January 19th, 2015
To ski strong, remain mentally alert, and have enough energy in reserve for the expert zones, you need to fuel and hydrate your body throughout the day. During a day of all-terrain skiing, your body can burn between 2,000 and 3,000 calories, depending on your weight, which is over and above the calories required for normal bodily functions. The energy needs to come from the food you eat before, during, and after skiing.
First, we’ll review the six essentials of life. Next, we’ll look at the foods an all-terrain skier needs to maximize his or her performance, as well as when to eat and hydrate throughout the day for endurance.
Forget the Atkins protein-only diet, skiers need loads of carbohydrates, which the body burns quickly and easily, to remain strong and alert on those double black-diamond runs. But you also need protein for sustained energy, as well as some fats. So, what you eat is of prime importance.
For starters, we’ll take a look at the six essentials of life and then we’ll calculate the calorie burn experienced by all-terrain skiers on a typical ski day. Next, we’ll determine the food that’s required by those same skiers to make up for the lost calories. However, eating the right foods, but at the wrong time of the day can actually be detrimental to your endurance. We’ll discuss when and how to eat and hydrate so you can maximize your performance and enhance your staying power.
The Six Essentials of Life
The five essentials of life that must come from the foods you eat are glucose from carbohydrates, amino acids for protein, and fatty acids from fats, as well as vitamins and minerals. The sixth essential is not actually a food, but a fluid, namely water. Now, let’s take a look at the six essentials in more detail.
While carbohydrates are a skier’s main energy source, what most people overlook is the need to add protein. Protein has a time-release effect and stays in the system longer to provide a more sustained energy. Without it, you’ll tire out quickly. Protein is one of the three basic calorie-providing foodstuffs, carbohydrates and fats being the others. Protein is made up of amino acids, each of which fuels a different body function.
For example, muscle proteins provide power. Furthermore, because muscle fibers are in part made up of protein, they need protein for repair. Protein mends the small muscle tears that naturally occur during strenuous exercise such as skiing, helping muscles to function at their maximum.
Fats are one of the three basic calorie-providing foodstuffs, carbohydrates and proteins being the others. Fat is the most concentrated source of energy in the diet, furnishing over twice the number of calories as carbohydrates or proteins.
Carbohydrates are a skier’s main energy source, because they provide immediate fuel and are one of the three basic calorie-providing foods, proteins and fats being the others. The digestive tract breaks carbohydrates down into the simple sugar glucose, which enters the bloodstream and is the body’s main raw material for energy.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals regulate the body’s metabolic processes that make energy. In other words, you have to have them to create energy. That in a nutshell is why they’re essential. Most sports experts agree that vitamins and minerals are an important part of skiing strong. While it may be tempting to use supplements, nutritionists recommend skiers look to simple vitamins and minerals from food they eat, which are generally safer than supplements and crucial to an active lifestyle, skiing included.
There’s nothing more important for your body than water. Yet skiers largely ignore the benefit of hydration on the slopes. Why? One reason, people don’t want to take time out from their skiing to go through the hassle of stopping at the lodge for a water break. The fact is that while you’re skiing, you can lose 1 to 2 quarts of water per hour. If you don’t replace it, your heart will be forced to work harder to compensate for the lower volume of fluids in your body. This extra exertion can cause quicker fatigue, including cramping, lost reaction time, coordination, and endurance.
The Caloric Burn of the All-Terrain Skier
The most important aspect of any food is its caloric value, where the calorie is a measure of the energy produced by food as it’s burned in the body. First, let’s figure out the number of calories that an all-terrain skier burns on a typical ski day.
The average person burns somewhere in the range of 1,500 to 2,000 calories per day just from normal bodily functions, without skiing at all. A 120 lb downhill skier burns approximately 342 calories per hour, while a 180 lb downhill skier consumes about 510 calories per hour. When you consider a five hour ski day, that same 120 lb skier burns 1,500 +1,710 = 3,210 calories per day, while that same 180 lb skier dissipates 2,000 + 2,550 = 4,550 calories per day. We’re not finished yet.
