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8 Fantastic foods for Winter athletes

By: Heather Balogh + Save to a List

Exercising during the winter can be tough. Not only are you battling slushy roads and icy trails but you are also dealing with arctic temperatures. These cold days means that you likely burn more calories while at rest—in order to stay warm—and possibly while working out. With all this calorie torching, what’s an athlete supposed to eat during those snowy months?

Fortunately, food options are plenty and I've got just the list to help you out!

1. Pistachios

A close-up of green pistachioi nuts from above.
Image by Joanna Kosinska

There's a reason that pro cyclist Mark Cavendish declared American pistachios his favorite snack! Packed full of goodness like vitamin A, B vitamins, iron, manganese and protein, pistachios just need the addition of a carbohydrate to make a full and satisfying meal. Plus, they’re green and fun to eat; what more could you want?

2. Protein shakes

Protein shakes are an easy way to cram in a variety of nutrients that your body needs for a chilly day outside. The added protein provides slow-release energy for a morning of movement while helping athletes build muscle. Add in some green veggies like spinach or kale and you’ve got yourself one satisfying snack.

3. Bacon, egg, and cheese bagel sandwich

According to Paige Kumpf, an ACE Personal Trainer and Health Coach in Colorado, a bacon, egg and cheese bagel sandwich is the perfect way to kickstart a snowy day on the mountain. Not only is it a tasty food option but there are some health benefits too. “The combination of carbohydrate, protein and fat will ensure sustenance for any winter sport,” Kumpf explains.

A from-above image of bright magenta beets grouped together on a dark grey surface.
Image by Emma-Jane Hobden

4. Beets

Sounds weird, right? While it may not be the obvious choice, beets are the perfect snack for wintertime athletes. In particular, it’s the beet juice that’s going to help you out. Some studies have shown that juicing 3-5 beets per day will lead to a 15% increase in the time it takes to reach exhaustion. Of course, that’s a lot of beets and the sheer quantity alone could do a number on your digestive track. Our suggestion? Find the amount that seems to work best for you.

5. Water

It may be a stretch to categorize water as a food, but I think it’s important to mention. It’s a lot trickier to notice dehydration during the winter months and your body won’t give you the same thirst signals that it does during the summer. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and ready for action.

6. Oatmeal with cinnamon

A from-above image of oatmeal with nuts and bananas in a white bowl. A spoon rests in the oatmeal.
Photo by Rachel Hathaway

It’s a classic breakfast for a good reason. Not only is oatmeal rich in protein and soluble fiber, but it’s also a complex carbohydrate. What does this all mean? It’ll take a bit longer for your body to digest, providing you with energy longer. Throw in a dash of cinnamon for a kick of taste with immune-boosting traits. Truly, it’s a winning combination.

7. Chili

Ok, so there may be some unpleasant side effects with this meal, but trust me when I say that the benefits outweigh the possible embarrassment. Beans, the key ingredient in chili, are a fantastic protein-carbohydrate combination. The carbs will fuel your adventures while the protein helps rebuild muscles after the fact. Of course, chili is also served warm which is an added bonus. There is nothing like a hot meal to warm your insides after a day in the snow.

A from-above view of pizza with cheese, red sauce, and fresh greens.
Photo by Saundarya Srinivasan

8. Pizza

To be fair, I realize that pizza may not top every list of athlete-approved foods, but I wanted to throw it into the mix. Sure, it’s not a health food but the individual ingredients in pizza truly have potential, especially if you add a lot of veggie toppings. Plus, pizza has plenty of calories, fats, sodium and carbs to fuel you on a long day out in the cold. As an added bonus, wrap a slice or two in foil and take it with you on your next backcountry adventure. According to Ben Fullerton, photographer and videographer for Caveman Collective, cold pizza is the best for summit days.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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