How I stay warm winter bike commuting: Bar Mitts and diet

How I stay warm winter bike commuting: Bar Mitts and diet

Bar Mitts are an great way to keep hands warmer on cold bike commutes. The other thing that's helped me considerably is adjusting my diet for the season.

I have long thin fingers and bought one glove and mitten design after another, yet my fingers would get cold even on short bike commutes. One thing that helped noticeably was tweaking my diet during the winter.

Warming and Cooling Foods

I rediscovered what Chinese and Ayurvedic traditions discovered ages ago when they started classifying some foods as warming and others as cooling (But beware, the two systems don't always agree!).

In the language of modern Western medicine, we would say that some foods improve circulation, speed up metabolism, or generate more body heat during digestion– thermogenesis.

So one tweak was to add warming spices to my oatmeal each morning: cinnamon, ginger, even a pinch a cayenne. Cayenne in particular is great for improving circulation while cinnamon an ginger both also help. At work I kept a shaker of cayenne to add lightly to my lunch and at dinner I added red pepper flakes or hot sauce. Even small amounts will help. There’s no need to create painful levels of heat. I cut out cooling foods like cucumbers, lettuce and ice water. Now my hands now stay warmer, longer throughout the winter.

You may also rub a little cayenne directly on your fingers and toes before you go out for immediate additional warmth. Start slowly and use caution– too much can give you a chemical burn!

Eating seasonally for winter warmth and better health

As I paid more attention to which foods were warming or cooling, there was a trend: warming foods were more likely to be those that would be naturally available in the winter and cooling foods in the summer. This is easy to lose track of when our groceries have every option year around.

Consider: In the summer we need more water to stay hydrated and foods like lettuce in cucumber are in season, they have a high water content. They are also easy to digest, generating minimal heat in the process.  

In the winter, foods that take longer to digest can help raise your body temperature.

A number of foods which would be naturally available in colder weather are beneficial, including oats, onions and potatoes. Look for food that’s high in healthy fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Many of these foods are more complex and take longer to digest.

Reduce transition stress with a lower thermostat

A final tip: our bodies take some time adapt as we move from warm housing to the cold outside air. Keeping a lower thermostat in the winter reduces the shift our bodies have to make to adapt being outside.