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Keeping Hydrated in the Winter Months

As an Arctic surge moves down across the U.S. many areas of the country will be seeing record lows; however, shooters will still be heading out to matches and events at various gun ranges. AG & AG members who have attended Conference sessions with Lonestar Medic Caleb Causey know the importance of staying hydrated in all weather conditions.

Being hydrated while you’re shooting is a critical safety issue. Water is vital to both organ function and digestion because it carries nutrients and oxygen throughout the body, controls blood pressure, and lubricates joints. Being properly hydrated is a natural energy booster. Not having enough water could reduce oxygen flow to the brain and could cause headaches, irritability, and reduce memory and concentration.

When it’s cold outside your blood vessels constrict to conserve heat, causing your blood volume to increase. The increase of blood volume prevents the brain from triggering you feeling thirsty, but as you become dehydrated your blood becomes thicker. This causes your body to work harder and consume more. In addition, cold air is drier so your lungs have to work harder to humidify the air and warm it up. Keep in mind that your body is working harder to perform basic functions, along with the physical exertion of walking around a shooting range, carrying gear, running stages, and maintaining mental focus, sight picture, breathing control, etc.

Many experts recommend drinking your body weight divided by 2, then change pounds to ounces. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, you should drink 100oz of water a throughout the day. Water exits the body through exhalation, perspiration, and urination. If your urine is pale and plentiful, you’re well-hydrated. If it’s dark and scant in volume, you need to drink more fluids.

Here are some tips for how to stay hydrated when you’re on the shooting range:

  • Drink water and electrolytes. Between stages or drills, take water breaks to ensure you’re drinking smaller amounts throughout the day. If you’re out on the range for up to 1 hour, you can rehydrate with water alone; however, if you’re out for much of the day, add electrolytes and carbohydrates. Keep Emergen-C packets in your range bag to add to your water bottles. The extra vitamins will help keep you hydrated and alert. If you’re shooting in higher altitudes, increase your fluid requirements.
  • Dress in layers. Sweat can reduce your body temperature and force your heart to work harder to maintain blood flow and body temperature. Dress in layers of clothing that will absorb perspiration and allow you to remove items as you start to sweat and then put back on as needed. Start with a thin layer of synthetic material, such as polypropylene, which draws sweat away from your body. Add a fleece layer for insulation with a waterproof, breathable outer layer. If it’s very cold, wear a face mask or a scarf over your mouth to warm the air before it enters your lungs. Remember to wear a hat and gloves, too.
  • Choose healthy snacks. Eat water-rich fruits and vegetables, such as fresh produce (cucumbers, lettuce, and celery are 96% water, and oranges and apples are 88% and 84% water, respectively). To help you keep warm, pack a Thermos in your range bag with soups like tomato soup, butternut-squash bisque, or minestrone, which contain salt to help you retain water. Hot chocolate milk is also a great option because it has a 4:1 carbohydrates-to-protein ratio.

Many people don’t realize the risks of dehydration in the winter months. Take precautions to ensure that you are prepared when you’re on the range. Stay safe and have fun!

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