An all-terrain skier burns even more. Why? Skiing in the expert zones requires a greater expenditure of calories because one has to work even harder in the moguls, trees, and steeps. Let’s assume that our downhill skiers spend 40% of their day in the above terrain and the other 60% of the time on groomed trails. Let’s also assume that both skiers burn 50% more calories per hour when they are in the expert zones. If you’ve ever spent a couple of hours skiing in long, mogul fields and down dense, tree runs you’ll appreciate that a weighting factor of 1.50 is not out of line.
Our same 120 lb all-terrain skier burns 1500 + [(0.4 X 5) X (1.50 X 342)] + [(0.6 X 5) X 342] = 3,552 calories per day, while the same 180 lb all-terrain skier consumes a whopping 2,000 + [(0.4 X 5) X (1.50 X 510)] + [(0.6 X 5) X 510] = 5,060 calories per day. No wonder their bodies are screaming for food. We’ll use the above results in the next section, The Caloric Requirements of the All-Terrain Skier.
The biggest concern for skiers isn’t overdoing it, but rather not getting enough calories. Many fall into the trap of skiing through meals, which can be far worse than eating too much. Food is a vital part of skiing strong, especially if you want to ski your best in the expert zones. If you don’t eat regularly while you’re on the slopes, your body won’t be able to replenish its carbohydrate stores. Your energy level will be drop, and you’ll be more susceptible to injury. So, all you expert skiers eat with gusto. Here’s what you need!
The Caloric Requirements of the All-Terrain Skier
Protein is a building block of life. Yet in the age of low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets, most people, including skiers, don’t get enough. To ski your best, have optimal recovery, and have a great time, you need adequate protein in your diet. Complete protein animal sources are meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products. Complete protein vegetable sources are carrots, corn, cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes, sweat potatoes, peas, and cabbage, as well as soy. But just how much protein is enough?
The average 120-pound person needs about 43 grams of protein each day, while the average 180-pound person requires approximately 65 grams of protein each day. These amounts are recommended daily allowances for people who are basically sedentary. Some nutritionists recommend skiers consume 25 percent more protein than the recommended daily allowance, which may be somewhat conservative. There are other experts who suggest that skiers consume up to twice that amount.
Let’s use the 25% increase in protein consumption for downhill skiers, and then apply an additional weighting factor of 75% for our all-terrain skiers. So, our same 120 lb downhill skier requires 43 x 1.25 = 54 grams of protein per day, while the same 180 lb downhill skier needs 65 X 1.25 = 81 grams of protein per day.
Now, our 120 lb all-terrain skier requires about 54 X 1.75 = 95 grams of protein per day, and our 180 lb all-terrain skier needs approximately 81 X 1.75 = 142 grams of protein per day. We know there are approximately 4 calories per gram of protein, so the protein requirement in terms of calories is 4 X 95 = 380 calories per day for our 120 lb all-terrain skier, and 4 X 142 = 568 calories per day for our 180 lb all-terrain skier.
By the way, there is no chance of protein overload since skiing, especially all-terrain skiing, is such a high-endurance sport that there is little risk of getting too much.
Most people believe less fat is better, but health experts are now saying that eating too lean can starve your muscles, especially if you’re a skier. Cold air beating against the body causes a rush of adrenaline that speeds up the metabolism of fat, making it even more essential to get enough. Making sure you consume the right amount of fat will help you stay warm and energetic on the slopes. How much and what type of fat should you eat?
Natalie Harris, a registered dietician in Boulder, Colorado says “Between 25 to 30 percent of your total daily energy needs” should come from fat sources. Let’s use 25 percent for our purposes. We also know that our 120 lb all-terrain skier burns approximately 3,552 calories per day. Therefore, about 888 calories should come from fat. Since there are 9 calories per gram of fat, this skier requires 98 grams of fat. Likewise, our 180 lb all-terrain skier consumes about 5,060 calories per day, so about 1,265 calories should stem from fat. This skier requires 140 grams of fat. What kind of fat should we eat?
