Fueling Your Winter Workout

The temperature outside may be in the single digits, but don’t let it deter your exercise regimen. Keeping up with winter workouts is an important part of maintaining a healthy weight (plus, the extra endorphins can help leave the winter blues at bay). Cold weather is known to stimulate your appetite, and the weather change can also cause cravings for carbohydrates1. These changes, along with holiday feasts, contribute to the common winter weight gain.

The food we consume is used as fuel for our bodies. When it’s cold out, we use part of this energy to produce heat to stay warm, through a process called thermogenesis. Within 30-60 minutes of eating, we produce up to 10% more heat than when our stomachs are empty2. We also use energy to warm the air we breathe as well as when we shiver to keep our bodies warm. These are all important reasons to ensure you have adequate energy before starting your workout!

Two to three hours prior to exercising, eat a balanced meal of carbohydrates, slightly high in protein and fat. This will supply your body with the energy you need and keep you full by slowing stomach emptying. Try oatmeal with walnuts and cinnamon, chicken noodle soup, or a vegetable omelet with avocado.

Post workout, replenish your energy stores within 30 minutes. After coming inside from the frigid outdoors, a warm meal may be preferred. Try hot cocoa, a turkey avocado wrap, or chili.

Don’t forget about hydration! People are more likely to be dehydrated in the winter. Cold weather blunts our thirst mechanism, so although you may not feel thirsty, you still need fluids3. Also, with so many layers on, many forgo extra liquids to prevent the hassle of having to use the bathroom. However, being dehydrated may hurt your performance ability. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Drink room temperature or hot liquids, as cold liquids slow down recovery and may give you the chills
  • Consume 2 cups of fluid 2 hours before a workout and another 1-2 cups shortly before starting.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol before working out, as these are natural diuretics.

Winter fitness: safety tips for exercising outdoors. Mayo Clinic. 2014. Available at:
Young, L. 8 foods to fuel your winter activities. Best Health Magazine. 2009. Available at:
Gorman, C. Winter games: you can still exercise when the mercury dips, but do it carefully. Time. 2004;163(4).