As a runner or cyclist, you’ll probably continue training outside in winter for at least some of your weekly sessions as long as the weather allows it. After all, it gets pretty boring running on a treadmill or riding a turbo trainer or indoor bike for hours on end. But being outside in cold or wet weather does carry some health risks, which could derail your training if you are not careful. A fall or crash due to wet or icy roads could result in injury, while wearing inadequate clothing while training could make you more susceptible to colds or infections.

cyclist on a road among the woods in winter - tips on food and nutrition for runners and cyclists

But it’s also important to pay attention to recovering properly from your winter training sessions, to help prevent any infections taking hold. Yes, taking a hot shower will warm you up nicely, but you also need to think about supporting your body’s other needs, and that’s where food comes in.


Recovery nutrition is important year round, but even more so in winter when your immune system needs to be able to fight off the many infections around.

Your first priority is to replenish your carbohydrate stores, known as muscle glycogen, which have just provided you with the energy to train. This means taking on some sugar or starch, such as whole fruit, juice, bread, porridge oats, pasta, rice or cereal, about 1g per kg of bodyweight. But carbohydrate alone isn’t sufficient. You also need to consume some protein to enable your muscles to recover and help make the training adaptations you are looking for. Protein is also needed to support your immune system. Research suggests that 20g of protein consumed in the two hours post-exercise is sufficient. You can obtain this from protein powders or ready to drink protein beverages, but real food sources like meat, fish, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds will also give you the protein you need.

milk and eggs great sources of protein

In winter, it’s worth making sure that your recovery meal or snacks also contain some of the other nutrients known to help support the immune system. The first of these is vitamin C, which is found in fruit and vegetables. Berries, kiwi fruit, oranges, peppers and potatoes are particularly good sources. Then there’s zinc, found in meat, fish, wholegrains, nuts and beans. Onions, garlic, chilli and ginger contain various substances which help to fight off infections. Dark green leafy vegetables and orange vegetables are also rich in immune-supporting nutrients like beta carotene. Beta-glucans in mushrooms and probiotic bacteria in yogurt are both known to help balance the immune system. Finally, manuka honey is known for its anti-bacterial properties.

spoon full of honey - good source of carbs

Here are some ideas for winter-training recovery snacks and meals:

  • Greek yogurt with berries, mixed nuts and manuka honey
  • Smoothie made from kiwi fruit, apple, natural yogurt, milk and manuka honey
  • Porridge with a tablespoon of yogurt and a tablespoon of ground nuts, plus a teaspoon of manuka honey
  • Vegetable soup with beans and lentils plus a wholemeal roll and an apple
  • Turkey, chicken or smoked mackerel sandwich (whole grain bread) and a leafy green side salad topped with mixed seeds.
  • Baked salmon fillet or chicken breast, marinated with ginger, chilli, garlic and olive oil, and served with brown rice or sweet potato, broccoli and carrots.
  • Mushroom, butternut squash and onion risotto, served with a leafy green side salad.
  • Baked potato or sweet potato with chilli con carne or vegetable chilli (contains kidney beans, onions and green peppers).
  • Whole-wheat pasta with tomato sauce, broccoli, garlic and cheese or tuna


(image credit: uofmhealthblogs, cdn4.coresites.mpora, kinnybulkup, all-natural-antibiotics)

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