Completely avoid Trans fats found in cookies, crackers, chips, and margarine in stick form. Limit saturated and polyunsaturated fat to a third of your fat intake. Saturated fats are found in animal products such as red meat, egg yolks, butter, lard, and shortening, as well as high-fat dairy foods and tropical oils such as coconut oil, while polyunsaturated fats include vegetable oils, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pine nuts, and sunflower seeds. In the case of our 120 lb skier, that’s about 0.33 X 98 = 32 grams of saturated and polyunsaturated fat, while our 180 lb skier should consume about 0.33 X 140 = 46 grams of the same fats.
Eat mostly monounsaturated fat and Omega-3 fatty acids. The balance or 66% of your fat intake should come from these sources. Monounsaturated fats include olive and canola oils, olives, avocados, and most nuts, including almonds, filberts, peanuts, pecans, cashews, and pistachios. Sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include high-fat fish like salmon, herring, and sardines, dark green leafy vegetables, flaxseeds, as well as flaxseed and soybean oils. In the case of our 120 lb skier, that’s about 0.66 X 118 = 65 grams of monounsaturated fat and Omega-3 fatty acids, while our 180 lb skier should consume about 0.66 X = 92 grams of the same fats.
As mentioned previously carbohydrates are a main source of energy for the body, and the only source of glucose, which is used to make fuel for the cells in the muscles, brain, and nervous system. In addition, there are simple carbohydrates, as well as complex carbohydrates. We’ll be dealing with both in this lesson.
Simple carbohydrates include fruit and fruit juices, syrup, white and brown sugar, honey, soda pop, sports drinks, chocolate, candy, milk, and yogurt. Complex carbohydrates include potatoes, squash, grains such as oats, barley, corn, and rice, wheat and wheat products such as bread, pasta, and pancakes, breakfast cereals, fruits, and vegetables. So, how much carbohydrate does an expert skier need to consume?
We already know that our 120 lb all-terrain skier burns approximately 3,552 calories per day. We’ve calculated that about 888 calories should come from fat, and another 380 calories from protein. That means 2,284 calories should be consumed from carbohydrate sources. Our 180 lb all-terrain skier burns about 5,060 calories per day. This skier requires 568 calories from protein, 1,265 calories from fat, and 3,227 calories should to be eaten from sources of carbohydrate.
In addition, since there are approximately 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates, our 120 lb all-terrain skier requires about 540 grams of carbohydrates per day, while our 180 lb all-terrain skier needs nearly 765 grams of carbohydrates per day.
Vitamins and Minerals
We really don’t need to make any calculations for these groups. If you eat according to the plan in the next section you’ll get an adequate supply of both vitamins and minerals.
Skiers should drink at least 2 quarts of water per day and avoid caffeinated beverages. That’s equivalent to 8 x 8 fluid ounce glasses of water per day. Sounds like a lot of water, doesn’t it? Not really if you consider the following facts.
There are several ways in which your body loses fluids while you’re skiing. If you’re properly layered, you may not even feel as if you’re sweating, but you are. The moisture from your body evaporates into the dry mountain air almost instantly. You also lose a lot of water in cold weather just from breathing.
Between sweating, breathing, and urinating, it’s not uncommon to lose as much as 4 percent of your total body weight during a couple of hard hours in the expert zones, which is more than enough to affect your performance. For our 180 lb all-terrain skier, that’s equivalent to about 7 lbs of body weight. Since a gallon of water weights in at 10 lbs, that’s nearly 2.8 quarts of lost water. For our 120 lb all-terrain skier, it’s about 1.9 quarts of water.
But keep in mind that what you’re drinking is just as important as how much. Be careful to stay away from diuretics, such as alcohol or anything with caffeine. Your body also needs a lot of water to process sugary drinks such as soda pop, which may also contain caffeine, and fruit juice. If you do quench your thirst with any of these drinks, you may actually be dehydrating your body. Be sure to drink extra water to balance it out.
