Embracing Cold Weather Training

Out of season training is the key factor for success in competing months - for the majority of athletes the down-season is Winter. Studies indicate that the increase in energy expended on simply staying warm in cold conditions can rise by up to 5-fold compared to temperate conditions. If you prefer to train outdoors regularly, being prepared for the cold is essential. Whilst the UK has a temperate climate and only occasionally do we experience brutal cold, thanks to the combined effects of wind and rain the body can be chilled to dangerous levels - even if the temperature hasn't yet sunk below zero.

How does the cold make you cold?

Heat is removed from the body via three mechanisms:

1. Contact cooling - this occurs when your skin is in contact with a cold surface, such as immersing parts/all of your body in cold water.

2. Low air temperature cooling - when cold air is breathed in this cools not only the airway but the whole body.

3. Wind cooling - this will exacerbate low air temperature cooling by increasing the rate of heat removal. Damp or wet conditions will create evaporation from the skin which will increase contact cooling - if the skin becomes wet in the rain, wind will enhance evaporation of water from the skin. Each gram of water that evaporates removes heat energy which can add a huge extra cold stress on the body.

So what are the nutritional implications for those training in cold weather or participating in cold weather events?


The increase in energy needed just to stay warm means an increase in carbohydrate intake is essential. Carbohydrate needs can be increased further when shivering occurs, particularly when intense. Because fat supplies more than twice the number of calories per gram than carbohydrate, many people have wrongly assumed that high-fat foods are preferable when exercising for long periods in the cold. However in cold conditions carbohydrate oxidation typically rises by 6-fold, whereas fat oxidation rises by only around 2-fold.


Carbohydrate is crucial for cold weather performance, but there are also benefits of consuming a high protein breakfast before your training session or event. This is because the thermic effect of consuming protein is higher than that for both carbohydrates and fat. This can result in increased body warmth for up to six hours following ingestion of a high protein meal. It is still important though, to start any cold-weather event with your muscles well carbohydrate-loaded from the previous days.


You are more likely to become dehydrated in very cold conditions as opposed to mild or cool conditions because during increased exposure to cold your urine losses increase, very cold air that is breathed in doesn't hold as much water vapour and you will still sweat (generally because you are wearing more layers of clothing). So, contrary to what you might expect, in cold conditions you might actually need more fluid than in mild conditions. Athletes who neglect to ensure ample fluid intake can expect to pay a performance penalty.

Hot Drinks

Given the need for a plentiful supply of fluid and the need to stay warm, the use of hot drinks can be particularly useful when training/competing in cold conditions. It takes a lot of energy to warm up water - which means that water will give up alot of energy when it cools down. By consuming a drink that is warmer than your core body temperature, each litre will release heat energy into the body. This is in addition to the energy released when carbohydrate in the drink is broken down to release energy. Hot drinks are therefore highly recommended if you're struggling to maintain heat balance.

Applying the science

Take advantage of your ability to cold acclimatise - you don't need to wait for the weather, just wear less warm garments. (Though it is not recommended to do your first few acclimatising sessions in remote areas, you may need a quick escape to warmth!).

Factor in the effects of wind chill - don't just consider temperature but how hard the wind is blowing.

Consider a high protein breakfast on cold weather training days, but be sure to include some good quality carbohydrate too.

During the training/event carbohydrate is king. Consume plenty in a little and often system - try to use warm drinks so as not to add to the loss of heat through core-cooling cold drinks. Hot drinks are a useful additional source of heat if you are struggling to stay warm.

Don't Give Up on the Cuppa!

Caffeine is a popular supplement for endurance athletes for a very good reason: numerous scientific studies have demonstrated that it can significantly enhance performance by extending endurance and reducing fatigue - probably by blocking the passage of 'fatigue signals' to the brain.

However, one of the curious aspects of caffeine supplementation is that while it works extremely well for most athletes, there is a degree of individuality in response - some athletes mysteriously fail to derive any significant benefits. One theory for this is that in athletes who regularly consume dietary caffeine there may be a degree of habituation (i.e. caffeine tolerance), so athletes choose to refrain from teas, coffees and cola drinks in the run up to a race. A new study by Brazilian scientists, however, suggests that your day-to-day caffeine intake is actually irrelevant in determining your response to acute caffeine ingested before and/or during a race.

The Research
A study was conducted (double-blind, crossover, counterbalanced) whereby 40 endurance cyclists were allocated into three groups depending on their daily caffeine intake: 1. Low intake (around one strong cup of tea); 2. Moderate intake (around two cups of coffee); 3. High intake (around five cups of coffee). All cyclists then completed three separate time trials in a random order on three different occasions either consuming a caffeine supplement, a placebo supplement or neither (the control condition).

The times of each trial were then recorded.

