The Best Food for Winter Running – Nutrition Tips to Fuel Up!
Winter runs can be fun but also exhausting due to a harsh sometimes snowy and sometimes windy and rainy cold weather. Our body needs the right food to stay comfortable in the cold and perform at an optimal level, and not get nutritionally depleted. Which, if it happens, it can result in exhaustion, lack of energy and motivation to run.
The type of food runners should eat during the winter months will have four main tasks, to nourish the body, to keep the energies up, repair the muscles and keep the body warm. This type of food is:
Real Foods. To fuel runs in winter, eat real whole foods.
Warm Food. Eat warm carbohydrates to increase your body temperature and restore energy source.
Workout food. Protein is an essential food choice in winter for rebuilding muscles.
Stay hydrated. Even though you will feel less thirsty in winter, it is essential to drink lots of fluid.
Vitamins and Minerals. Vitamins and minerals are essential when it comes to keeping your immune system healthy.
Cold Weather Nutrition
I will not exaggerate too much when I say that during the cold temperatures you can eat all the possible (non-processed) food, if you are running regularly. Now, that does not mean that you can indulge in sweet cakes, muffins, pancakes, candies, sodas, and other unhealthy process foods. That is still a big no-no and frankly, you do not benefit from such food. What I referred to was the whole hearty foods which you can eat in abundance. 🙂
Naturally, there is a one condition to be fulfilled in order to feel as every day is Christmas during the cold temperatures and that is PRACTICE REGULARLY! And if you do, you will love the rich nutritious food winter has to offer + your running performance will sky-rocket. Yes, you can indulge in good food.
Well, during the cold days, we burn more calories in general, even without doing much, just to stay warm. When we do some exercise, we burn even more calories.
Also, when it is the cold weather, our body temperature drops and our body uses more energy to regulate the core temperature. When our body feels cold our brown fats need to burn more carbohydrates to create heat. Thus we need to make sure that our glycogen stores are well-stocked before and after a run.
Your body needs proper nutritious food in winter, to keep your body warm and to provide enough fuel for your muscles to work correctly.
One thing to keep in mind. We all have different workout routines. And there is no one type of food fits all.
What Type of Food to Eat in Winter?
The food we choose will affect how well we train, especially in winter. Carbohydrates are a vital nutrient for energy supply. But the number of carbs you need in winter will depend on the training load.
In addition to carbohydrates, our body also needs proteins, for repairing muscles, as well as minerals and vitamins.
Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants cannot be neglected in winter as they are essential nutrient-rich food especially when it comes to keeping your immune system healthy. Besides, diet rich in antioxidants protects your body from oxidative damage in winter, which can cause inflammation.
Perfect winter vitamin delights, for example, are cranberries, beets, leafy greens like kale, sweet potatoes, collard greens, arugula, spinach and citrus fruits like oranges, tangerines, grapefruits.
Did you know? Sweet potato is high in antioxidants. They contain carotenoids that help protect the cells from sun damage.
Tips for Healthy Food Selection for Your Pantry
Consume whole grain foods such as oats and brown rice with fruits and veggies to give you a vitamin boost. Include in your shopping list fruits and vegetables, like berries, broccoli, kiwi, dark leafy greens.
Nuts are excellent winter fatty delight to have all the time available on your dining table. They can be eaten as a snack or mixed with your favorite oatmeal recipe. You can add them to your main meals or make a healthy dessert or energy bars. Nuts are rich in vitamins, proteins, and healthy fats.
There is nothing more enjoyable than having a nice bowl of a hot meal in winter. After a cold air and exercise in cold temperatures, warm foods are brilliant to have on your winter menu. Ideal warm foods are oatmeal, rice, all sort of beans, cheese sandwich, spaghetti, couscous, pumpkin, potatoes, eggplants, squash, quinoa, lentils.
Oatmeal – The Breakfast of Champions. Oatmeal is my favorite food in winter for lots of reasons. First of all, it tastes good, and it warms up my tummy quick. You can add anything to it to boost the nutrient content, such as banana, nuts, dry fruits, protein powder and so on. Even though a complex carbohydrate, oatmeal is rich in protein and soluble fiber and it takes a bit longer for your body to digest, providing you with energy longer.
Often, I kick-start a cold day with a protein-rich sandwich. It has carbohydrates, proteins and fat, all which your body needs for energy.
If you are going through a specific training block such as strength and power phase, you will need to eat continually to replace carbohydrate stores that your body is using for running. If you do not replace this energy, you will fill chilled and weak. So plan your meals and your runs. Eat before or after a specific workout.
When shopping your winter fuel
Remember that winter foods should make you feel full, warm and nourished. So the foods you buy from the shop, their task is to nourish your body, maintain your ideal body temperature, thus, keep you warm, quickly repair muscles, to keep your energy levels up, and to support your immune system.
I shop twice a week (if lucky, you can get your food delivered once a week from a local shop or a farmer). This way I make sure I always have a good supply of fresh food at home.
Even though in general we feel less thirsty in winter, remember to drink plenty of fluids to replace the water that gets lost via respiration.
– Make sure your meals are rich in proteins, starches, and vegetables.
– Do not skip breakfast.
– Eating warm food after a run, it helps muscle recovery.
– When running long runs, have an energy bar or two hidden in your pockets. Your muscles will thank you later.
– Make a list of winter foods local to your area and keep it on your fridge. – Take the list with you when grocery shopping.
– Choose quality carbs, avoid chips 🙂
Your meals should be nutritious and healthy, but they do not have to be complicated to prepare. Make simple, nutritious meals at home. Make smart food choices to fuel your workouts and cook food according to your needs.
For example, for high-volume training, add more calories, like avocado, mixed nuts, sides of butter.
Cook your favorite starch like rice, quinoa or couscous. Stir-fry or bake vegetables. Combine rice with vegetables. Add fish or chicken. With this meal, you can have a nice bowl of mixed salad. Salad can have, lettuce, cucumber, cheese, arugula, beetroot. Or, make a fruity/salty salad mix with apple, orange, pomegranate, cheese, and greens like kale and lettuce.
Sweet potato in the oven or a fresh pumpkin is also a great combo with vegetables. You can bake all the ingredients in the oven. Spice it up with some sweet Indian spices, like cumin, and you will in no time have a nutritious meal. Add a slice of your favorite protein (lean meat or fish) and voila.’ Dinner is ready.
When it comes to breakfast, my favorite is, you guessed, oatmeal with banana, cinnamon, and honey. If I have plumbs, I’d add these as well to my farm oatmeal mix. I like oatmeal after a morning run. After such a nice meal, my stomach is warm and happy, as well as my muscles.
After a bit longer run, I would also prepare a protein shake. I like these because shakes are quick to make and because I know I’d give an extra vitamin and mineral boost to my body especially after a performance workout. My favorites are greens mixed with berries + I like to add maca powder, ginseng powder and other powders I usually have at home.
Athletes are different, and there is not a meal combo that fits all. So when you think of the food you need, make sure you get the right amount of energy to stay healthy and to perform well, or as expected. Once you stock your pantry with the right ingredients, the part where you combine different foods becomes rather easy and fun.
Also know, the right food itself is not enough to make you run faster. Hard work is still needed in winter and you need to put the work in to see results. Waffles with syrup will not do you good, but a bowl of mixed salad combined with a bowl of rice and fish, does the trick.
So, train smart, eat the right way and you will see the results you are seeking. 🙂