When the temperatures begin to drop, your body requires a few specific considerations to properly fuel athletic performances.
By: Lori Nedescu, MS RD CSSD Cyclist & Sports Dietitian @cadencekitchen
Follow these fueling suggestions to make sure your training doesn't suffer this winter.
This is something that needs pre thought out attention in cold weather. Tearing open sport nutrition packages can be almost impossible when you have thick gloves on. It can be difficult to even fit gloved hands into pockets to retrieve food. Excess layering may provide more pockets, or cover them up, so pay attention to keeping fuel stashed in your outermost layer. Practice and plan to overcome this potential obstacle by opening food packages in advance and placing food in easy to grab places on your bike or body.
Too cold to consume.
We've all had that hot, sweaty training day where you end the workout with a mess of melted chocolate. Well (hooray!) chocolate can be brought along in the cold, however, in very cold temperatures, some foods will simply freeze and be hard to consume. A gel can go from liquid to thick paste, so if texture is an issue for you, this might leave you gagging. Bars or chews might be too solid to bite and chew mid workout. Know how your preferred food will react at extreme temperatures and have a plan to switch things up if need be.
Training in the heat may have you taking extra breaks for water and to cool off, however, in very cold temperatures, pausing to eat or drink can leave your body temperature plummeting and at risk of hypothermia. Try making sure you have enough fuel to support a workout without breaks if possible. Also, practice accessibility (mentioned above) to ensure you do not have to stop riding to have access to your sports nutrition.
Extra calorie burn.
Being cold amplifies caloric burn. The body has to work harder to warm the breath and muscles. Cold exposure also promotes brown fat, a more heatlhy/active type of fat, in the body. The more you're exposed to cold, the higher your metabolic rate becomes. This means you need to take in more calories in cold than ambient temperatures to fuel the same effort. Take along extra food for any significantly tough or long training efforts to make sure you're providing your body with the fuel it needs for performance.
Sport food is generally cold; gels, chews, smoothies, etc... When the temps drop, drop these cold items and swap them for something that can really satisfy and warm your body. Post workout soup is a nutritious way to warm and replenish fluids lost in training. Portable options like FAWEN soups are a great way to bring a serving along for reheating and consuming. Hot tea, coffee, cocoa or steamers are also a good option. There are plenty of on the go drink mix ins like Vital Proteins or Four Sigmatic that can add mid-post workout nutrient boosts to your hot beverages. Some sport drinks even are made to be consumed heated like Skratch Lab's Apples w/ Cinnamon hydration mix. Try mixing vital collagens into your hot cocoa for a protein boosted post workout winter version of your typical recovery smoothie. Vital's bone broth sticks can be added to hot water to create a rich, nourishing bone broth to sip pre/post workout to warm the body. Don't be afraid to get creative with your mid training food as well. Foil wrapped paninis or roasted potatoes can be brought along to provide more satiety. Adding heat in the form of spice (cayenne, chipotle, ginger, nutmeg, jalapeno, etc...) can also help to warm the body.
Taking it indoors.
With the proper clothing (and following the above tips), you should be able to survive out door workouts in any temperatures. Of course, icy roads and lack of daylight can force even the most determined outdoor enthusiasts to train inside. Treadmills and trainers are wonderful options to keep your body strong year round, but you make sure to apply fueling habits just as you would if outside. Many athletes forget to drink and eat while training inside. Replenishing the body with electrolytes can be especially important during indoor sessions due to higher temperatures & less circulating air leading to heavier than normal sweating. Set a timer on your watch to remind you to fuel and hydrate until it becomes a natural habit.