Wintertime can be tricky, because while you want to hit the gym and cook a healthy meal after work, it is super tempting to curl up on the couch with Netflix and a cheesy pizza pie for comfort grub. Between freezing temperatures and snowstorms, it's tough to stay motivated. “Even the most disciplined athletes can derail their training goals and fall victim to the added stress, cold weather, and temptation to indulge that comes with the ‘most wonderful time of the year,’ regarding holiday foods,” says James Oliver, Certified Sports Nutritionist and founder of Atlas Bar. (Hello green bean casserole, peppermint schnapps, and eggnog!)
Yet, “whether you have sights set on the podium or simply crossing the finish line, I recommend boosting your winter training and nutrition with these foods for winter workouts to help keep you race-ready,” he says. These will offer the comfort-food warmth and texture you crave in colder months, but also offer solid flavor and nutrition to keep you well all season long.
Best Foods for Winter Workouts to Boost Training and Keep You Well
“Native to the Andes in Peru, this cruciferous vegetable has been revered for centuries for its immune-boosting and hormone-balancing properties that promote strength, vitality and vigor,” Oliver says. It’s known as an “adaptogen,” a special class of superfoods comprised of certain herbs, plants, and natural substances that help the body naturally adapt to stressors like frigid weather, demanding schedules, or the sniffles.
“Packed with antioxidants and energizing micronutrients, I suggest adding it in powder form to any smoothie or yogurt,” he says. It’ll keep your body in tip-top shape and it’s super versatile.
Yes, dark chocolate is actually good for you in moderation. “When you’re hankering for a tasty treat, a small amount of dark chocolate can do more than just satisfy a sweet tooth,” says Oliver. “Dark chocolate and/or cacao nibs are loaded with polyphenols that deliver powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits to help fight off the dreaded flu or common cold so your training won’t get sidelined.”
Feel free to enjoy as is or you can use it in recipes for a sauce or glaze for meat or fish, in smoothies, in yogurt or oatmeal bowls, and of course in healthier desserts and protein bars.
Load up on this tasty pink fish in the wintertime. “Wild caught salmon is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet and comes jam-packed with heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids like DHA, a critical nutrient for optimal brain health,” he says.
Use it in so many ways—tacos, grain and bean bowls, salads, pasta dishes, sushi rolls, and more. “I recommend two healthy servings each and every week. Throw it on the grill with some teriyaki or enjoy it sashimi style with a bowl of rice,” he says, to keep it simple.
This powerhouse superfood is rich in protein, fiber, manganese, phosphorus, and calcium. “In fact, a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning reported that consuming chia seeds enhanced athletic performance for endurance events lasting 90+ minutes,” he says. Whether enjoyed as a pre-workout snack or post-workout recovery aid, chia seeds can help repair and build muscles for enhanced strength and recovery between training sessions, he explains, and they have tons of fiber to keep you fuller longer. Add them to yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies, salads, soups, and more.
Related: Food of the Week: Chia
‘Tis the season for ginger, especially if you’re looking to relieve joint and muscle pain after a grueling, sweaty workout. And enjoying fresh or dried ginger is way better than snacking on gingerbread cookies! “The benefits found in a study published in the Journal of Pain showed daily consumption of ginger delivered moderate-to-large reductions in muscle pain caused by exercise,” he says.
Spicy and delicious, ginger can be savored as fresh, juiced, ground or dried, making it super versatile. “Ginger not only helps regulate blood sugar, but it can also help relieve motion sickness and nausea for those traveling on queasy stomach,” he adds, so stash it in your bag or car during holiday travel.
A favorite green veggie, Brussels sprouts are loaded with skin-protecting vitamin A, a timely health benefit for the winter months when skin can get dry, chapped, and cracked, he says. “Not only that, [but also] Brussels sprouts deliver a good amount of protein for a cruciferous vegetable to help aid muscle growth and boost energy,” he says.
Sauté them with some bacon or walnuts, and pair them with a serving with salmon or lean meat like chicken breast or grass-fed beef. Your taste buds will thank you, and your body will have plenty of fuel for those chilly conditions.
Related: Brussels Sprouts: Food of the Week
Avocado can be enjoyed anytime, any place—for breakfast on toast or in eggs, during the day when baked with some beans or chicken inside, as a dip with crackers for a snack, and even in a chocolate mousse for a healthier dessert. “Eating balanced meals and snacks throughout the day that provide a combination of protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats helps ensure that those meals break down more slowly,” he says.
So, definitely hop on board the avocado toast craze, he suggests. “Avocado toast is the perfect grounding meal especially dressed up with some egg(s), bacon and tomato—satiating, nutritious and delicious,” he says. Or go plant-based, with chia seeds and veggies and some hot sauce for a spicy kick.