Q. When I go for a run in the cold, I often get chilled. Any nutrition suggestions for helping me enjoy my winter workouts?
A. Winter nutrition is important and can certainly make cold weather exercise more fun. Here are a few winter fueling tips to help athletes of all stay fit and comfortable through the winter months.
- Enjoy a pre-exercise snack of 200 to 300 calories … oatmeal before a morning run, half a sandwich before a lunchtime brisk walk, or a granola bar before an afternoon snowshoe hike. This provides fuel for your body’s furnace and can help keep your body warmer.
- If you are going to be outside exercising for more than 1.2 to 2 hours, be sure to consume a snack (energy bar, dried fruit, chocolate) during exercise to prevent your blood sugar from dropping. Exercising with low blood sugar can increase your risk of stumbling/falling/injuring yourself (no fun if you get stranded outside in the cold weather), to say nothing of reduce your performance and hinider your enjoyment of winter exercise. (Keep the snack in an inside pocket, so it doesn’t freeze!)
- Bring an extra snack with you for emergency food, in case you encounter a flat tire on your bike, twisted ankle on a run, or other such obstacle that keeps you outside longer than expected.
- If you get hot and sweaty during winter exercise, remember to drink enough fluids on a daily basis, so that you need to urinate every two to four hours.
- Take note: Winter athletes commonly get dehydrated because they often forget to “think to drink” (compared to summer athletes who remember the need for fluids). Also, winter athletes are less likely to tank-up pre-exercise; they don’t want to deal with cumbersome pit stops that require shedding layers of winter clothing. They can start out dehydrated, and end up even more dehydrated. This slows recovery
- If you are cool and chilled after a winter workout, choose to drink a warm liquid, such as hot chocolate milk, mulled cider, a latte, bowl of soup, or tea with honey. Have a warm carb-based recovery meal, such as French toast, pasta with meatballs, or chicken stew.
Eat wisely, and enjoy the wonderland of winter!
Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD
Sports Nutrition Services
Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 4th Edition
Food guides for soccer, new runners, marathoners, cyclists