Attention winter sports enthusiasts: How to make every ski tour a success
How to eat right on your ski tour
General tips for a successful ski tour
Ski touring is becoming increasingly popular in winter sports. But anyone who straps on their skis for a tour in winter quickly becomes aware of how much the body has to do for this.
In addition to the athletic strain, the cold and the high altitude air demand a lot from the body!
If you are ski touring in open terrain, you should also not only concentrate on yourself, but also always keep an eye on the surroundings to avoid any nasty surprises.
All of this leads to high energy consumption, which is why we generally recommend a carbohydrate-rich, high-energy and nutrient-rich diet for ski tourers.
Combined with a high-quality protein supply, nothing more stands in the way of touring fun!
If the energy supply is neglected in sports, this can have serious consequences, why, we explain HERE.
The special challenges in winter sports
Exposure to cold affects our physical performance. It affects oxygen transport to the muscle, neuromuscular system function, energy production, and some cognitive-psychological abilities.
The maximum contractile force of skeletal muscles decreases with decreasing temperatures, and the force-velocity curve is also affected. Combined with the increased oxygen consumption that acute cold stress triggers, it can quickly affect endurance and speed.
If – as is so often the case in the mountains – other stressors such as wetness or wind are added, additional energy is needed to maintain muscle and core body temperature.
Not to be neglected is the influence of cold on alertness, reflexes and visual acuity. This is at the expense of safety and accuracy, which can often be life-threatening in open terrain!
Proper nutrition is especially important in such situations and can help you brave the cold.
If you do a half-day or day tour at medium altitude (2000-3000m), the influences on the body are initially reasonably low. Of course, it also depends on where you live – if you live at an altitude of 200m all year round, it is more strenuous for your body than for someone who lives at an altitude of 1000m.
However, there are adjustments that should be considered even for short tours. For example, breathing and heart rates increase. The maximum oxygen uptake of the lungs decreases by 1% for every 100 meters of altitude above 1500m.
Although the percentage of oxygen in the air remains constant, the absolute amount of oxygen is reduced due to the decreasing air pressure, i.e. there are fewer gas particles in one breath. To take in the same amount of oxygen as at sea level, correspondingly more air must be inhaled at altitude.
Because each breath must be warmed and moistened before it reaches the lung tissue, the body needs a lot of fluid. During intense or prolonged exercise, this alone results in a fluid loss of more than one liter.
So the issue of hydration at altitude is essential. For longer stays at high altitude (3000-4500m), the intake of 3-5 liters/day is a must (2).
But even on shorter tours, hydration is very important – for athletic performance and your health.
The right carbohydrate supply in the cold high altitude air
The right diet before the ski tour
The glycogen stores should be filled to the top before a ski tour by means of appropriate nutrition. If there is a lack of energy in the cold, this leads to peripheral vasoconstriction and the heat loss is all the greater.
So breakfast should be given great importance. Here it is best to reach for energy-rich foods such as a porridge with dried fruit or a warm millet porridge with honey and fruit.
Just before you get on your skis, you can once again turn to readily available carbohydrates like a banana or a PORRIDGE BAR bar.
More info about the correct carbohydrate intake in sports you can find HERE.
The optimal catering during the ski tour
During the tour a carbohydrate mixture is recommended! Here you can for example refer to our SLOW CARB which is particularly suitable for rather calm and long-lasting loads such as a ski tour.
Make sure you consume at least 30g of carbohydrates per hour.
Dose the SLOW CARB deliberately not too high, otherwise the special carbohydrate mixture can lead to gastrointestinal problems, especially in the beginning. However, up to 40g/h or 80g in total can be taken without any problems and are an ideal companion on a quiet, short ski tour or in the first part of a longer day tour.
Another advantage is that you can use the SLOW CARBs, you not only fill your carbohydrate stores, but also cover your fluid needs.
As already explained, this is a jumping off point, especially in winter sports, as a lot of fluid is lost through respiration in addition to sweat. However, the need to drink is much less in the cold, often leading to a drop in performance due to dehydration.
To make drinking a little more pleasant, feel free to mix our drinks with warm water.
If you are out for more than 2 hours, you should increase your carbohydrate intake to 60-80g per hour.
Especially when ski mountaineering, you can rely not only on carbohydrate drinks but also on carbohydrate-rich snacks such as bananas, dates, dried fruit, nuts or our PORRIDGE BAR fall back on.
This provides complex carbohydrates as well as vegetable proteins and monounsaturated fatty acids. Nevertheless, you must not neglect hydration in any case.
Fast regeneration after the ski tour
In order to regenerate quickly after the ski tour, it is crucial to use the so-called “open window” in the first 30 minutes after the training. During this time, the body’s ability to absorb the supplied nutrients is significantly increased.
However, not only the period plays an important role, but also the supplied nutrients. Thus, for optimal recovery, we recommend a combination of carbohydrates and proteins.
Also, the intake of antioxidants (found mainly in fruits and vegetables) should not be neglected in the recovery phase, especially in sports such as ski mountaineering.
Stressful environmental influences place additional strain on the body, which promotes the formation of free radicals. To neutralize them, antioxidants are very important.
Learn more about optimal regeneration HERE.
5 Take Home Messages
- Make sure your glycogen stores are well-filled before a ski tour
- Remember to drink plenty – this will help you avoid dehydration and energy deficit
- Build high-energy snacks into your tour
- Supply your body with carbohydrates and proteins after a ski tour
- Pay attention to the intake of antioxidants – they help your body to neutralize the free radicals that have been created.
Practicing Sport in Cold Environments: Practical Recommendations to Improve Sport Performance and Reduce Negative Health Outcomes. Gatterer H, Dünnwald T, Turner R, Csapo R, Schobersberger W, Burtscher M, Faulhaber M, Kennedy MD. Int J Environ Res Public Health.
Sport and nutrition, Raschka, 4th edition