Tips for fueling in cold conditions - Skyrunner® World Series

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Planning a run in the Alps this weekend? Remember, these mountains are well-known for their unpredictable weather conditions, especially at this time of year and therefore require extra nutritional planning. Cold environments, alone or with altitude exposure, can cause adverse conditions such as breathing discomfort associated with reactive airways, freezing and non-freezing cold injury, and hypothermia.

When it’s cold, our energy requirements increase to meet the corresponding increase in our resting metabolic rate. This occurs as the body tries to adapt to the cold environment by stimulating muscle contractions, also known as shivering, in order to generate heat. Shivering is your body’s way of maintaining its core temperature, and in doing so, the body burns calories for energy.

By increasing your calorie intake, you can ensure you have enough energy to maximize muscle glycogen stores so your body is prepared for cooler temperatures. Here are some tips on how to fuel up and stay energized for skyrunning in cold conditions:

  • Increase carbohydrate intake during early acclimatization. Additional CHO (carbon hydrogen oxygen) or even CHO-based supplements are required, even at rest. Examples of these are sport drinks or other CHO-rich fluids, dried fruits, grains, cereals, sports bars or gels.
  • Fluid intake should also be increased. Cold air tends to be dry and exercising in cold, dry conditions increases the amount of fluids lost through respiration, which must be replaced to prevent dehydration.
  • Consuming warm foods and liquids is both a pleasant and an effective way to warm the body. Studies done on a group of mountaineers showed that warm drinks had a positive effect on their mood with subjects reporting less fatigue when tea was included in their diet.
  • Runners are also likely to experience an increase in appetite, resulting in greater voluntary food intake during multiple days of cold exposure. We suggest you keep the following snacks closeby:
    • Whey protein shake diluted in water + 2 bananas + 1 ham and cheese sandwich
    • 1 Whey protein shake + 70 g Maltodextrins (dilute with 500 mL water)
    • Protein milk + 1 fruit + 1 loaf of bread with 2 slices of lean cheese