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Three Nutrition Tips to Focus on When the Temperatures Plummet (Winter Sports and Hunts)

There are three important things to keep in mind with nutrition when winter sports like skiing (skimo, cross-country, and alpine) and hunts area on the calendar. We'll cover those in this article.

It was nearly a year ago to the date when I was preparing for an elk hunt with temps in the negatives most of the week. I had spent the week prior to this hunt watching the weather like a bookie with a big spread on the big game of the year. The biggest question I was trying to answer was “do I put the wall tent up or grab a hotel?” At the last minute, I opted for the hotel in a town just outside of where I planned to hunt. Apply whatever adjectives you deem appropriate, but my reasoning was valid. Staying warm in my sleeping bag was the least of my worries- no concern at all, in fact. I was more concerned about the basics- things like how much of a pain it would be to keep camp water thawed out for the whole week and the amount of energy I would have to spend in getting a single stake driven into the frozen, rocky soil…much less the 10 the wall tent called for. I still regret nothing.

Gear, water, and tent stakes aren’t the only things that change when the temps drop in the late season- our nutrition needs do as well. Here are three main things to focus on as temps plummet to keep you in the field longer.

Increased calorie demand

I once wrote an article on the calorie demands for mountaineers after researching the topic (fellow nerds can check it out here). One thing was clear: being in the cold dramatically increases how many calories we use to keep our body’s warm. It seems obvious, doesn’t it? You have your baseline calorie needs, the physical demands of the hunt, and the added burden of making sure your core temperature doesn’t dip below 98.6 degrees. There’s a cost to that demand and it’s a currency we call “calories” and one that’s rolling like the gas meter on your house in the winter- be it an active pursuit, still hunting through the hardwoods, or sitting in a blind/tree in the midwest.

Change what you eat

This can be filed in the same folder as number one. You can help reduce the burden of keeping you warm based purly on what you eat on these hunts. Many folks think this means we need to eat more fat since fat has twice the calories per gram as carbohydrates and protein. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about bringing warmer foods with you.

In the winter months, I eat way more ramen, dehydrated soups (grab yourself of our DIY dehydrate guide here), beans to put on tortillas, and half-bags of dehydrated meals. I also drink a lot of warm fluids. These range from teas, coffee, warm Gatorade, and hot chocolate.

Something to be sure you do not overlook here is bringing along a full can of fuel for your cook system. This isn’t the time to find one of that ¼ full leftover tanks that you tossed on the floorboard of your rig last season. Don’t be cheap. Take a full canister.

Don’t neglect water

Water demands remian high in spite of it being cold and you likely sweating less than you may in the early season months of August and September.

Each time we exhale, we lose water. If you’re at a higher altitude, you’re at an even greater risk of losing water as your blood vessels get smaller as a response to the elevation and cold conditions. This results in the need to pee more often…which means even more water loss. Throw in the fact that cold air can also mean dry air and it becomes easy to see where all of these processes and it becomes easy to see where we could lose a lot of water over the course of the day.

Close It Out

Going out in the cold isn’t always inviting, but I’ve always found it to be my favorite time of the season to hunt. Animals seem to be alot like us in these colder months- they look for sunshine to warm themselves up mid-day and cruise more regularly to stay warm. This, in turn, makes them quite a bit easier to spot amongst a backdrop of snow and that, my friends, makes for primo hunting.

Using these three strategies, it’s my hope that you find yourself taking advantage of these late season hunts more and more every year. But, word to the wise- get the hotel when the temps plummet below zero. You- and your tent stakes- will thank me later.


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