Nutrients to Help Fuel Chilly Weather Fitness

Feel the brrrr! ‘Tis the season for welcoming (or avoiding) cooler climate workouts…

snow run

I always find it discouraging when the temp drops and daylight diminishes, especially when our outdoor pursuits start to dwindle too. Being confined to a hamster wheel all winter long doesn’t make me super keen to lace up indoors. So with the exception of blizzards and stone cold black ice, wintery weather doesn’t have to keep us from getting out there.

Perhaps that means pounding the pavement in ski socks, an over-sized toque and mittens (yep that’s me), opting for a warm yoga class, snowshoeing or brazenly sporting an 80’s neon onesie on the slopes. PS: last weekend marked opening season for my home mountain base, Whistler & Blackcomb! Wahoo!

Whatever you’re into this winter, stocking the energy fuel tank with some key nutrients can help boost endurance and winterize our immune systems.


These days, it’s hard to find a health headline that doesn’t tag antioxidants. Granted, they’re pretty amazing (most notably vitamins A, C, E and minerals zinc & selenium). They neutralize free radicals in the body caused by environmental toxins, poor quality fats, refined foods and believe it or not – exercise!

The body is brilliant when it comes to creating antioxidant enzymes against many of these free radicals (which aren’t all bad). The more training we do, the more adept we get at it. That being said, this is where diet and nutrition slide in to support our body’s own natural defense system.

  • Super sources: goji berries, wild blueberries, beans & legumes, green tea, dark leafy greens.


Muscle power! Magnesium plays an integral role in muscle contractions and nervous system health, along with proper calcium absorption, so it’s wise to keep up a steady supply.

  • Super sources: dark leafy greens (surprise?), nuts & seeds, avocado, banana.

These fatties are loaded with anti-inflammatory properties, which help with muscle and tissue repair during recovery. They also enhance our aerobic metabolism by helping deliver oxygen to cells. How kind of them!

  • Super sources: wild oily fish (salmon, cod), flax, hemp, pumpkin seeds, chia, walnuts.

In cold weather workouts, we might not be as inclined to re-hydrate when we’re gasping Arctic air and regulating our internal body heat (gotta love those moisture-wicking layers).

Breathing in cold air causes respiratory fluid loss, and sweat actually evaporates in chilly conditions (explained better here). Even though we might not be parched post-workout in winter, it’s still crucial to stay hydrated before, during and after a cool energy burst.

After an intense bout of exercise out in the cold, our muscle glycogen stores usually need a top-up (ie. recovery snack). As a type 1, I’ve had my fair share of cardio workouts being cut short due to crashing low blood sugar (ugh), which we can’t always control. When we aren’t scrambling for an immediate boost during exercise, we also need carbohydrates to help recover.

Complex carbohydrates are on better terms with blood sugar than the straight up ‘high glycemic’ variety as they ease into the bloodstream at a more cruisy pace. According to my sport nutrition course, some experts say that consuming quality complex carbs with a little protein after exercise (ex. banana with almond butter on toast) can help speed up recovery. With type 1 diabetes, this can be tricky as we still need to compensate for carbs with insulin but also factor in the exercise, which might mean we need less insulin.

Happy winter workout fueling!

warming up by the fire

warming up by the fire

Diabetic disclaimer: other than GlucoLift in the US, I have yet to track down a glucose tab that isn’t filled with synthetic colours or additives. When I get active in the cold, I always bring along some back-up energy (like CLIF shot bloks, Vega energy bars, Honey Stinger energy chews). I’ve also been known to run with a juice box in hand in case things go south. Safety first, kids.


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