Three Ways To Stay Light For Winter Sports

Coach Ben Greenfield Add comments

Skate skiing, cross country skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and snowshoeing are all fabulous forms of cross-training for triathlon. So today, I went shopping for season tickets at the local ski resort.

But a bit of a paradox exists between the urge to strap on snowshoes, ice skates, skis or snowboard and the human propensity to gain fat in the winter. We may not hibernate like bears, but especially for Northern climate triathletes, our natural hormonal fluctuations cause us to want to eat more, sleep more, and exercise less in the winter.

However, it’s tough to stay light on your feet for winter triathlon cross-training sports if you’re carrying an extra ten pounds of insulation.

So here are three tips to ensure you battle the bulge over the winter:

1. Time Your Carbohydrates. Try to eat any carbohydrate rich meals earlier in the day, when your metabolism is higher and you’re more active with your winter sports. When you wake up on that crisp, cold winter morning and light hits your eyes, you experience a natural cortisol release that gives your metabolism a slight bump upwards. So if you’re going to eat oatmeal, cereals, fruits and other carbohydrates, it’s better to have them early, and then avoid filling up on pastas, breads and other starches in the evening, when you’re less active.

2. Stay Hydrated. Have you ever been on a ski chair lift or sat down for a break from snowshoeing or some other winter sport and experienced an extreme urge to eat any snack in sight? You may not actually be hungry – and instead you may simply be dehydrated from the significant amount of perspiration and fluid loss that occurs when you’re bundled up and exercising. Remember - not only is the fat burning process of “beta oxidation” dependent on adequate hydration, but those munchies you often experience during winter sports are due to dehydration, and not actual hunger. So drink early and drink often.

Eat More Fat. This may seem counterintuitive, but by eating healthy, natural fats like avocadoes, coconut milk, olives, olive oil, flax seed oil, butter, fatty meats, seeds and nuts, you can effectively satiate your appetite and give your body slow burning fuel to use during a long day on the slopes or trails. At the risk of saying something controversial, allow me to inform you that unless you are also eating a high amount of starch and sugar, there is no relationship between these type of fats and cardiovascular disease (and in contrast, an actual inverse relationship). So grab some raw almonds and strap on your boots.

Finally, remember that moderation is key during the holidays. Often, a small bite of a cookie is just as good as multiple helpings from the platter, and a 4oz glass of eggnog or hot chocolate may hit the spot just as easily as an entire Nalgene bottle full. You’re now ready to hit the slopes with light and airy ease – unless you ride a snowboard as awkwardly as I do.

See you out there in your winter training, and if you want a quick list of my 5 Off-Season “Must-Haves” check out

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