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Winter Exercising, the right way!

Posted Jan 14 2013 6:58am

Nancy Clark is a complete sports nutrition genius! So I'm reading a lot of her work, articles & books lately!

When the temperature drops outside, the last thing we want to do is get detached from the warmth of our homes; however, given that I vowed to increase my physical activity this year and that I prefer exercising outside as opposed to the gym, learning 'how' to exercise in the cold is a must!

Hiking in Barouk
Shot by Bassam ZeinEddine

Winter Hydration - To start with, keep in mind that cold reduces the thirst mechanism; you will feel less thirsty and may not think to drink more often even if you are sweating. This actually happens with me all the time so whenever I am exercising outside during winter – whether bicycling, hiking, running or skiing, I am doing my best to consciously consume fluids to replace what is lost from sweat as well as water vapour exhaled when breathing. Nancy also suggests not to drink icy water, one that is kept in your backpack or on your bike. Instead, keep an insulated bottle of water filled with lukewarm/hot water to avoid any chills! Some choose to skip fluid breaks to minimize the need to urinate (yes, this is true!), but dehydration hurts one's performance so remember to drink!
Winter Food – Fuel up on food before you start any exercise with a high carb, medium protein, low fat meal. Not only does food provide you with fuel to pump up your exercise, but it also generates 10% extra body heart, aka thermogenesis for warmth, just 30-60 minutes after you eat! For example, I am having 3 hours before my workout: - peanut butter & toast with an apple/banana
- yogurt with fruit & almonds
- sandwich of thyme & oil/cheese/labne with cucumber
Or an apple/banana/grapes before 30 minutes to an hour before my workout!
Now in your backpack, always keep a source of quick sugars, preferably fruits or dried fruits, but chocolate and energy bars can come in handy as emergency foods! I also tend to keep raw nuts, but I rarely eat them while hiking, it's right after I finish that I have my fruit &/or nuts. Now during winter, your energy needs do not increase per say; however when your body temperature decrease, you will start involuntarily moving to generate heat, which burns extra calories. In case your temperature further drops, you will start shivering which can burn up to 400 calories/hr depleting muscle glycogen, this is why emergency food is needed, especially if you are injured or get lost in the cold. Keep them in your backpack either way!
Dress for the weather – Hats, scarves, waterproof shoes, and lots of layers! Experts suggest that the 1st layer (closest to your skin) should be made of a synthetic material (like polypropylene), not cotton, in order to minimize sweat contact. Fleece or wool is good as an insulating 2nd layer, and a 3rd top layer should ideally be made of a waterproof and breathable cloth. Lose heavy jackets for they will overheat you! Keep an extra dry layer in your backpack, you never know! Nancy suggests to lose layers as we become warmer, but this still depends on the weather outside.
Winter Recovery Foods – No cold/frozen food and fluids for they will definitely chill your body no matter how hot you think you are. Instead, have warm fluids, soups and food to replenish what you have burned. Carbs & proteins are both needed so you can go for oatmeal with nuts, lentils soup, pasta with meat red sauce, toast and eggs, or cheese & turkey heated sandwich!
Make sure to protect your skin from the sun, especially on higher altitudes! Winter is not a good excuse to dump your outdoor activities, after all, summer bodies are earned during winter!
Reference The Athlete's Kitchen  
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