17 winter hacks for athletes
Winter's tough on athletes - as days shorten and weather worsens it can become hard to keep on top of training. Add the dual temptations of open bars and free buffets at yet another office Christmas party and your healthy eating habits also get tested. But fear not, our 17 winter hacks will keep on track
We’re all for maximising winter enjoyment at 33Fuel – and that includes reduced training and more ‘relaxed’ food choices – but these hacks will help both minimise winter fitness ‘damage’ and make your January come-back even easier!
Whether you’re working hard, partying hard, training hard or all three this festive season, tackle winter and thrive with our winter survival bundle
Winter hacks for athletes: nutrition
1 Go dense
Nutrient density holds the key to good decision making over winter. We’re all drawn to more hearty foods, but keep in mind that those with more nutrients per calorie will not only leave you feel fuller for longer, but also provide your body with more goodness. Avoid fad diets or brutal restrictions - just good ol’ fashioned real food does the trick. Your body will thank you, but your mind will too – good food has reduces SAD syndrome.
Oats topped with yoghurt and fruit makes for a wholesome, nutrient-dense breakfast
2 Have a buffet strategy
Whether it’s a work, family or social bash, chances are you’ll be faced with an athlete’s worst enemy: the buffet. It's a wonderful thing for an athlete with a big appetite, but at Christmas the choices tend to be limited to profiteroles, cheese or a monster yule log. With scant else on offer, it’s difficult to avoid going overboard.
Having a strategy means you’ll be armed to handle such a scenario. My three top tips are:
- Eat a healthy meal - plenty of protein and veggies - before you head to the party
- Drink a pint (of water!) before heading to the do
- Browse the offerings before diving in. Decide which ones are going to really hit the spot rather than simply gorging on them all
3 Give intermittent fasting a go
Our Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting is a great place to start but if you’re already a seasoned pro, check out these three advanced techniques.
4 Macronutrient periodisation
Periodisation means altering the food you eat according to the duration and intensity of exercise you’re undertaking. For example, if you’re going for an easy spin with the kids, you probably don’t need that massive bowl of porridge pre-ride. Go fasted (without any food) and you’ll boost your fat burning ability. Equally, if you’re squeezing in a high intensity interval session, consume some carbs 60-minutes beforehand.
Shop for as wide a variety of vegetables as possible over winter and feed your body the vitamins and minerals it needs to thrive this winter
5 Follow the 80/20 rule
The 80/20 rule states you should eat ‘well’ – veggies, fruit, whole, nutrient dense food – 80% of the time. The other 20%, eat what you like. It’s a great rule to follow through winter, particularly when you may have to be a little stricter come summer.
6 Keep hydrated
It’s an obvious one, but it’s harder to drink water during winter - hot chocolate, milk or coffee are much more appealing. Athletes tend to be good at drinking to thirst during hotter months, but as the mercury plummets we forget the importance of water consumption. Keep a water bottle on you during the day and aim to sip regularly.
Winter hacks for athletes: training
7 HIIT it up
High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a super-efficient training method and brings plenty of gains for all types of athletes, including endurance junkies. Chances are you don’t do much sprint training during race season, so now's the time to hit it. HIIT develops top end speed and power and boosts excess post-exercises oxygen consumption (EPOC) meaning you continue burning calories hours after you’ve stopped. It’s very time-efficient and can be good fun if done with mates - suffering shared is suffering halved, right?
8 Fasted sessions
Training in a fasted state before breakfast has two main benefits: it improves fat burning and it's also great to get the session ‘out the way’ before the kids wake up and the day kicks into full swing.
9 Lift some weights
There’s a tonne of benefits to lifting weights. It’s time-efficient, keeps you indoors and is great for summer performance gains. Go for big compound moves like the deadlift, squat, lunge and bench press (ask for help if you’re unsure how to perform correctly).
Pick up heavy things once or twice per week. It’s fun, will boost performance and burn calories longer than a low intensity cardio session
10 Hit the pool
Most of us - even triathletes who have to swim train – would prefer to jump on the bike or lace up the trainers before diving in the pool! But winter is a great time for swimming, because it’s low-impact, builds all-over strength and is perfect for building base cardio fitness.
11 Something is better than nothing
I know many of you who read this blog are accomplished endurance athletes, regularly training for hours on end. But don’t make the error in thinking that anything less than these long sessions isn’t worth doing - even a 30-minute easy session will boost performance.
12 Do a Christmas race
There’s a tonne of 5km and 10km running races over winter and plenty of cross-country races if you want to get muddy. Or what about Parkrun? Whatever it is, a Christmas race can be a great social, good training and super endorphin boost.
13 Go double
Got a long run planned? Can’t face two hours in the driving wind and rain? No problem: break the run down into two 1-hour sessions instead. Mentally easier, doable on a treadmill and just as challenging (if not more so) physically.
Winter hacks for athletes: mental trickery
14 Set a goal
Goal setting is core to personal development. Without one, what are you working towards and how do you know if you’ve succeeded? Moreso in winter than any other time of year, setting firm goals is hugely motivating.
Motivation naturally wanes in winter, but smart goal setting will reap huge gains long-term
Picture yourself crossing the finish line of next year’s event, proud as punch of a stellar performance that truly demonstrated your ability. Go a step further: smell it and hear it. Feel the moment of success as vividly as you can. It’s a powerful motivator.
16 Think big
Building on #14, don’t just take the easy route and set easily achievable goals. Set wild, ridiculously terrifying goals – if you don’t hit them, it’s highly likely you’ll still end up further than if you’d set a cushty target.
17 Remember you GET to do this
It sounds obvious, but when you’re sitting there pulling your shoes on, feeling sorry for yourself at having to leave the house for an hour to train in the cold, just remind yourself that you get to do this. There are many, many people who would give anything to be in your position – a fully functioning, healthy body – but aren’t. It’s your choice to be here and at the end of the day
For big winter training days, give your body what it deserve: with 33 of the world’s most potent ingredients including powerful alkalysers and antioxidants as well as 20g of the finest protein, our Elite Pre and Post Workout Shake will keep you firing on all cylinders this winter
More performance boosting content
From the Vlog – How to race at the elite level and keep your job
From the podcast – Lessons to love running for a lifetime with Martin Yelling
From the Blog
Nutrient density and sports performance
Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting – 3 advanced techniques
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – eating to beat the winter slowdown
Goal setting – 7 ways to achieve big dreams
Endurance mindset – think big for huge results
Training motivation – you GET to do this