It’s chilly outside in the northern hemisphere! Whether you are a hardcore snowboarder, skier, or snowshoer, or more of a casual sledder or hiker, cold temperatures mean you need to hydrate and fuel a bit differently than when it’s warmer outside. Here are some nutrition tips for cold weather and all your winter sports.
If you are at high altitude, you need more water and more carbohydrates than at lower altitudes. Thirst sensations can be altered by cold, wind, or altitude. This means you may not feel thirsty even when you actually need to drink! Instead of relying solely on thirst, drink at regular intervals. About 8 ox (240 mL) every hour or so is a good starting point. Eating a snack every 1-2 hours is a good idea to help prevent under-fueling. Watch urine color–it should be light yellow like lemonade. If it is too dark, concentrated, or strong-smelling you need more fluids.
DON’T SKIP FLUIDS TO AVOID URINATING
Ok, so you are all bundled up in snow gear. You’re in the backcountry where there are no restrooms around. It’s tempting to avoid drinking so you don’t have to pee too often. Don’t fall into this trap–just drink. Becoming dehydrated can lead to decreased performance, headaches, injury, irritability, and decreased ability to regulate body temperature.
PACK FOODS THAT DON’T FREEZE
If you have the luxury of packing in a Thermos or insulated container, do that. If you need to pack in foods that are lightweight and ready-to-eat, like trail mix, energy bars, and jerky, keep them stored close to your body to help them stay a bit warmer. Other options include silicone pouches that you can fill with soup, smoothies, yogurt, mashed potatoes, or fruit puree as long as you can keep them from freezing. Also try fruit leather, dried fruit like dates and apricots, chocolate candies (like M&Ms), gels, and gummies. I love stashing a small bottle of Gatorade, gummies, nuts, and chocolate in my ski coat pockets for quick snacks while on the ski lift.
BRING WARM FOODS
If you can pack in warm foods, or heat foods while out in the backcountry, this can help raise your body temperature and keep you warm. Foods like soups, stews, chili, ramen, oatmeal, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate are all good bets.
DRESS IN LAYERS
Ok, so this one isn’t really a nutrition tip, but that’s ok! Dressing in layers and using technical fabrics are key. When you exercise in the cold, your body still sweats. When the sweat cools, it can make your body cold, even make you start shivering. This uses up precious energy and carbohydrates that should be used for your adventure. Not to mention it is very uncomfortable and possibly dangerous to be shivering while outside in cold weather! Dress smart and bring the correct gear.
For more information, check out two awesome websites. These are written by dietitians and are full or good recipes and tips for fueling your outdoor adventures.
Check out our amazing nutrition resources, including on-demand courses, free downloads, and webinar replays.
- Nutrition Beta: Indoor Climbing and Comps
- Nutrition Beta: Outdoor Climbing
- The Ultimate Guide to Useful Sports Supplements
- Ditch Diets and Become an Intuitive Eater
And be sure to follow us on Instagram!