100_1310What you eat and drink before and during cold-weather exercise can also help you perform your best and stay comfortable and safe. Proper nutrition helps regulate your core temperature, keeps your body warm and provides enough fuel for your working muscles. In warm weather it’s easy to sweat to regulate your temperature and remove excess heat, but in cold weather you need to generate more heat to stay warm.

In the cold weather your body temperature normally drops. Your metabolism increases to warm and humidify the air you breathe and you tend to burn slightly more calories to stay warm. Breathing in cold, dry air forces your body to warm and humidify that air and with each exhalation, you lose significant amounts of water. Winter athletes need to consciously drink more fluids to replace the water that gets lost via respiration. Add this to a decreased desire to drink (the thirst mechanism is reduced in cold weather) and you can see why one of the biggest nutritional needs during winter exercise is replacing lost fluids and getting proper hydration. Dehydration is one of the main reasons for reduced performance in the cold.

When it comes to eating during cold weather exercise, warm foods are ideal, but not very practical. The problem with cold foods and fluids is that they can chill the body. In summer, this cooling effect is helpful during exercise, but in winter hot foods are the better choice.

Ideal foods are complex carbohydrates consumed 2 hours prior to exercise. Soups, chili, bread, bagels, pasta with tomato sauce, baked potatoes, cereals, peanut butter, lean meat, and low-fat cheese are good choices.

It’s also important to eat continually to replace carbohydrate stores that are being used for exercise and warming. Rule of thumb 30 minutes or less after each workout for replacement and remember water, protein and carbohydrates! If you don’t replace this energy you will likely feel more fatigued and chilled. ( I’ve been there)  Stay warm and get outside!