The Best Ways to Refuel After Hard Workouts in the Cold

Refueling after a hard workout during the cold, wet months of winter isn't much different than in the warmer seasons.

The perks about winter training are the abundance of nutritious foods this season. Butternut squash, vegetable stew, chestnut, cauliflower and celery root are a few seasonal items that replenish the body after a tough workout and taste so good.

Regardless of the seasonal conditions, sports dietitians agree that when you refuel, the ratio of carbs-to-protein you eat and hydration are the three most important components of proper refueling.

When to Refuel

After a long run or ride, the general rule is to eat a snack or meal that contains at least 300 calories in the first 20 to 30 minutes after your workout. If you've worked out for 2 hours, you've used a lot of your glycogen stores, which are a major source of carbohydrates for your muscles during exercise. If you don't replenish them, you will likely feel fatigued when you train the next day, according to Nick Fischer, the dietitian for the Pittsburgh Marathon.

If you wait longer than 45 minutes, it may be too late to stop the body from producing cortisol, a hormone created during exercise that causes muscles to atrophy.

More: How to Refuel and Recover After Your Race

The Carb-to-Protein Ratio

The best recovery snacks and meals include carbohydrates and protein in a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio. In other words, you want 3 or 4 grams of carbohydrates for every 1 gram of protein, according to Jay Zacharias, a USAT-certified coach and licensed primary sports nutritionist.

Eating carbohydrates after you workout resets your blood sugar and helps protein and essential nutrients make their way to your muscle cells. Right after you work out is when your body is most receptive to converting those carbs to glycogen and storing it in the muscles.

Protein helps repair microtears in the muscles and prompts the growth of new tissue. However, if you eat too much protein, it will slow the digestion of the carbs, which is why the 3:1 or 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio is ideal.

More: The Truth About Carbs, Protein and Your Performance

Cold-Weather Hydration

Dehydration is one of the main culprits for reduced performance and poor recovery in the cold. Breathing in cold, dry air causes your body to warm and humidify that air. With every exhalation, you lose substantial amounts of water. Although you may not have a desire to drink as much in the cold, replacing that lost water is essential so you don't become dehydrated.

More: 8 Tips for Hydrating in Cold Weather

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About the Author

Nicole Reino

Nicole Reino is the nutrition editor for Active.com. She's a yogi, runner, cook and real-foods enthusiast.

Nicole Reino is the nutrition editor for Active.com. She's a yogi, runner, cook and real-foods enthusiast.

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