Winter is coming! As the seasons change, our nutrient needs change. In the winter, our bodies crave more warm, comfort foods, foods to help insulate the body and keep us warm. So, how do we properly fuel the body for winter sports with out packing on the pounds as the bears do for hibernation?
Nutrition plays a key role in winter sports, yet frequently overlooked. I'm often asked, do I need to eat more during winter to fuel training and recovery for winter sports such as downhill skiing, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, hockey, etc? My answer - it depends on your level of activity and your goals.
If you are competitive, YES, it's important to fuel the body for performance and recovery. But, if you're a leisurely skier for example, you won't burn as many calories and will probably partake in the Après Ski so won't need to be as conscious of refueling the body.
However, there are several things all participants of winter sports can focus on to help perform your best and recover quickly so you can get out and do it all over again the next day!
- Eat Breakfast! In the morning, your fuel tank is LOW. You wouldn't expect your car to run all day on a low tank of gas! Your body is the same. To feel energetic, energize your body, brain and boost your metabolism, start the day by refueling your body with something easily digestible. Some of my favorites in the winter are oatmeal with berries and greek yogurt, quinoa porridge, and super-hero muffins!
- Pack a snack! Consuming a mix of carbohydrate + protein while performing winter sports has shown to minimize muscle damage. Focus on easily digestible portable snacks you can carry in your pockets of backpack and avoid the over-priced snacks in the ski lodge.
- HYDRATE! When it's cold out, its easy to forget to hydrate. Being at high elevation, in a dry climate causes dehydration which can lead to a host of other problems like headache, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, muscle cramps, etc. Hydration is the best way to combat these issues. Focus on frequent water breaks to help you stay hydrated and minimize muscle damage.
- Post workout refuel! Many of us look forward to the post winter activity relaxation as much as the fun we have while participating in winter sports. REMEMBER, your body uses fuel most efficiently right after a workout. So, if you head straight to the bar and fill your body with alcohol instead of refueling with a balance of macronutrients, you will impair your recovery process. A post workout snacks or meals including a balance of protein, carbs and healthy fats, will significantly improve recovery, decrease soreness, and help to improve performance! This will help you feel recharged and ready to have fun again the next day!
It may take a little planning and extra effort, but if you want to perform your best and recovery quickly, I encourage you to implement these tips this winter to stay strong and healthy all season long!