When I found out that being active and outside in the winter would literally double my calorie needs, I was both excited and intimidated. Sure, I could burn off extra weight easily just by staying busy outdoors, but I also knew that the calories that I was putting into my body had better be the best food and drink choices I could make for my activities. Consuming the right food and drinks for outdoor winter activities can help keep your energy and health sustained, keep you from getting grouchy, and even help prevent cold weather injuries.
Food and Drink temperature – When you eat or drink a cold item, your body will use energy trying to warm it to your body temperature. With the high calorie demands of winter sports, you are better off to have a body temperature or warm drink or snack. Try keeping hot chocolate, or a warm beverage in an insulated container with you for your hydration. For snack items, think about granola or sports bars that will be warmer if stored closely inside your layered clothing. If you will be out in the cold most of the day, be sure to eat warm meals, whether you go indoors to eat or prepare your meal outdoors.
Extra hydration – Your body needs extra hydration to keep up with the demands of even slight shivering. You will also need extra water to replace all of that steam you see leaving on your breath. Just being warm-blooded means that you will be breathing out warm moisture that you need to replace. It is important for any activity to stay well hydrated, but even more so for winter sports.
To stay hydrated, be sure you avoid diuretics like coffee, other caffeinated beverages, and alcohol. These drinks tell your body to rid itself of even more hydration that your body needs to perform in the cold. Instead, try drinking warm water, herbal teas, or hot chocolate.
Snacking – make sure you have good snacks throughout the day to keep your energy up. Snacks should be about 100 – 200 calories every one to two hours, depending on activity level. Good snacks include trail mix, sports bars, and crackers or bread with butter or a creamy spread.
Complex carbs- Your body needs long sustaining energy for cold weather sports. If you are going to be out for more than a few hours, this is not the time to low-carb. Your meal should be primarily made up of complex carbohydrates. Your body needs complex carbohydrates to quickly and sustainably stay active in the cold. Good food choices include oatmeal with natural, unrefined sweeteners, whole grain rice, whole grain breads, spaghetti, beans, or lentils. Many of your best complex carbohydrates will have a low glycemic index, so they supply energy over a long period, rather than just a quick burst.
Get your fats and proteins- In addition to complex carbs, your body will need adequate fat and protein. After putting a large portion of complex carb on your plate, the rest should be made up of protein and healthier fats. You need the protein to help build your muscles and the fats to get in good calories. Spending time outside in the cold will quickly help you understand why whale fat is an important part of the Northern Inuit diet, and why Midwestern skiers like to carry sticks of butter to snack on.
An example of a good breakfast for spending your day being active in the winter would include a bowl of oatmeal with dried fruit, nuts and butter, along with a side of sausage. A healthy lunch may include a warm whole-grain bread sandwich with mayonnaise, and lean roast beef. A good dinner could be a bowl of meat and bean chili topped with cheese, and a side of cornbread with butter.
Making the right food choices will help you enjoy your activities, all day long, when engaging in Winter Sports.