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The right nutrition during winter activities

The right nutrition during winter activities

With the cold setting in, it’s time to swap your summer running shoes for your snowshoes, cross-country skis, snowboard, Fat Bike or skates. Engaging in winter sports is a good way to appreciate Quebec’s winter, which can sometimes seem endless. Now that you have found YOUR motivation, do you know how to eat well during these outings in the cold? Here are some tips and advice to enjoy winter and not endure it!

Energy requirements in cold weather

When you play sports in a cold environment, your body expends more energy than when you do the same activity in milder weather [1]. In addition to using energy to move muscles, the body must expend energy necessary to maintain body temperature and prevent hypothermia. Fortunately, the act of eating and digesting creates heat; this is called the “thermal effect” of food. This is why it is important to pack enough food in your backpack, especially if you are going to be away for several hours.

Cold weather digestion

Contrary to what one might think, fat is not to be preferred, even if it has a higher energy value. It takes a long time to digest it and, moreover, its consumption can expose you to certain digestive disorders if your activity is the least intense. Foods that are sources of carbohydrate are more easily digested, and protein releases more energy through digestion, which helps warm the body [2]! On the other hand, fat can be on the menu after activity, especially during very long hikes or climbs.


While water loss through sweat appears to be less in cold weather, those associated with breathing must be compensated for if dehydration is to be avoided. The more intense the effort, the more the respiratory rate increases, and the greater the water losses. To hydrate yourself, prefer hot liquids kept in a “thermos” such as broth, tea, herbal tea, hot chocolate and soup. In addition to warming you up, they are not likely to freeze! We love to make this home-made recipe because it can be drunk cold or warmed up to drink hot in a thermos.

The ideal backpack snack

For an energy-dense snack on the hike, mix up a mix of sweet and savory snacks to enjoy at stops: pretzels, dry cereals, cranberries, dates or other dried fruits and soybeans or salted peanuts, etc.

  • Choose fruit or dehydrated fruit bars, muffin bars, and bars with fruit or jam so they don’t harden.
  • To protect your snacks from freezing, keep them close to your body or rolled up in clothes in your bag, not in the external pockets.

Do your little ones follow you in your winter activities? Perfect! They’ll love energy balls or oatmeal patties where they can add anything they want: cereal, chocolate, sesame seeds, fruit purees, etc. They will obviously enjoy hot chocolate milk as much as you, if not more!

There is no shortage of challenges in winter, and all you have to do is equip yourself and feed yourself well to enjoy them! Feed your body so that it can survive those cold days, but oh so pleasant when spent in good company!


[1] van Marken Lichtenbelt, W. D., Schrauwen, P., van de Kerckhove, S., Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S. (2002). Individual variation in body temperature and energy expenditure in response to mild cold. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 282(5), E1077-E1083.

[2] N.Marieb, Elaine (1999). Anatomie et physiologie humaines. Canada : Éditions du Renouveau Pédagogique Inc., 1194 pages.

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