Eating and drinking properly will help you make the most out of your skiing trips and other wintertime activities. Here’s what you need to know about nutrition and hydration for cross-country skiing, ski mountaineering and winter running.
Winter is a great time to be outdoors, whether you’re out for the day in the mountains or working up a quick sweat on the skiing tracks. Here are top tips on making the most out of your winter activities by former professional triathlete and nutritionist Kaisa Sali.
Being cold burns more calories
Your body uses a lot of energy to keep you warm. If you’re dressed properly and keep warm, you burn as many calories during winter as you would in warmer conditions. But if you’re so cold that you’re shivering, your energy consumption can actually multiply compared to warmer conditions (1).
Food is important for the body’s ability to produce heat (1). Usually, it’s not necessary to increase the amount of food you eat because of winter sports, but the timing of meals plays a very important role. During winter, it’s not wise to head out for a run or ski trip when you’re hungry. It’s also good to ingest some energy during the exercise.
Dehydration is a risk even in winter
You don’t sweat as much in sub-zero conditions as you do in warmer weather. However, during winter you lose a significant amount of fluid via breathing (1). In winter, the air is cold and dry. The respiratory system warms and moisturizes the air, thus using the body’s water reserves. You can witness this in action in the steam of your breath, as the air coming out is more humid than the air outside.
Another way to lose fluid in cold conditions is cold-induced diuresis. You might have noticed that you need to pee more in the cold. This happens because your circulation focuses on the centre of the body (2). For the kidneys, this gives the signal that there is excess fluid in the body, which then increases the need to pee.
While you ski, run or play other sports in winter, it’s important to keep in mind that you might not feel as thirsty as you would during summer: the feeling of thirst can reduce up to 40 % (2). That’s why it’s important to drink at regular intervals, so dehydration won’t sneak up on you.
Exercise during winter and immunity
The risk of getting an upper respiratory infection increases during the hours following rigorous exercise (3). In winter, the risk increases even more, as the air is drier. Also becoming cold can subject you to the flu.
Many know that it’s smart to put on a dry shirt and socks quickly after a run or a skiing trip. However, nutrition can prevent colds more effectively than dressing properly. It’s important to pay attention to getting enough energy and especially carbohydrates (3). In addition, it’s good to make sure you get enough vitamins D and C from the food or dietary supplements (3). Also, probiotics, which you can get from fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha and yoghurt, can be helpful (3).
Good energy sources for skiing and winter running
A great, classic way to enjoy winter is to pack up some lunch and head out on skis, snowshoes or foot. Warm soup or stew (like our iron-rich Thai stew) or a sandwich tastes great in the outdoors.
Nosht Salted Protein Bites are a good snack for winter activities. They include carbohydrates, fibre, fatty acids and plenty of beneficial nutrients from fruits and berries.
For more rigorous exercise, Nosht Energy Chews are a good choice. They have an optimal mix of quick carbohydrates and sodium. Our sports drink, Endurance Drink Mix, is a good option for sweaty workouts - and it tastes nice if you heat it up, too!
If you don’t sweat a lot and thus don’t need a lot of electrolytes, you can also try this simple winter drink recipe: mix 1 part of Bilberry & Eucalyptus Gel and 2-3 parts of hot water. It tastes just like warm blueberry juice with a touch of eucalyptus and includes carbohydrates and some sodium to help your performance.
Kaisa Sali is a nutritionist and a professional triathlete who ended her career last autumn by placing sixth at Ironman World Championships at Kona, Hawaii. In Nosht's blog, she shares her expertise in sports nutrition and how to make your gut your best ally in training and racing.
1: Doubt TJ (1991). Physiology of exercise in the cold. Sports Med 11:367-381
2: Kenefick, R.W., Hazzard, M.P., Mahood, N.V., Castellani, J.W. (2004). Thirst sensations and AVP responses at rest and during exercise-cold exposure. Med Sci Sports Exerc 36:1528-1534
3: Walsh NP (2018). Recommendations to maintain immune health in athletes. Eur J Sports Sci 18(6):820-31