I’m excited to bring you some of my top tips regarding how we approach fueling during winter training. The impact of cold weather, on top of changes in training activities, can influence how our body uses energy and performs. Here is what to keep in mind this winter:
The Metabolic CostCold weather means additional fueling requirements. Despite what you may think, the addition of cold temperatures on our bodies means it has to work (or burn energy) to stay warm and in the range it desires. In addition to maintaining core temperature, we need to humidify the air we breathe as well. This leads to an overall increase in energy expenditure, even if you think your effort/overall training is low and requires some attention to stay on top of.
Base SeasonThis time period is usually when athletes are shifting from intensity towards aerobic training and foundational work, namely the “base season”. With that typically comes strength training…and the addition of more energy requirements. While rides may be low-key, supplementing strength training also increases the need for adequate energy and fuel intake – with special attention on protein due to the new muscle breakdown occurring.
While more training is going to take place in Zones 1-2 (aerobic), you may experiment with adjusting how you get your nutrition to take advantage of how your body is producing energy during this training. For example, getting more complex carbs/food in via bars or natural products. Some great examples for me are Betty Lous, Maurten Solid, and Endurance Tap. They provide alternative and satisfying options for those big hours on the bike.
What can you do?
Don’t skimp on fueling in the off- or base season. You might not feel you need it, but there’s an underlying uptick in fuel consumption due to both the weather and training stimuli. Take ample snacks on your rides, get quality meals in, and incorporate more protein. Something like SwissRX’s Total Recovery is the MVP in closing the gap in nutritional needs!
The ChillShivering is a physiological response to the cold - your body’s way of attempting to stay warm and maintain core body temperature. Shivering can increase body heat production and is fueled preferably by carbohydrates stored as muscle glycogen, as well as blood sugars.
Metabolism of carbohydrates is upped during rest due to shivering, meaning that athletes who are exposed to the cold are burning through carbohydrate stores more quickly. However, for those more acclimated to the conditions, and who have undergone repeated bouts of exercise in the cold, fat metabolism is actually boosted, and reliance on carbohydrates for heat production decreases (flexibility).
So, staying on top of your carbohydrate intake during training can limit the need for your body to tap into those carbs for warming purposes. [source]
What can you do?
Stay warm, layer up, and keep eating. Dress appropriately and use your nutrition to help you stay fueled and strong, rather than skipping out on a workout or limping home. Try hot drinks either before, during, or after a workout to assist in maintaining core temperature. Additionally, try moving to frequent feeding to fire metabolism while out in the cold.
Hydration MattersCold weather has the tendency to reduce our drive to drink. Yet, fluid requirements are actually equal or higher in the cold compared to more temperate conditions. Cold, dry air leads to greater respiratory water loss and at the same time increases urinary output. Plus, since we are not actively or obviously sweating as we do in hot/humid conditions means we also lose that visual reminder to keep up our fluids.
What can you do?
Stay hydrated. Despite what you think, electrolytes are just as valuable in the winter. I use LMNT during the day when I’ve had a tough ride and/or added a sauna session. For training, use products like Skratch Labs / Nuun Sport (low calorie) or Tailwind / Maurten (higher calorie) for ample sodium, depending on needs.
SupplementingProteinSupplements are no replacement for proper nutrition, but they can definitely support your goals, health, and immunity – especially in times of high training stress. The Feed | Formulas is an amazing way to take the guesswork out of finding the right products and supplement quality that you need. Especially the NEW On Demand pack.
Here are some general vitamins + minerals to consider this winter:
Vitamins & Minerals
Winter –for most– means less time out in the sunshine. This can actually have a huge effect on levels of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium and maintaining bone health but it is also needed for a functional immune system, and deficiencies are linked with an array of health issues.
Sunshine is the best source of Vitamin D but dietary sources include egg yolks, fatty fish, and fortified dairy foods as well. Our favorite way to stay on top of it is a simple supplement or liposomal spray like SwissRX D3 + K2 (K2 is key for D3 to be actually absorbed).
What can you do?
Carson Beckett, 22 // UCI MTB Racer // Coach // // Student // Outdoor Enthusiast