Brrr…the cold weather is finally here. Whether you are a pro athlete or outdoor enthusiast, fueling up for cold weather workouts takes careful planning. Winter hydration is one of the biggest challenges for athletes. Just because it’s not hot out, we think that we don’t need to drink fluids, and some athletes even lighten their fluid intake to reduce the need to urinate. No one likes to peel off five layers! In cold weather, cold beverages are not what we crave.
Winter athletes, especially skiers at high altitudes, need to consciously consume fluids to replace the water vapor that gets exhaled during breathing. Breathing in cold dry air causes the body to use its own fluid to humidify that air. You can see the vapor when you exhale. To help hydrate, drink warm drinks like hot cider, hot chocolate, teas and others.
A drop in body temperature stimulates appetite and hunger. This is because your body craves fuel to generate heat, just like a wood stove that needs wood to burn. If your body temperature drops and you start to shiver, this is the body’s way of generating lots of heat – you can expend up to 400 calories per hour trying to keep warm. Shivering can quickly deplete the body’s muscle stores of glycogen and drain your energy. Shivering while exercising outside could turn a normal 600 calorie-burning workout into an 800 calorie event, leaving you drained.
Before going out into the cold, be sure to consume foods high in complex carbohydrates two hours prior to exercise. Recovery foods should be eaten within the first 30 minutes post-exercise to fuel your muscles and help them recover for the following day’s events. In the winter, recovery foods also act to chase away the chill. Soups, chili, bread, bagels, pasta with tomato sauce, baked potatoes, cereals, peanut butter, and low-fat cheese are all good choices. For long outdoor events such as skiing, plan ahead and bring energy bars, chocolate bars, trail mix, bananas, and sandwiches. And most importantly, push those fluids!