Spread the Food Around
You know approximately how many carbs, proteins, and fats you need to eat each day for endurance in the expert zones, but one question remains left unanswered. How much do you need to consume at each meal? This all-important issue needs to be addressed since we want to incorporate the findings in the food guide that appears in the last section.
The expert skier never skips a meal because he or she realizes the consequences that can result. Even if you don’t skip meals, just taking a quick lunch break won’t cut it either. Skiers should eat three full meals each day they’re on the slopes. The food plan in the last section recommends 8:00 AM, 12:00 PM, and 7:00 PM.
But how big should each meal be? Conventional wisdom says you should eat earlier in the day by taking in more of your calories during lunch as opposed to dinner for the following reasons:
You give your body the food it needs when it needs it
You avoid the heightened fat storage that happens when you sleep
The above may be all right for sedentary folk whose only activity during the day is walking over to the water cooler. However, this approach fails to take into account the time lag between digestion and absorption of nutrients. In addition, the fat storage during the night is beneficial for the all–terrain skier since he or she can tap into these fat stores for the energy that’s needed throughout the morning.
Most people do just the opposite. They eat light at breakfast and lunch, and gorge themselves at dinner. This method provides enough energy in the early morning, but not nearly enough as the day progresses. What’s best for the all-terrain skier?
Actually a hybrid of the above approaches is best. For the all-terrain skier, the key is to provide the maximum amount of energy at the times when you’re caloric burn is the greatest. If you’re in the moguls, trees, and steeps between 10:00 and 11:00 AM in the morning, and again in the afternoon between 2:00 and 3:00 PM, these are the periods of time when you need the most fuel for performance and endurance. Put it another way, you’re metabolic rate is the highest during these times. The secret lies in the way you’re body digests different combinations of food.
An important point to remember is that the digestion of food is a process that demands more energy than any other bodily function or physical activity, and will rob you of the very energy that you need for skiing. Proper food combining dramatically improves your energy level. Here’s why?
The human body is not designed to digest more than one concentrated food in the stomach at the same time. Breads, grains, meat, dairy products, legumes, and so on are all concentrated foods. Any food that is not a fruit or a vegetable is concentrated. In light of this fact, proper food combining states that you should not eat more than one concentrated food at a time.
Fruit is not a concentrated food
Fruit demands practically no energy to be digested, because fruit does not digest but passes through the stomach in thirty minutes or less. In addition, fruit provides your body with an abundance of energy. Since it quickly makes its way into the intestines you will feel a boost within an hour after consumption. If you are an office worker, you’ll stay alert and energized all morning. The all-terrain skier should start the morning with three pieces of fruit at around 7:30 AM, but this will not provide enough energy to last until lunch.
Breakfast should be a properly combined meal, without flesh
If food, other than fruit, is properly combined, it is fully digested in the stomach, and nutrients are absorbed from the intestines, and utilized by the body as energy. The way to ensure this is to have one concentrated food at a time, not two. For the layman, a properly combined meal, without flesh will take about 3 hours to go from digestion to utilization in the body. For the skier, with a higher metabolic rate, this same journey should take about 2 hours.
This is just what the expert skier needs at 8:00 AM in the morning. A plate of pancakes with syrup, and a side order of whole wheat toast with jam. Or, maybe a large bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar, and a side order of whole wheat toast with honey. These kinds of breakfasts are 90% carbohydrates, and as such are properly combined. It’s all right to combine a carbohydrate with another carbohydrate, or a starch with another starch.
Notice the absence of the ham, bacon, sausages, and eggs, which are all proteins. This breakfast will give you the boost you need from 10:00 AM until lunch at 12:00 PM, and should also provide your body with enough energy in the early afternoon from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM.
Lunch should be a properly combined meal, with flesh
For the layman, a properly combined meal, with flesh will take about 4 hours to go from digestion to utilization in the body. For the skier, with a higher metabolic rate, this same journey should take about 2 hours. This is just what the expert skier needs for endurance in the middle of the afternoon.
