During the winter, our body puts extra effort in a regular activity due to the additional resistance (rain, snow and sleet), the weight of additional clothing, thermoregulation and inefficiency of cycling, so we must also adapt our body supplies too.
So what should we do to enhance our body performance and keep it natural balanced through nutrition?
Before the ride
More recently, research has demonstrated that while rates of fat and protein oxidation remain relatively constant during exposure to cold, carbohydrate oxidation is stimulated, with studies suggesting the dominant source being muscle glycogen, particularly as shivering intensifies, or when plasma glucose levels are low.
Couple this with the carbohydrate demands of longer rides, and the risk of glycogen depletion increases, which can lead to dips in performance and early fatigue, increasing the risk of injury, particularly on icy terrain.
But it’s not just early fatigue – glycogen depletion can also impair thermoregulation, resulting in more rapid decline in body temperature.
Solution? A carbohydrate meal with around 500 ml of fluid alongside, consumed 2-4 hours before increases carbohydrate stores and this can be followed by a small snack around one hour before.
During the ride
During exercise the aim should be to consume up to 60 g of carbohydrate per hour in the form of glucose. This can be in the form of energy gels, bars, fluid or other food snacks. When it is cold and our priority is simply to stay warm, then we must make a conscious effort to fuel during exercise.
And that’s another aspect we should take care about. One of the most overlooked aspects of fueling in the winter months is fluid intake.
The concept of hydration is immediately associated with hot weather and is deemed less important in the winter months, as a consequence many athletes end up exercising in a dehydrated state. Unlike in warm temperatures when physiological mechanisms prompt us to drink, feelings of thirst are blunted in the cold, despite sweat loss. And as recognizing thirst becomes more difficult, the risk of dehydration increases.
In one study comparing the hydration levels of athletes performing cold or warm weather sports, the cold-weather team had the highest incidence of dehydration, with voluntary fluid intake insufficient to meet the demands of exercise.
Warm fluids may be tolerated more readily when exercising in the cold, and can increase your motivation to drink – try an insulated container or wrap your sports bottle in clothing or a sock to prevent it becoming too cold. You should also be able to open any drink bottle with your gloves on.
After the ride
Recovery after exercise should start within 30 minutes of finishing, a carbohydrate and protein combination is ideal at this time. This is particularly important following training in the cold. A drink containing a fast digesting protein (whey or soy) and a high glycemic carbohydrate is a convenient way to initiate recovery. This should be followed by a meal soon after, for example carbohydrate, rice, pasta with lean protein like chicken, salmon and a selection of vegetables.
We also recommend 9 aliments that you should eat as much as you can: quinoa, berries, salmon, beans & legumes, pasta, bananas, cruciferous veggies, nuts & nut butter, chocolate milk.
Those 9 aliments provide the entire combination of carbohydrates, proteins, lipids and vitamins you need to have the perfectly balanced and healthy nutrition the whole winter.
What are your favorite winter recipes? Share them with us! We love to see.