The third and final instalment of our Guide to Thriving this Winter : What to Eat!
Now, some of you may be reading this thinking: “How to eat? I’m pretty sure I’ve figured that one out already.”
And although this may be true for your day-to-day eating, many people don’t understand the way the cold effects the body, and why food is a key player in keeping you warm while you’re out and about.
To make sure I got the best info I could, I spoke with Gavin, a BASI (British Association of Snowsports Instructors) Instructor and Sports Coach to discuss how we should eat before, during, and after we head outside this winter.
Why do people need to think more about eating in winter?
Whenever you are planning on being active you need to make sure you eat well and stay hydrated. In wintertime this is twice as important, because your body is working twice as hard. Even before you start moving around, your body is working to maintain your temperature, burning up the fuel and resources you have provided. What’s more, the consequences of being dehydrated or running out of energy are much more serious in the wintertime. As you body runs out of the resources to keep itself warm you run the risk of exposing yourself to hypothermia or frostbite.
So what do we need to eat?
In the cold our bodies need more energy, which comes in the form of carbohydrates, and more water to stay hydrated.
When our bodies run low of fluids we become dehydrated. This leads to impaired concentration and focus, we become tired much faster, and find it harder to exercise. We also start metabolising carbs faster, meaning we run out of fuel faster. Although sugary drinks such as Coke or Red Bull may provide a temporary burst, nothing works as well at maintaining energy and hydration longer, than water.
When our bodies run out of carbs we start to get tired, we loose our coordination and some mental function, and our shivering response becomes delayed, meaning that your body does not trigger it’s natural heater.
Shivering is a very important signal the body gives us that our temperature is dropping. Think of it like the boiler in your house starting up when the thermostat is reading cold, the engines turn on the try to generate heat. This is what shivering is for our body and why it is so important, as it tells us that we need to warm up or we may become hypothermic.
What are some signs we can look out for to make sure we’re not running low on fuel?
Most people are used to recognising the main signs of low energy and dehydration in your friends and family. Things like impatience and irritability, tiredness or sluggishness, or feeling cold or unwell. Other ones include low mood or lack of motivation, reduced work rate and physical fatigue and weakness, or a change in behaviour or performance.
It is important to always look out for everyone’s well-being when you are out in cold climates. If someone seems tired or irritated, suggest that everyone take a hot chocolate break, or a granola bar.
Any final tips to take away?
- Plan ahead. It is best to eat every three hours, both meals and snacks, and as food can be scarce when in the woods or on a mountain plan ahead to make sure you take the food you will need, or plan your route to include food stops.
- Include carbs in both your meals and snacks, try to stick to unrefined carbs like oats, brown rice, wholegrain breads, potatoes, vegetables and fruit, as they take your body longer to breakdown, and provide energy longer. Unrefined carbs provide a good source of quick energy, things like cereal bars, white breads, pretzels, and chocolate milk, are broken down quickly and offer a quick burst of energy.
- Try to eat a good amount of proteins and healthy fats to help muscle recovery, and maintain energy levels.
- Finally, water. The importance of staying hydrated cannot be stressed enough, so always make sure you have enough with you to maintain hydration throughout your day. Camel packs are easy to carry and can fit in small day packs.
Sample Menu For An Active Day:
7am A good breakfast: porridge, with milk, honey, and yoghurt; water, fruit juice, and a hot drink
9am Snack: banana and water
11am Snack: trail mix, and hot chocolate
1pm Warm lunchtime meal: a bowl of vegetable soup and a ham and cheese sandwich; water and a hot drink
3pm Snack: granola bar and water
5pm Snack: milk drink
7pm Dinner: beef stew, with sweet potato and roast veg, apple crumble and custard, and water
For some other fun eating ideas, check out these links: