The Importance of Nutrition for Skiers

March 10, 2008 by  
Filed under features

Snow skiing is a physically demanding activity and proper nutrition for skiers is essential. This is, however, often overlooked by recreational skiers who may only hit the slopes for a few days each year. The difference between a great day on the ski slopes that leaves you invigorated, and an exhausting day that leaves you wondering why you went out there in the first place, can more often than not be attributed to what you have been eating.

For many, the change of routine that a vacation brings goes hand-in-hand with letting go of conventional eating patterns and eating whatever they want, whenever they want it. For skiers who want to get the most enjoyment out of their snow skiing vacation as possible, it is an exceptionally bad idea to binge on junk food.

Bearing in mind that many recreational skiers are not necessarily in peak physical condition when they arrive at the slopes, the value of good nutrition for skiers cannot be overemphasized. For sustained energy, sport nutritionists recommend a diet that is high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein and low in fat. It can be difficult to forgo the breakfast of a cheese omelet and sausage that is so popular at many ski resorts, and substitute with yogurt, pancakes and fruit, but the benefits will be evident out on the slopes. It is suggested that lunch should be along the lines of a veggie burger or pasta. Make a point of enjoying health and energy bars as snacks when you are on the slopes and for dinner stick to some grilled chicken or fish, vegetables and potassium-rich baked potato.

An aspect of good nutrition for skiers, which is often over-looked, is the importance of avoiding dehydration. There are a number of factors which contribute to skiers becoming dehydrated. Cold air at higher altitudes tends to be dry and fluid is lost from the body as vapor through breathing. Add to this the fact that cold tends to suppress thirst and heavy clothing promotes perspiration; it is clear that skiers need to drink plenty of fluids while out on the slopes. Research has revealed that skiers who drink sports drinks containing sodium and other electrolytes are better able to maintain their fluid balance that those who drink plain water. Carb-protein sports drinks are fairly new on the market and have been shown to be even more effective in preventing dehydration as well as being helpful in preventing the muscle soreness that many recreational skiers experience after their first day on the slopes. It is recommended to take a generous swig of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes for the most benefit. Another option is to make use of single-serving energy gels which contain everything that a sports drink has, but these must be washed down with a generous quantity of water for proper hydration.

The holiday-feeling is often enhanced by some après ski drinking, but it is vital to enjoy this at the end of the day – do not drink and ski. There are a number of very valid reasons for this. Alcohol increases the risk of hypothermia, alters perception, interferes with reaction time and hand-eye co-ordination, and contributes to dehydration. Alcohol suppresses the central nervous system, which can counteract the enjoyable endorphin high that is characteristic of an exhilarating day on the slopes.

Many recreational skiers slog away at work all year looking forward to their snow skiing vacation. Paying attention to correct nutrition and hydration will make that holiday more enjoyable than ever before.