Training in the winter is harder, and its not just psychological!
During winter, your body is put under pressure from external forces it cannot influence, and this therefore impacts your moods and energy levels, and by extension your ability to train. Days are shorter, so your body produces more melatonin, also, you get generally a bit fatter and body spends on average more energy to stay warm. Last but not least, you don't get a lot of sunlight. You can work around this to an extent by eating right, sleeping well, and yes, taking supplements.
Endless debate about supplements usually puts people in two camps: pro and against. The anti camp will say that its all snake oil, supplements do not work and are generally a bad investment. The pro camp usually has a positive experience with taking supplements and swears by their own routine. Who is right? Both, or noone, depending if you are a glass half full or glass half empty type of person. Most of the supplements are unnecessary, most are also not working, some may be even detrimental to your training and health. The supplement universe is vast, unregulated and hard to understand.
We at feedzone have done the research and experimentation, and bring you a list of key supplements we think are relevant or even necessary for your winter endurance training (october to march) and beyond.
Lets start with the most obvious one. Most of our customers live somewhere between 45 and 60 degrees of latitude, therefore get very little sunlight in those winter months. Lack of sunlight means lack of vitamin D, which supports immunity, calcium uptake for healthy bones and also supports healthy muscle function and protein synthesis. One of the key problems of Vitamin D is, that it is not present in many foods, therefore it is hard to get it naturally. It has a myriad other uses, such as covid prevention, winter depression prevention etc, but we will stick with the key three, which are the most relevant for endurance athletes. Bottom line: Dont skip on Vitamin D. If you should take one supplement in the winter, take this one. We prefer Puori Vitamin D, as it uses only organic ingredients and has high absorption rate.
Another good one is Zinc, ideally in combination with Vitamin C. If you don't get colds and have generally very good immunity, you can skip this one, but since we all usually train pretty hard in winter, with the cold runs or rides outside, our bodies could use some help to fight the ever present viruses. Both Zinc and Vitamin C provide a good level of immune support and also reduce oxidative stress in the body. Vitamin C also helps with energy levels. Vitamin C is highly represented in fruits, which are not fresh in winter, and Zinc is present on red meat and pumplin seeds. So yes, it is possible to get from natural sources, however, I personally prefer to stay natural during summer months and supplement in winter. Apart from general well being, I have small kids and those bugs they bring home from kindergarden tend to be pretty resilient :). We go with Puori C3, which cointains both C and Zinc, and is in their top notch quality. I also add their collagen in the mix, but that is purely optional.
As a last key supplement, I would add probiotics. This might be a bit controversial, but getting some probiotics in the winter will have a positive impact on your immune function and gut health, which affects pretty much everything. I usually cycle those as 2 months on, one month off during winter, and I supplement probiotics during really intense periods of training in the summer, which in my case are 6-8 week ironman blocks. It helps me avoid getting sick just before the race, and also help digest all those gels you put in during these periods. I prefer Thorne FloraSport, but Synbiotics by Puori are just as good quality, and it is really about personal preference.
You don't have to spend crazy money to buy twenty different supplements to have a good winter season. We believe it is much more important to spend on quality than quantity, and keep it down to the most basic essentials. As a reminder, I would like to point out that supplements are not a cure all, but an addition to a healthy diet and at least reasonable sleep schedule. Nail the basics, and supplements will help you perform.