Nutritional Considerations for Training in Cold Temperatures

Winter is here! And with it comes a variety of environmental factors (hello, cold temperatures, snow, cold rain, wind, less sunlight, etc.) that impact your planned training and nutritional needs. The following information helps to outline some core nutrition concepts to optimize your health and winter training plans.

Focus on Fluids

Hydration plays a key role in performance and injury prevention. When exercising in cold weather a person is more prone to dehydration due to changes in thirst perception, increased fluid losses via urination, and reduced desire to drink cold fluids. Further, it may be more common to exercise while in altitude during cold months, such as with skiing, snowboarding, running, and/or hiking. It is well understood that exercising in altitude creates greater fluid losses from increased ventilation and insensible water loss. Therefore, it is helpful to maintain a hydration schedule when exercising in cold temperature, and drink 2-3 cups of fluid for each pound of sweat loss afterwards. Drinking to thirst may promote dehydration since perception of thirst is altered. If possible, consuming warmed beverages during and after training helps to encourage a greater fluid intake.

Preventing Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D has several key functions in human health: supports bone integrity, plays a role in immune function, it is neuroprotective, it is needed for calcium absorption, aids in muscle strength, and deficiency is correlated with depression. Winter months tend to see a higher prevalence of deficiency among Americans since vitamin D is created by direct sunlight when it makes contact with skin. Therefore, it is best to incorporate food sources that are rich in vitamin D, such as: tuna, salmon, milk/milk alternatives, fortified eggs, white fish, and fortified tofu. Supplementation may be warranted of 2000 IU per day if there is detected deficiency and/or if there is a history of stress injuries.

Hunger and Energy Needs

Training in cold weather can promote shivering. The body requires extra energy to maintain an optimal body temperature when exercising in cold weather. Further, appetite is stimulated by the cold. Therefore, athletes should feel empowered to liberalize and increase their energy intake on days where they plan to train outdoors in cold temperatures. This can maintain adequate energy availability, enhance performance, and reduce injury risk.

Iron Considerations

Iron is a mineral that is essential for oxygen transport to all of the tissues in the body. Not only does iron deficiency compromise oxygen delivery while increasing perceived fatigue and poor recovery, but deficiency hinders the body’s ability to maintain core body temperature in cold environments. Iron supplements are warranted if there is detected deficiency. Otherwise, it is best to include a variety of foods that have heme iron (animal sources) and non-heme iron (plant sources). Suggested foods include beef, poultry, seafood, dark leafy greens, beans, and fortified bread products.

If you plan to train outdoors during cold winter months, adjusting your nutritional intake accordingly will enhance your training responses and health. If you are unsure of how to develop an individualized nutrition plan for yourself in the winter months, reach out to Shira Evans Nutrition LLC today.  Happy winter training!


  1. Karpinski, C. and Rosenbloom, C.A. (2017). Sports Nutrition. A Handbook for Professionals (6th Edition). Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
  2. Bubnis, M.A. and Hulsopple, C. (2022). Human performance and injury prevention in cold weather environments. Curr Sports Med Rep, 21(4):112-116.
  3. Castellani, J.W., et al. (2021). ACSM expert consensus statement: Injury prevention and exercise performance during cold-weather exercise. Curr Sports Med Rep, 20(11): 594-607.

6 thoughts on “Nutritional Considerations for Training in Cold Temperatures”

  1. This article is packed with so much usable information! You think about all these things you’re supposed to do to stay healthy year round, but never really think about how your body’s needs can change with the weather. So helpful!

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