You’re on your way to a perfect winter exercise plan: you got the gear, the motivation and a variety of indoor and outdoor activities to choose from. But what can you do to make sure your body is on board? As the final installment of our 3-part series on winter fitness, we outline some rules to follow for good winter nutrition.
During wintry weather, your body temperature drops and you begin to shiver. Burn more calories helps keep your temperature up. Working out in the cold can increase your metabolism enormously – up to 10 times its resting level! Proper nutrition will keep your body warm and provide you with the energy to get your muscles moving so that you can reap the benefits of your workout.
Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough (Water)
When it is cold out, you tend to lose your thirst (seriously, how often can you remember craving a big glass of water during a ski trip?). The idea of downing bottles of water at a time makes most of us think of hot summertime activities. But dehydration is a major risk during winter sports. As you exercise outside, you take in cold air that your body humidifies when you exhale. Every time you breathe out, you lose water. It is extremely important that you keep track of how much water you are putting away, because you must consciously drink extra water to make up for what you are losing by simply breathing.
So make sure you’re well-hydrated before you set out. And to make up for the water loss from respiration and sweating (if it’s hot in your workout gear), remember to sip water or sports drinks throughout your routine. Chugging is a no-no, since your body can only absorb so much water at a time, as are icy liquids as they will cause your body temperature to drop. Water will also help hydrate your skin, keeping it lose prone to cracking and dry, itchy patces.
Forget the Atkin’s Diet!
Eating warms your body up, regulating the cold’s effect on your body temperature. When it’s cold out, all many of us want to do is plop down in front of a huge bowl of soup or hearty stew. Although it’s not always practical, warm foods will help keep your body temperature where it should be, counteracting the cold air outside. Either way, complex carbohydrates are the way to go before exercise, to be eaten around 2 hours before you begin. If warm foods like oatmeal, pasta and baked potatoes aren’t options, cereals, bagels, peanut butter and sandwiches with lean meats work well, too. Better yet, the process of digestion generates more heat for your body. So give into your winter hunger (to a reasonable degree, of course – this is no excuse for another trip to the dessert table!).
Always Have Back-Up
As we mentioned in our last winter fitness post, safety is very important to keep in mind while exercising outside. Weather can take a turn for the worse with very little notice or an injury might leave you waiting for help in the cold. Just like you should wear bright clothing for an outside run in the winter months, you should also always carry a supply of nuts or energy bar with you for emergency fuel.