Fueling Winter Exercise

The best way to warm up when working out in the cold is to get moving and be sure you are fueling that movement with a solid winter sports nutrition game plan. If you brave the cold and keep sporting outside rather than taking your workout inside for the season, keep these tips in mind to help ensure you are fueling your activity adequately.

How Does Extreme Cold Impact Winter Activity?

In the summer, the sun’s heat keeps outdoor athletes warm. In the winter, athletes rely on warm, dry layers, the heat caused by moving, and something called thermogenesis. Diet-induced thermogenesis is one of the three mechanisms by which we expend energy. The other two are basal metabolic rate and activity (not only activity as discussed in this article, but also every little movement we make throughout each day). Thermogenesis the burning of energy (calories) as a result of digestion, which produces heat.

One of the biggest issues for winter athletes is related to fluids and getting enough of them. Our thirst mechanism is dulled in cold weather, requiring fluid consumption to be a top priority for the outdoor athlete. This means mechanically drinking according to a predetermined schedule. Mechanical means going through the motions of a desired activity or behavior in a more scheduled or robotic way than when these activities or behaviors occur more naturally and unscheduled. Versus warm outdoor activity where fluid loss occurs mostly via sweat, in cold weather the athlete experiences fluid loss through breathing (and sweat, but not as much compared to summer sweat). After inhaling cold air, our bodies heat and humidify it, then release it when we breathe out. We lose water when we do this.

Prepare To Pee. Let’s be honest, urinating while working out outside can be a very annoying inconvenience. Squatting in the cold or removing snow pants to relieve the bladder is not fun. Some athletes restrict fluids in order to avoid this, but it is not a good idea and will hinder hydration and performance.


Before heading out for your hike, skate, ski or run, anticipate how long your activity will be and eat accordingly. And think about it quite a bit before heading out so you have time to digest what you need to before getting moving. You can use the same fueling lineup you use in warm weather.
Pack your snacks and fluids. In extremely cold weather, keep your fluid under your outer layer so that it doesn’t freeze.

Fueling should not end once the exercise begins. Next, tips on how to stay energized during your winter workout.

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