Energy and Nutrients But Less Junk or Hot Food
Diets for staying warm are not the same as diets for keeping weight down or for medical purposes. You’ll likely want to store energy over time.
Energy, Fat, and Nutrients
Fats help keep your body warm in the winter. So do starches and carbs, or carbohydrates. Fats come in different kinds, some less healthy than others, but you need food energy of some kind so your muscles can heat up your blood in order to keep your body warm over time. Fats convert slowly into energy and meanwhile stay parked in your body. Carbs convert quickly. Starches come in between, time-wise.
Fats come in different kinds. Some are healthier than others. That may not matter for hypothermia; I don’t know. Since it’s usually annoying to die early, choose the healthier fats. If you don’t have a choice, and if you won't have a choice for some hours to come, since you need to stay warm, eat whatever fats are available. Food packages in the United States usually have Nutrition Facts labels telling you which fats are present and how much per serving. Their official servings are often small when we’re busy gulping the stuff, so multiply the fat content on the label by how many so-called servings you eat per day.
I don’t know how vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and water affect hypothermia, but you need them for functioning in general. You likely should get them to strengthen your body against hypothermia, too. Some of them you can get as low-cost supplements, usually pills (e.g., look for vitamin-mineral pills that supply around 100% of daily needs per dose, at less than a dime a day). And fresh whole foods may have nutrients that have not been studied yet, but we’ve been eating them for centuries and done pretty well, so it’s possible they’re better for you.
Energy From All of Your Diet
How much food of any kind you need is harder to say. Some minimums have been published for people in average circumstances. If you’re running marathons, you’ll need more. We don’t know how much more, but if Inuit (Eskimos) have been wolfing down blubber for centuries, there’s a good reason. The only high-calorie estimate I’ve seen recently is for hiking in cold weather, and that’s 7,000 calories, instead of up to 2,000 for a normal day.
Balance all of them in your daily diet.
Hot Foods Cool You and Cold Foods Warm You
Hot drinks or food probably don’t help. Hot foods, even hot water, usually don’t make you warm, except from your lips to the top of your throat. But you’re warm-blooded, meaning you control your body’s temperature yourself. Your body works to keep a stable temperature, or thermostasis, especially in vital organs, like your stomach. So, if you introduce anything hotter or colder, your body tries to compensate. Because of compensation, if you drink hot water, your body cools off, while ice cream warms you.
Still, the physical effect of hot soup is usually small, so a large psychological effect — placebo effect — of feeling warmer may be worth it, but only if you’re already about to be warm without it.
The main exception is food or water that’s not hot or cold but just a bit warm, or tepid. That’s the ideal temperature range for your digestive system parts, especially from your throat to your stomach. But I don’t know what that temperature range is, and you likely can’t measure it anyway. It’s likely above 98.6 Fahrenheit (37 centigrade), since that’s about what your body should read where most people can put a thermometer. Only in recent years have doctors been able to measure internal temperatures and get normal averages, and I don’t think I’ve seen those numbers yet. I guess it’s a little higher, maybe 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (around 43 to 49 centigrade), but that’s only a guess by someone who’s not a doctor.
No Hot Meal When You’re an Ice Cube
Hot meals on cold days are bad for hypothermia you already have, but healthy meals, hot or not, are good at preventing hypothermia. When you’re in a warm environment, that’s a good time for a healthy meal. You’re comfy warm already, so boil, stew, roast, and gulp to your heart’s content.
Junk food usually packs lots of carbohydrates. If you need energy now, carbs will carry you for a short while. Real food is healthier, but junk, including chocolate, will have to do if you’re starving and freezing at the same time. Healthy foods that have carbs include fruits with natural unprocessed sugar.
Energy drinks often depend on B vitamins, caffeine, and/or taurine to give you a boost. I don’t know if they keep you warm at all, but I doubt they help much in that department. If it’s all you’ve got, you may as well try it, but, in the long run, a regular diet is what you need. Besides, many have too much vitamin B6 and are dangerous for your health, damaging your nerves, according to a Harvard author in .
Aging’s Effect (Go Out Anyway)
Older people, say over age 50 or 60, tend to metabolize food less efficiently, because muscle mass goes down. Eat a little more of what’s healthy for you, exercise a little more, dress a little warmer, and step out. You’ll likely live longer and do more.