A properly combined meal, with flesh consists of meat, chicken, or fish with a salad and/or raw vegetables. In other words, the combination of a concentrated food, which is the meat, chicken, or fish, which contains protein, and a non-concentrated food, which is the salad or raw vegetables.
Instead, one could eat bread or pasta with butter along with a salad and/or raw vegetables, which is a combination of a concentrated food, in this case the bread or pasta, which contains carbohydrates, and a non-concentrated food, which is the salad or raw vegetables. Since you had a high carbohydrate loading at breakfast, perhaps it would be best to stick with the first alternative and get more protein at lunch, as well as some fat. The point is not to combine or mix the protein with the carbohydrate at this time of the day.
You may have to prepare this type of lunch at home or at your lodgings, and brown bag it. It’s unlikely you’ll find the above combination at a ski resort. Bring a bowl of salmon, along with a garden salad in olive oil. You could try two chicken breasts, and a bowl of raw carrots and celery sticks. You could eat a large slice of cold roast beef or a small steak, along with a tossed salad in flaxseed oil. The lunch will kick-in and give you the boost you need at around 2:00 PM, just when you’re back in the expert zones. It should provide your body with enough energy from 2:00 PM until 4:00 PM.
Dinner will have to be an improperly combined meal
Steak and potatoes, fish and rice, sausages and pancakes, chicken and noodles, bread and cheese, pasta and meatballs, and so on are all improperly combined meals. They’re a mixture of proteins and carbohydrates, which the stomach can’t handle at the same time. The implications for the all-terrain skier are two-fold.
First, he/she needs to increase the consumption of calories from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to balance the number of calories that were burned throughout the day. The only way to do this is to eat at least one improperly combined meal a day. It is best to have this mixture of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, later in the day, preferable at dinner.
Second, even though evening and night are not high activity periods, our all-terrain skier needs to eat a lot at this time of the day so there is enough energy available for normal bodily functions throughout the night and some fat left over for use in the morning.
The fruit at 7:30 AM will digest and be absorbed by 8:00 AM. The carbohydrate from the fruit will be burned first and within about 60 minutes. So, the skier needs a source of energy from 9:00 AM until around 10:00 AM, at which time the all-carbohydrate breakfast will kick-in. This is more or less when most skiers start their ski day. Where does this energy come from?
The energy must come from the fat that’s stored from the previous night’s dinner. Remember, this improperly combined meal will take about four hours to pass from the stomach to the intestines. If the meal is eaten at 7:00 PM, it will be in the intestines at around 11:00 PM. It will take at least another ten hours for the food to make it to the intestines for absorption. Some of the carbohydrates and protein from the dinner are converted into fat and will be stored for use the next morning. When the skier begins his or her first run at 9:00 AM, he or she must draw from this stored fuel for sustenance until more energy is available from breakfast.
Hydrate Before You Thirst
You know approximately how much water you need each day to perform effectively in the expert zones, but a couple of questions remain. When should you drink and how much should you drink at each water break?
It takes about half-an-hour for the thirst response to kick-in, and even longer as your body ages or becomes accustomed to dehydration. In other words, by the time you get a craving to drink something, your body can be as much as 2 percent dehydrated, which means you could already be down a quart of water or more. The point is not to become dehydrated, at any time during the day. Just as you spread your intake of food throughout the day, so you should spread your consumption of water throughout the day.
Experts recommend you drink about 16 fluid ounces of water two hours before any physical activity, or 2 of the recommended 8 fluid ounce glasses before you start skiing in the morning. The food guide in the last section suggests one glass when you get up, followed by three pieces of juicy fruit, which provides the second glass of water you need. You should then continue to drink throughout the day, before you get thirsty.
Some Final Thoughts
There is no need to count calories as we’ve done in this lesson. The calculations were done to demonstrate the principles of proper food combining and the need to balance the calories you consume with the calories you burn.
This food regimen is for all-terrain skiers, who spend up to two hours per day skiing moguls, trees, and steeps, and who need to maximize their performance, as well as enhance their endurance. If you fall short of this time in the expert zones, cut back on the calories that you consume. Remember, the recommendations in this article are meant for ski days only.