Fueling for Winter Runs

The inconvenient combination of snow and cold weather can sabotage some of the most determined long runs, but there are a few things to help you get out of the door. By understanding how your body changes in cold weather and including more carbs and healthy fats into your diet, you can conquer any winter workout!

Here’s a few tips to stay safe whether you’re running on trails or roads:

  • Choose fresh snow over packed snow for better traction.
  • Shortern your stride for running more efficiently.
  • Walk over icy patches to avoid slips and falls.
  • Make sure you're still hydrating properly even if you don't feel thirsty.
  • Warm your body as soon as possible after your run.

Cold weather affects your body differently so consider making a few changes if you're in a winter rut.

Don't forget to bring nutrition

With having to wear so many layers, it's easy to forget to pack energy gels or a handful of pretzels into our pockets when that space has already been reserved for an extra pair of gloves or a hat. However, it's important to carry nutrition with you, especially on long runs because our body actually works harder in cold temps.

The human body has two different types of fat that serve different purposes. White fat is the stubborn fat that lingers around our waistline and brown fat produces heat from food which burns calories. Since brown fat is constantly generating heat, it scorches more calories in the cold. One study showed that subjects burned an extra 5.3 percent of calories when the temperature dropped about 10 degrees.

Shivering also contributes to calories lost depending on the activity. Low-intensity shivering, the type of shivering that happens over a long period of time -like running a marathon- activate slow twitch fibers that prfer fat for fuel. High-intensity shivering requires fast twitch fibers which use carbs as fuel.

Make sure you're consuming 25 to 30 grams of carbs every 30 to 45 minutes to make sure your glycogen levels are topped off during your long runs.

Hydrate properly & plan pit stops

It can be a little confusing to know how much and how often you need to hydrate in cold weather. Even though you may not feel as thirsty as you normally would in milder weather, your body is still losing liquids through sweat; 1 to 2 loss of body weight from water losses can negatively affect your performance exhaustion more quickly. Quick tip: sip tea with honey and a pinch of salt before a long, cold run for quick-acting fuel and electrolytes for hydration.Hydrate, but plan accordingly- cold air increases the need to urinate.

Eat more nutrient-rich foods & healthy fats

  • Add extra berries and bananas to your oatmeal or smoothie
  • Eat more vegetables
  • Cook an extra ¼ cup of whole grains
  • Choose fish over chicken or meat for more healthy fats
  • Use more olive oil in your cooking
  • Top salads with avocado and nuts


This article originally appeared in Runner's World