Riding in the cold weather presents some unique challenges on the body which you might not know about. Keeping Warm and dry out on the bike is important but when the cold weather hits, adequate nutrition can make a huge difference. Here are some of the challenges you might face and how to counter them.
Up to Twice as many Calories Burned
Some studies have shown that calorific burn can increase up to two times during exercise and more so strenuous training in wet, cold or icy conditions.
The weather itself can often provide additional resistance through rain, sleet and snow, but also the weight of additional clothing, your thermoregulation and inefficiency cycling in the cold can all increase your calorific burn.
Loss Of Appetite
It's well documented that cold weather cycling can blunt your appetite. If you struggle to consume a sufficient amount of calories, protein, carbohydrate you can significantly impair your performance.
It's important to be aware of your training volume and intensity. In many cases, cyclists drop their volume or intensity over winter, in which case you'd need to think carefully about reducing your calorie intake. Or perhaps you've moved your training onto the turbo, which often consists of intense intervals, in this case you'd need to look at increasing your calorie intake.
Don't Hydrate Less
Possibly the biggest challenge of cold-weather cycling and the largest inhibitor to your performance. Just like the feeling of hunger, the urge to drink can also be dulled during cold weather conditions. The physiological mechanisms that also prompt you to drink more in warm weather are responsible for this. Studies conducted by the International Olympic Committee have shown that the drive to drink is significantly lower in winter vs summer athletes.
Add to this, the general belief that exercising in the cold means you sweat less and you quickly forget to keep sipping from your bottle. But did you know... Although you might be sweating less, the cold air increases water loss via respiration. The body is forced to warm and humidify the air you breathe in!
We often experience another phenomenon known as "Cold Diuresis" where the constriction of our blood vessels in cold weather causes an increase in fluid circulating the core organs, which the body counteracts by increasing urine output.
How do I hydrate well?
If you're even slightly dehydrated, it can have a big impact on your performance. Checkout the urine chart in our other article here to see how to measure dehydration.
- Start Early, even before you get on the bike keep drinking regularly every 10-15 mins. Once you're on the bike, do the same thing. Little & Often!
- Weigh Yourself before and after exercising, and follow our article here to monitor your urine colour (Well hydrated = lots of it and straw coloured). Aim to reduce weight loss by less than 2%.
- Try warm liquids as your body can often tolerate them more easily. Use a flash or stick a sock over your cycling bottle.
- Make sure you can open your bottle with gloves on.
Why you should be topping up your Electrolytes! - Kendal Mint Co - Kendal Mint Co. | KMC | Quality British Sports Nutrition
Colder weather means more Carbohydrates
'Carbs' are the body's preferred source of energy, although we can only store a limited amount. So it's important to ingest carbohydrate regularly to avoid fatigue.
During cold weather, things such as shivering can increase the use of muscle and Liver glycogen (Our natural energy stores) by up to 7 times! This happens through a process called Carbohydrate Oxidation which studies show increases in cold weather, unlike fat oxidation. Research has shown that the most dominant source of carbohydrate oxidation, stimulated by the cold, is muscle glycogen. When shivering or when plasma glucose levels are low.
With increased glycogen depletion comes decreased performance and early fatigue, and increased risk of injury. Glycogen depletion can also impair thermoregulation causing your body temperature to decrease even more rapidly.
What should I do?
Start taking on glucose earlier during cold weather to reduce your body's reliance on Glycogen stores - Slow-release carbohydrate for breakfast; Porridge, Oats and dried fruit; Eggs on toast; soup and bread are all good options. You can even eat a snack such as raisins, bananas 30-60 mins prior to exercise to increase blood glucose.
- During exercise: 30-60g of Carbohydrate per hour for rides over an hour. Energy Bars, Gels and bananas are all great options. Try using an Isotonic sports drink such as KMC ISO MIX.
- Easy to open and use - just like fluids, you should be able to consume your fuel with your gloves on mid ride. Energy gels are an ideal functional product for this purpose.
- Post-workout is just as important for glycogen re-synthesis and muscle recovery, especially if you're aiming to go again the next day! Start re-fueling as soon as you can post exercise, recovery drinks such as the KMC PRO MIX provide an ideal blend of fast acting carbohydrate and proteins in this case. You can also opt for things such as milk, cereal, bagel and cheese, sandwiches with spreads such as peanut butter.
- Try to consume warm liquids and foods, they increase motivation to eat and help regulate your body temperature. Heat up your sports drink, have some hot porridge for breakfast, drink some warm milk post ride.