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As Autumn moves into Winter and the days become shorter, you might feel tired much earlier in the day. An early night, or a sleep-in, seems like bliss. You’re eating or craving comfort food more often. You notice that you are snacking more, overeating and eating more at night is creeping back into your routine.

All of this is perfectly normal, but what should you do if you’re not just tired, but fatigued and having trouble controlling your weight? Here are simple ways to identify if Winter dehydration may be the main contributors to weight gain and fatigue.

Let’s take a look at what to do to stay hydrated and healthy during Winter.

Why Do We Want to Eat More in Winter?

Most of us think we eat more during Winter because our bodies need an extra layer of healthy fat, or because we’re inactive or indoors more often. These are factors, but experts in nutritional psychiatry believe a key reason we may binge or overeat is because of a connection between our gut and our brain. ‘Happiness chemicals’ that make us feel really good are triggered during eating. These same chemicals are produced when we spend time in the sun or exercising; two things you probably do less of, or have less access to, in cooler months.

When Does ‘Tired’ Become Fatigue and Why Is It Worse In Winter?

Feeling fatigued is not the same as feeling sleepy or very tired. In general, fatigue is a sign that your body is under too much stress (psychological or physical), is not operating at its optimum, or that you’re not fuelling it correctly. In colder seasons, it can be brought on by one or more of the following factors you may experience:

  • Lack of physical activity;
  • Taking medications;
  • Diet that is nutritionally limited;
  • Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD);
  • Drinking too much caffeine or alcohol, and
  • Not drinking enough water.

One of the most critical contributors to our general health is hydration. No one needs to nag you to drink plenty of water in the warmer months.  You drink because you feel dehydrated if you don’t. In Winter, you don’t seem to feel dehydrated in the same way. It’s important to know more about hydration plus the signs and effects of dehydration. 

Do You Drink Enough Fluids to Stay Hydrated?

Only 20% of our daily fluid requirement is met by food intake, so you need to make up the other 80% with beverage consumption. To achieve this, men need to drink a minimum of 10 cups of water (or other suitable fluids like herbal teas) per day (2.6 litres), and women need to drink a minimum of 8 cups (2.1 litres). Don’t forget, most mature adults are losing around 2.5 litres of water per day through their normal activity.

Research in Australia shows the average daily water consumption among adults is low. Total daily pure water intake was just 37% among adults. Even when all sources of fluid were taken into account, including food moisture, this was only 78% of the total daily intake recommendations, for adults.

Nearly every nutritionist will tell you that hydration – your water and fluid intake – is critical to successful weight loss and a healthy body. Are you drinking enough fluids?

Tackle Winter Dehydration, Weight Gain and Fatigue

Did you know that by the time you’re thirsty, you’re already on the road to dehydration? While dehydration sounds like the result of extreme heat and water deprivation, poor hydration can, over time, be just as serious and negatively impact your health, causing:

  • Poor memory function;
  • Reduced reaction time;
  • Shorter concentration span;
  • Headaches;
  • Dizzy spells;
  • Dry hair and skin;
  • Rapid heartbeat or breathing, and
  • Organ damage.

Managing these issues forces your mind and body to work much harder to function, which ultimately results in fatigue. It’s important to understand dehydration can occur in Winter as well as Summer. Some reasons for Winter dehydration may include:

  • Wearing too many layers of clothing;
  • Wearing clothing that doesn’t breathe;
  • Keeping heating on for too long, or up too high;
  • High consumption of hot, caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea;
  • Lower consumption of water-rich foods like salad vegetables or Summer fruits, and
  • Drinking less water and sparkling water.

Create a Hydration and Eating Routine for Health

Sometimes in the cooler months, we don’t maintain routine practices with quite the same consistency. If you find a shift in your ability to stick to your routines as the seasons change, these simple ways to stay hydrated can help:

Set yourself reminders or alarms to regularly drink and eat throughout the day

  • Keep up the breakfast smoothies or raw juices
  • Swap cold fluids for warm ones like herbal teas and fruit infusions
  • Have homemade soup for lunch, or as a snack between meals
  • Replace caffeinated beverages with cocoa (sugar-free) or white tea
  • Drink a mug of warm water in place of a glass of cold water
  • Eat healthy stir-fries and stews full of lots of water-heavy vegetables and additional fluids like stock.

Don’t forget, Winter fatigue and emotional and physical cravings for food may be due to those happiness chemicals and not practising the things you do routinely during warmer months. Be mindful, be practical, and get hydrated!

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