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Exercising in the Cold – What to eat and Drink

The cold weather brings about some challenges for athletes who participate in sports in winter or indeed in winter sports. Individuals who participate in exercise in the cold, need to take a number of precautions so as they stay comfortable, safe and so they still perform to an optimal level when the temperature decreases.

The areas that usually are of concern to those who exercise in cold weather include:

  • Understanding the basic cold weather exercise safety guidelines (i.e. warming up).

  • Frostbite and hypothermia

  • Wearing the appropriate attire for exercising in the cold.


What you eat and drink prior to cold-weather activity and exercise will assist you with improving performance and staying comfortable and safe. Proper nutrition helps to regulate your core temperature; it will keep your body warm and will also provide enough fuel to your muscles to ensure they continue working properly throughout matches, training or runs.


Cold weather results in a drop in body temperature. When this happens the metabolism increases to warm and humidify the air that you breathe and this results in more calories being burnt to ensure your body keeps warm. When you breath in cold air,   your body is forced to warm that air and with each exhalation, you lose significant amounts of water (as it is being humidified). Therefore, during winter exercise, more fluids need to be consumed to replace the water that gets lost through respiration. This is not helped by the fact that a desire to drink fluids is naturally reduced in cold weather. Dehydration is one the biggest reasons attributing to reduced performance in the cold.


In terms of eating prior cold weather activity, warm foods are ideal but not always practical (in terms of availability and portability). Cold foods and fluids can chill the body. In the summer time this cooling effect is useful but in the winter, hot foods are the smarter choice. Complex carbohydrates should be consumed 24 hours before exercise. Soups, breads, bagels, pasta, baked potatoes, cereals, peanut butter, lean meat and low fat cheeses are all very good examples of what to consume.

Continually eating to replenish carbohydrate stores which are being used for warming is very important. You are likely to feel more fatigued and chilled if you do not replace this energy. Children get hungrier more often and also fatigue faster. So for children who are exercising it is important to plan ahead and bring plenty of energy bars, trail mix bars, bananas, sandwiches or something they like, to give them a good boost of energy.

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