The Results
When the data was analysed the first finding was the the cyclists all performed significantly better when they took caffeine (an average time of 29mins 55secs, compared to 30mins 49secs (placebo) and 31mins 08secs (control)). More importantly though, there was no difference in time-trial times across the three groups, and the degree of improvement was unrelated to the amount of caffeine that he/she usually consumed in their daily diet.The amount of caffeine consumed in the diet also bore no relationship to the levels of perceived exertion experienced when the caffeine was/wasn't consumed before the time trial.

The Verdict
The researchers concluded that the performance effects of acute caffeine supplementation during a 30 minute cycling time trial were not influenced by the level of day-to-day caffeine consumption, which is great news for those who love their daily cuppa, be it tea or coffee. It means there is no need to abstain from caffeine for days or weeks running up to an event where you will be using caffeine supplements - your body does not build uo a tolerance to caffeine supplements through drinking teas and coffees as part of your daily diet.

There is no need to forgo your daily cuppa in order to benefit from caffeine as a performance enhancer. Hurray!

References: J Sports Sci. 2011 Mar;29(5):509-15; Peak Perf. Iss 366-26

The Power of Warm-Ups

PAP and Warm-Ups

Previous research has shown that including some very high-resistance exercises such as high load leg presses in a warm up procedure before a subsequent 20km time trial, can produce a dramatic increase in cycling performance. The answer to this lies in something known as post-activation muscle potentiation (PAP), which is a well-established phenomenon in sport. Whilst the science of PAP is sound, the problem for most cyclists (or any endurance athlete) about to embark on an event is that leg-press machines or squat racks are not usually found near the start line. To resolve this, researchers have been exploring whether a more practical warm up applying the same principles could be an effective alternative - and the results look promising.

The Research

A team of British researchers at the University of Chester looked at whether they could induce PAP in the leg muscles by using a more convenient alternative to weight loading - some high intensity bursts on the bike during the pre-race warm up routine. They tested 10 well-trained male endurance cyclists, performing 2 x 4km time trials on separate occasions with two different warm up procedures: the first warm up was simply pedalling at low intensity , the other was low intensity pedalling combined with 3 x 10 second bursts at 70% of peak power.

The Results

The key finding was that when the cyclists performed the PAP-inducing warm up containing the high intensity bursts, they completed the time trial significantly faster, knocking just under two seconds off and averaging five extra watts of power. More research is of course needed to determine the best combination of burst intensity, length and recovery interval, but for now 3 x 10 second bursts with a 30 second recovery time between each is a good place to start.

More Suggestions

Start with five minutes at low to moderate intensity pedalling then add in the bursts.

Ensure the bursts are performed at the end of the warm-up and that no longer than ten minutes elapses between the end of your warm up and the beginning of the event (as the PAP effects will fade after this time).

Use a relatively high gear for your bursts - this will increase the force and involvement of fast-twitch muscles fibres in your legs, which will enhance the PAP effects.

The PAP method can be applied to other endurance sports and is not just cycling-specific. You just need to find a convenient way to add in high-intensity effort bursts near to the start line of your chosen event.

Reference: Andrew Hamilton, Peak Performance Issue 364

Doncaster Cycle Festival Raffle Winner!

We invited all vistors at the Doncaster Cycle Festival on Sunday 11th June 2017 to enter our raffle to win a hamper of Allsports Nutrition goodies. The winner was drawn at random this morning and it is Carole Culpan - congratulations Carole!

Strength Training Tip

Strength training to increase endurance?

They may seem poles apart but heavy strength training can benefit endurance athletes - an indeed any athlete wanting to increase their muscle economy (less oxygen needed to sustain a given activity). Read on for more information...

Ultimate Mass Gold

To be able to produce a great performance in any competition there has to have been a large volume of training beforehand - for runners, plenty of running, for cyclists, plenty of pedalling and so on. However, with this amount of training mileage comes the increased risk of injury which is why the introduction of strength training has come under the spotlight: stronger, more resilient muscles and tendons are known to help keep the risk of running injuries at bay. If you can improve your muscle economy (how the muscles use oxygen when exercising) then you can reduce fatigue and increase endurance - short, low-volume but high-intensity strength session can do this. Lower body exercises such as lunges, squats and leg presses will all count towards strength training - keep sessions as far apart as possible from endurance sessions, and increase the amount when in off-season periods to allow maximum recovery between sessions. Muscle power is not just for strength trainers, nor is building lean muscle. Supplements can be effective in aiding muscle building, only when taken alongside a well thought out training plan. The supplement itself won't build the muscle it will just feed it - you have to be the builder. Reverse it for strength sports The same science can be applied in reverse - if your sport is all about strength training, improve your muscle economy by adding in endurance training. Greater muscle economy will reflect in greater muscle power, and in turn greater muscle power will provide gains in muscle economy. Include an activity that is different to your usual training, and why not try Ultimate Mass Gold (no with 50% off until Friday 10th June) in your diet, and see the benefits for yourself.

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