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Mona Rosene is a nutrition expert providing consulting services specializing in sports nutrition and complementary and alternative nutrition and shares some of her expertise with our readers in her column

Written by Admin    Friday, 03 February 2012 22:23    PDF Print E-mail
Winter Nutrition: Optimize the Off-Season


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While we all look forward to a little break from structured workouts and specific nutrition plans, we should use the off-season to focus on weak areas and adjust our nutrition program. If we aren’t careful, we could easily slip backwards, not only in performance but also in nutritional goals.

Let’s take a look at winter sports nutrition needs to optimize performance for the upcoming race season. 

Stay Hydrated

Many athletes who live and train in a cold climate forget to hydrate. Cold weather blunts the thirst mechanism, and you may feel less thirsty. If you live at a high altitude and cross train with outdoor activities such as snowshoeing or skiing, you need to be even more conscious of fluid needs. In the winter, your body warms and humidifies the air as you inhale, and when you exhale a significant amount of water is lost.

I do not recommend cold liquids during winter, they tend to cool you down and give you the chills. Try warm liquids in an insulated thermos or water bottle, which may include:

  • A warm sports drink.
  • Soup – yep, you read that correctly, I said soup.
  • If you are still training hard in the off-season you need electrolytes, and soup is a great way to stay warm and get enough sodium. 
  • Warm water – consume room temperature water in the winter.

Energy Needs

Most athletes decrease the frequency and intensity of their workouts in the winter. This means energy (calorie) needs should decrease respectively. Weight gain can occur if you eat too much, primarily due to bored and less activity. And the temptation of holiday parties can have a significant impact. To minimize weight gain, follow these tips:

  • Stay active and decrease calories as needed.
  • Work with your coach to address any areas of improvement.
  •  Avoid gels and bars. Choose whole foods over convenient foods.
  • Consume a sports drink to replace electrolytes if your workout requires it.
  • Choose wisely at holiday parties.
  • Don’t go to holiday parties hungry, eat a small snack first so you can focus on enjoying everyone’s company.
  • Limit alcohol, which is a significant cause of winter weight gain and makes it more difficult to lose weight.
  • Limit sweet, high-calorie options – try fruit with a little dark chocolate to satisfy your sweet craving.

Avoid Illness

It’s cold and flu season, so eat well to decrease your chances of getting sick.

  • Eat with the season.
  • Broccoli and tomatoes aren’t in season during the winter. Try foods such as winter squash and sweet potatoes instead.
  • Quality protein.
  • Since it’s hunting season, experiment with wild game such as elk or venison.
  • Fat – do not forget this, we need more in the winter due to drier temperatures.
  • Choose high-fat fish such as salmon; incorporate nut butter and avocado, and healthful oils such as olive oil or almond oil.
  • Choose whole foods.
  • Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. This rule applies no matter the season.

Follow these tips, train hard, get adequate rest, and you’ll come into the season at peak performance!



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