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What to Eat Before, During, and After Cold-Weather Workouts

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When winter is in full swing, there are plenty of challenges you can face when you want to train outside (hey, the SHAPE Women's Half-Marathon is coming up in April). One thing most exercisers neglect in the winter is proper hydration, but it's not your fault—your brain's ability to detect thirst is less accurate in the cold. Many people skip drinking the fluids they need since they don't feel thirsty or aren't profusely sweating. Although your fluid needs in winter aren't as high as in the middle of summer when you're sweaty buckets, that doesn't mean you can ignore your hydration entirely. You lose fluids just by breathing in the cold air because your body adds humidity (i.e. moisture or condensation) to warm the air in your lungs. Dehydration can put a ding in your training pace or ability to exercise. For workouts lasting longer than 45 minutes or for intense exercise, like running sprints, it's important to fuel your body correctly. Here are some eating and hydration tips that will keep you on pace in the dead of winter.

What to eat before cold-weather exercise

  • Sip on green tea with honey. Green tea has antioxidants to fight inflammation and the honey provides pre-workout fuel. (Working out in the morning? Here's a deeper look at exactly what you should eat before and after your sweat session depending on what workout you're doing.)

  • Enjoy a broth-based soup for lunch. Soup has liquids and salt to provide the electrolytes you'll need during activity.

  • Carry around a water bottle and drink throughout the day.

What to eat during cold-weather exercise

  • Wear a fuel belt with warm or room-temperature fluids. No one wants to drink cold liquid while in sub-freezing temperatures.

  • Use sports products that are easy to open and eat, like GUs and gummies. Stopping exercise for a long time to eat can cause the body to get unnecessarily cold. (Take a look at these other tasty alternatives to energy gels.)

What to eat after cold-weather exercise

The best winter weather recovery not only provides essential protein and healthy carbs for recovery and muscle-building, but it also warms you up.

  • Soups or stews: Opt for one with veggies and protein, like a white bean or lentil soup. Veggies have antioxidants to fight post-workout inflammation, and protein rebuilds tired muscles.

  • Chili: One of the best things about chili is that it contains a variety of foods—veggies, beans, and lean protein—all of which help the body recover faster.

  • Hot chocolate made with milk: Don't feel like a meal immediately after a workout? A nice warm cup of hot chocolate made with milk will provide protein and carbs and warm you up from the inside.

Don't Forget to Dress Appropriately!
Another important aspect of cold-weather exercise is dressing properly. (This guide to cold-weather running clothes will help you choose exactly what to wear.) Being overdressed can cause excessive sweating, which leads to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Being underdressed can cause shivering, which can cause you to burn up to 2.5 times more calories (no a good thing in this case) and need extra fuel.

  • Wear layers. Your body will warm up as it moves, so it's best to start with heavier clothes and shed layers as you go.

  • Wear wicking fabrics. Most athletic clothing has material that wicks away sweat to keep you dry. Don't wear anything cotton, as it has trouble drying if it gets wet.

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