their actual sweat rates can be close to those in warmer conditions. Individuals need to be aware of their sweat losses when exercising in the cold, and drink according to their sweat rate.

For example, in a study it was found that whilst the average sweat rate for footballers in summer training was higher than winter training (1.46 versus 1.13 litre/hour), the fluid intake during training during winter was less than half that in summer (650 ml/hour in summer versus 280 ml/hour in winter). So, the overall dehydration incurred was slightly higher (1.59% in summer, 1.62% in winter).

For those exercising in cool environments, it is important to follow regular fluid intake as substantial dehydration can still occur. Sports drinks control the loss of minerals in the body while keeping the athlete well hydrated.

Fluid intake at high altitude

Winter, aerial, mountain and many other such sports happen at high altitudes. The air is thinner and the oxygen supply lesser. The air is also drier, which means more fluid is evaporated from the body passively than in the plains. This is why people get dry throat and parched lips in the first few days of being at high altitudes. Increasing the volume of fluid consumed to negate the effect of increased dehydration is very important.

Consuming more water may not always be of help. Increased consumption of sports drinks, however should effectively counter dehydration caused at high altitudes. If urine output is pale in colour, it means that you are adequately hydrated. This also helps you track that the loss of fluid is being adequately compensated.

Staying hydrated when travelling

Many forms of travel, such as airlines and air-conditioned buses, involve sitting in much drier air than that most of us are usually exposed to. This ‘dry air’ promotes greater fluid loss than being in humid air, mainly from the skin and airways via evaporation.

Travellers may not be exercising, but the fluid intake should be sustained at a consistent rate to ensure arriving at the destination well hydrated. The other benefit of sustaining hydration during travel is that it generally results in more toilet visits, which helps keep muscles and circulation moving as you walk around.