Your Winter Sports Nutrition Guide

If you are a winter athlete, you want to pay careful attention to your sports diet. Otherwise, lack of food and fluids can take the fun out of your outdoor activities. These tips can help you fuel wisely for cold weather workouts.

Winter Hydration Tips

Failing to drink enough fluids is a major mistake. A study comparing the hydration status of athletes who skied or played football or soccer, reported the skiers had the highest rate of chronic dehydration. Before a competition, 11 of the 12 alpine skiers showed up dehydrated.

Some winter athletes purposefully skimp on fluids to minimize the need to urinate. There's no doubt that undoing layer after layer of clothing (ski suit, hockey gear, etc.) can be a hassle. Yet dehydration hurts performance and is one cause of failed mountaineering adventures.

Cold blunts the thirst mechanism; you'll feel less thirsty despite significant sweat loss and may not "think to drink."

Winter athletes (especially those skiing at high altitudes) need to consciously consume fluids to replace the water vapor that gets exhaled via breathing. When you breathe in cold dry air, your body warms and humidifies that air. As you exhale, you lose significant amounts of water. You can see this vapor ("steam") when you breathe.

Unless you are hot, you do not want to drink icy water (i.e., from a water bottle kept on your bike or outside pocket of your pack). Cold water can cool you off and give you the chills. The better bet is having an insulated water bottle or a bottle filled with a hot sports drink, then covered with a wool sock to help retain the heat.

Dress in layers so you sweat less. Sweaty clothing drains body heat. As the weather becomes "tropical" inside your exercise outfit, make the effort to strip down. You'll stay drier and warmer. Simply taking off a hat is cooling—30 to 40 percent of body heat is lost through the head.

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