Why Do We Need To Wee In Cold Weather ?
Updated: Apr 6
I’ve done 13-14 winter seasons in Courchevel. When the conditions are good, I am all excited in the morning to hit the slopes and on big days and shred the powder.
We all have that feeling of excitment. We’ve checked the snow report on the web the night before and all indicators are flashing green. Blue skies, fresh powder, and if you’re lucky, no school holidays which means no crowds on the mountains. Only a certain bunch of Courchevel locals craving to do the first lines on their day off.
These kind of days are special and usually when a cold wave hits the mountains, it’s just the perfect day to ride.
So on these kinds of days, I just kick myself out of my warm duvet, load my stomach with high calorie fuel, coffee and boom ! Go !!
It’s crispy cold, the air is fresh, the sun is rising and I can feel the freezing air boosting my lungs and making me shiver.
A fast run to the ski lift and here I am, watching our beautiful mountains of Courchevel. My first physio osteo appointment is at 3 pm, I have time to ride and feed my junkie need for adrenalin. On the chair lift I feel the cold biting my body and minutes after an urgent need to wee. Well... I can fulfill that urge behind a nice pine tree up there.
But why? Why do we have this need to wee when the weather is so cold ?
Well there are 2 reasons for that, and we can’t avoid it. Our physiology tells our bodies to do so.
Diuresis and peripheral vasoconstriction. Facing the cold conditions of winter, our autonomous neurological system sends a signal to our body to protect our vital organs, mainly our brain, internal organs such as heart, lungs, stomach and so on. It’s a vital survival instinct to keep us alive and functioning. The idea is to keep warm where needed to stay alive and keep the cold away, some parts of our body can do well in cold even if their inner temperature is decreasing sharply. To do so, via our autonomous neurological system, the diameter of our blood vessels decreases dramatically, temperature exchange with the outside and our body decreases. It affects the limbs, legs, arms, hands, nose and ears. Our warm mammal blood rushes then to our vital organs, keeping them nutrished and well heated. But doing so means a rise of liquid, a rise of blood pressure, and we need to keep that blood pressure at a perfect rate. Kidneys start then to process the fluids to lower the blood pressure, sending a huge amount of fluids in the bladder. At that point, in your contemplative state of mind on that chair lift, you start to have this urgent feeling, a desperate need to wee whilst you are protecting yourself from that dead cold north breeze. You are praying for the chair lift to go faster and wishing that this iconic pine tree is next to you, helping you to release your bladder tension into the snow. You got it... We need to wee in cold weather to stay alive, it’s as simple as that.
We have a protein named aquaporin in our cells. What the hell is that ? It’s a protein that manages the stream of water from and to the cells to the outside and vice versa. Basically it’s a little canal that regulate the inpout of water in our cells. Cold inhibates totally aquaporin, the stream of water is blocked and water stays outside. As the same process of peripheral vasoconstriction, more fluids lead to higher blood pressure. This high blood pressure is lowered by kidneys, which sends fluid to bladder and again, a need to wee. In saying that, the same process applies during alcohol consumption.
I found on that pine tree on that special day and I’m starting now, to ride. The sun is shining, my speed increases, my smile is getting bigger, I’m in mountain ecstasy.