The transition from summer to winter training is typically pretty unpleasant and often the temptation to sit by the fire can override motivation to train.
However, winter training is fundamental preparation for the season ahead and therefore it's essential to get it right. You never know, you may actually find some smug enjoyment from being out in the wilderness, while most are tucked up inside.
We do realise that during winter, we are particularly susceptible to illness and injury, but it's amazing just how fuelling correctly on and off the bike can help.
Jill Leckey is the Senior Sports Nutritionist for Science in Sport (SiS) and is here to provide some top tips on how to fuel correctly over the cold, dark, winter months.
Jill completed a BSc and MSc in Sports Science at Liverpool John Moores University so certainly knows her fuelling for exercise.
[part title="Winter fuelling off the bike"]
During the winter month's healthy salads tend to get pushed to one side, in exchange for hearty stews and cups of tea, however, fuelling appropriately off the bike is absolutely essential to support intense training regimes.
Having a healthy balanced diet consisting mainly of lean protein e.g.
- Chicken, turkey, salmon, tuna steaks and eggs
Carbohydrate sources with a low to moderate glycemic index (GI) e.g.
- Sweet potatoes, quinoa, basmati rice
And a broad range of fruit and vegetables is ideal to cover all essential nutrients.
For example, rather than buying ready made soups, broths and pies etc. that are typically high in fat and low in nutritional value, try making your own soups, stews, stir-fry’s and omelettes with fresh vegetables, low GI carbohydrates, a lean protein source and a range of spices.
[part title="Winter fuelling on the bike"]
Similar to the summer months, fuelling up prior to training is incredibly important.
A carbohydrate meal with around 500 ml of fluid alongside, consumed 2-4 hours before increases carbohydrate stores and this can be followed by a small snack around one hour before.
During exercise the aim should be to consume up to 60 g of carbohydrate per hour in the form of glucose. This can be in the form of energy gels, bars, fluid or other food snacks. When it is cold and our priority is simply to stay warm, then we must make a conscious effort to fuel during exercise.
[part title="Winter fluid intake on the bike"]
One of the most overlooked aspects of fuelling in the winter months is fluid intake.
The concept of hydration is immediately associated with hot weather and is deemed less important in the winter months, as a consequence many athletes end up exercising in a dehydrated state.
This is in fact incorrect, especially as during the winter months we tend to layer up meaning sweat rates continue to be relatively high. Research has shown increased urine output and a blunted thirst response in the cold, with the latter helping to explain the reduced fluid intake and the conscious effort we have to make to drink.
Fluid intake is very much dependent on sweat rate and varies between individuals, however as a general recommendation consuming around 500-1000 ml of fluid per hour will promote hydration.
A carbohydrate and electrolyte drink which contributes towards fuelling and hydration is ideal, for example SiS GO Electrolyte.
Also, if you plan on having a coffee shop stop during a long ride, then instead of choosing a cup of coffee or tea to warm yourself up, try a hot SiS GO Hydro.
[part title="Recovery from exercise during winter months"]
Recovery after exercise should start within 30 minutes of finishing, a carbohydrate and protein combination is ideal at this time. This is particularly important following training in the cold, when the risk of injury and infection is higher.
A drink containing a fast digesting protein (whey or soy) and a high glycemic carbohydrate is a convenient way to initiate recovery, for example SiS REGO Rapid Recovery.
This should be followed by a meal soon after, for example carbohydrate e.g. rice, pasta with lean protein e.g. chicken, salmon and a selection of vegetables.
[part title="Winter supplements"]
Additional suggestions for winter nutrition include consuming a multivitamin. This is by no means a substitute for consuming fruit and vegetables but merely a back up to help reduce the risk of illness and infection.
Additionally, during the winter months a large proportion of athletes are vitamin D deficient, even those that train outdoors.
Vitamin D has a mass of functions within the body including maintaining bone health which is particularly important for athletes where stress fractures are common and more recently for its role in muscle functioning.
Consuming a vitamin D3 supplement can reduce the risk and potentially prevent vitamin D deficiency.