Ask the Coach: Am I Eating and Drinking Enough for Cold Weather?

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Nutrition and hydration are just as important in late fall and winter


How do nutrition and hydration needs change with winter running? I tend to eat more, drink less and take fewer to no salt pills in the winter, but am I compromising my performance?

—Robyn, via Facebook

Sweat rate decreases with the temperature, so during the cooler winter months you require less fluid replenishment. Less fluid loss also means fewer electrolytes being excreted and as a result you end up needing to drink less and take in fewer electrolyte supplements.

On the other hand, says Stephanie Howe, a sports nutritionist and exercise physiologist who won the 2014 Western States 100, “The challenge during winter running is actually to drink enough. One strategy is to fill your water bottle with a warm drink. It’s much more pleasant to take a swig of something slightly warm when it’s cold outside.”

As for eating, if you are running about the same pace as you would in the summer, you may need more calories since your body has the added chore of keeping you warm. However, many runners tend to have a slower winter pace, which slightly counteracts the increase in caloric expenditure. “Fueling doesn’t need to change drastically in cold environments,” says Howe. “The biggest challenge is finding a fuel that is easy to eat and doesn’t freeze when it’s cold out.

“I’ve had gels and blocks freeze during long winter runs,” adds Howe. Her remedy? “Leftover Christmas cookies work great!”

This article originally appeared in our September 2015 issue. Have trail-running questions for the coach? Email them to

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