Nutrition and hydration strategies to fuel your winter workouts

Expert advice on keeping on the fitness track this weekend. Supplied image.

Expert advice on keeping on the fitness track this weekend. Supplied image.

Published Jul 3, 2024


As the saying goes: summer bodies are made in winter.

But workouts during the colder months can often prove to be a challenge, particularly when it comes to keeping your body warm and your energy levels up.

Health coverage provider Affinity Health, explained that as the mercury drops, our bodies need more fuel to maintain warmth and performance.

“This makes good nutrition and hydration essential,” CEO Murray Hewlett said.

Below, he delves into the best practices for managing nutrition and hydration during winter workouts.

Healthy carbs like sweet potatoes is essential in winter. File image.

Carbs keep you going

Hewlett stressed that carbohydrates are your best friend in cold weather because they help your body generate heat and maintain energy.

“To keep your blood sugar levels stable while exercising, include complex carbs like whole grains, pasta and rice.”

He suggested aiming to consume 100-200 calories and 30-60 grams of carbohydrates during a workout every 30-45 minutes.

“After you finish, eating about 1 gram of carbohydrates per kilogram of your body weight is a good idea to refill your energy stores,” Hewlett added.

“Don’t forget about quick snacks like bananas and cereal bars, which are great for recharging during breaks.”

Protein powers muscle repair

As the cold weather can be harsh on your muscles, it is vital to get enough protein.

“This is especially important if your workouts are intense and prolonged,” he said.

Hewlett believes that eating protein-rich foods after exercising can speed up your muscle recovery.

“For best results, spread your protein intake throughout the day instead of eating it all at once.”

“This keeps a steady flow of amino acids to your muscles and combining proteins with carbs after working out can also help refill your muscle energy stores quickly.”

Healthy fats like those found in avocados, help keep your body warm in winter. Picture: Fotios Photos / Pexels

Healthy fats for energy

Healthy fats such as those found in avocados, nuts, seeds and olive oil, are packed with energy and help keep you warm, Hewlett said.

“These fats are not just a good energy source; they also keep your joints and brain healthy, which is crucial for staying sharp and coordinated during workouts.”

Fruits, vegetables and spices boost health

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is vital as they are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre that strengthen your immune system and overall health, which is particularly important in the winter.

Hewlett recommended aiming for at least two servings of fruits and three vegetables a day.

He also believes that you shouldn’t underestimate the power of spices in your winter diet.

“Spices like chilli peppers, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves and ginger can raise your body temperature and help burn calories through thermogenesis,” he said.

“They also boost your metabolism and immune system, making you feel more energetic and recover faster from workouts. Plus, they reduce inflammation, which can soothe sore muscles.”

Stay hydrated

Hewlett explained that when you exercise in cold weather, your body has to do two things at once, which is to keep your muscles moving and to keep them warm.

But this extra effort means your body needs more water than usual.

“Also, the air in winter is usually drier, which means you lose more water just by breathing, and in cold weather, your sweat evaporates faster,” he said.

“It might trick you into thinking you’re not sweating much and not losing much water, but you are.”

Tips for effective winter hydration

Consume liquids regularly: Hewlett stressed that it’s essential to drink water before you feel thirsty, particularly in the cold. He suggested setting a reminder to take fluids every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise to stay adequately hydrated.

Monitor your fluid intake: One practical way to monitor hydration is to check the colour of your urine.

“A pale straw indicates proper hydration, whereas a dark colour suggests drinking more fluids,” Hewlett explained.

Choose warm fluids: Drinking warm liquids such as herbal teas or broths can increase fluid intake and help maintain body temperature.

Hewlett added: “Warm drinks are soothing and more comfortable in cold weather than ice-cold beverages”.

Use hydration packs: Hewlett suggested using a hydration pack for longer exercise sessions.

“These packs are convenient for sipping small amounts of water over extended periods and can be kept close to your body to prevent the water from freezing,” he said.

Hydrate before, during and after workouts: Begin your hydration protocol before starting your workout to ensure you’re correctly hydrated.

Hewlett believes that maintaining hydration throughout your activity and replenishing fluids after finishing, aids with recovery.

Be mindful of electrolyte balance: Cold weather activities can also deplete your body’s electrolytes, essential for muscle function and water balance.

“Consider an electrolyte replacement drink or add a pinch of salt to your water if you exercise for longer than an hour,” Hewlett said.

Essential winter supplements

While getting enough vitamin D can be challenging during winter it’s essential for keeping bones strong and your immune system healthy.

“You can get vitamin D from the sun, foods like egg yolks, fatty fish and supplements,” Hewlett said.

“Omega-3 supplements are also great for reducing inflammation and improving heart health during the colder months,” he said.

Hewlett concluded that by choosing the right foods and managing your nutrition wisely, you can keep your performance high and your body healthy throughout the winter season.