Niseko Chiropractic’s guide to staying hydrated on the mountain
Dehydration is definitely one of the hidden risks when you enjoying yourself here on the snow.
So what is the right amount and type of fluids to drink to stay hydrated when enjoying the snowsports ( or even the nightlife) during your time in Niskeo ?
Well the short answer is probably ” more than you think ” mixed with a little ” it depends”.
It’s worth taking this seriously
The effects of mild dehydration include muscle and mental fatigue and that can put an end to your day on the slopes and set you up for a very sore start the next day. Dehydration can quickly snowball into something far more serious and has led to deaths on the mountains so it pays to think about this issue each and every time you hit the pow.
Lets have little look further into fluids in the body and how they are regulated slightly differently in a cold alpine environment. Water makes about 60%-70% of your body weight ( more in children 4 ) and your average blood volume is only about 5 litres (1) and it’s very important that your blood does not drop more than about a litre. So that’s not as much wiggle room as you think.
So how do you loose fluids during Niseko snowsports ?
On a usually day we loose water mainly by 3 ways (1)
- Sweating ( about 1 litre per day in normal conditions at rest)
- Urine (about 1.4 litres per day in normal conditions at rest )
- Other such as respiration and feses ( about 1 litre at rest)
So as you can see Urine makes up the most in normal conditions. This becomes even more true in cold climates like Niseko due to that strange reaction in our bodies that make us want to a pee just that little more in cold places.
The other thing is that in the cold we are not conscious of how much we sweat. In heavy carving or backcountry traverses it would be easily possible to sweat out a litre an hour and not even be aware of it due to cold the relatively low humidity of the Niseko winter weather.
The cold can also throw our usually thirst reaction and thirst is not considered a reliable indicator of hydration levels in the snow (1). This is particularly true in moderate to severe dehydration where our bodies and mental state can react in a strange and counterintuitive way such as throwing of clothing etc.
The good news is that most studies suggest that if dehydration and weight loss are kept under 2% during exercise sessions, they do not affect the performance of well hydrated participates who reintegrate liquid loss afterwards (4). So the rule of thumb is don’t get dehydrated below 2% of your body weight.
So how much to drink ?
Similar to how much to eat, the right amount of water to be drunk is dictated by the balance between the intake and the losses. The intake comes from both fluids and solid foods.
So drinking one litre an hour would not be at all crazy if you are really going for it on piste.
If you are venturing backcountry you are going to have to take planning your hydration levels a lot more seriously. Many backcountry courses cover this in good detail and if you haven’t done a backcountry course at least ask somebody knowledgeable that has.
A great tip is take a medium sized zip lock bag in your kit or jacket. In an emergency situation you can fill it with snow an bit inside your outer layers of clothing. It will melt giving you small amounts of precious water.
What about sports drinks ?
Well here is a can of worms. Unfortunately sports drinks manufactures have found better return on their investment dollars by spending it on marketing and sponsorship campaigns rather than research on the effectiveness of there products (2). Definitely rule out energy drinks that are highly caffeinated. This will accelerate your dehydration not address your energy needs.
Let’s have a closer look at the issue of electrolyte (salt ) balance. It’s often said that our bodies fluid content is the same as seawater. Whilst blood and seawater share some minerals seawater has about 3 times as much as table salt as blood and blood has about 50 times more magnesium ( 3).
It’s these electrolytes that are vital for functioning of our bodies vital systems. Basically the big ones are NaCl, Calcium, potassium and Magnesium.
If you just exercise for an hour or 2 then salt loose becomes a non issue. If you are doing a 6 hour day on the Niseko slopes then you can expect to lose a not insignificant amount of sodium and even some potassium and magnesium.
But here is the rub
Many authors argue that a good main meal contains enough salts for our daily needs (1) and also that sport drinks don’t really make an difference anyway to plasma electrolyte levels. Certainly research is now coming online that suggests a small benefit for elite sports (4) such as AFL or running in the use of sports drinks but I think the jury is still out about if this benefit would translate to a weekend warrior on the slopes.
I think the take home message from the published research is drink mainly water over the day and consider a sports drink or 2 over the day if you really feel like you have sweated a lot or not had a substantial salty meal.
Have fun out there and if you are enjoying the Niseko nightlife don’t forget a glass of water in between 1 or 2 of your more alcoholic beverages. I personally find some benefit of a magnesium supplement when doing a few days exercise in a row but that’s a personal anecdote rather than a conclusion from research.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Niseko Chiropractic on our Contact page for any further information
- “Sports medicine for coaches and athletes ” Ekeland et al 2000 Harwood Academic publishers