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A complete guide to nutrition for your ski holiday

Regardless of the activity or event you’re preparing for, getting in good shape involves both physical fitness and nutrition and skiing is no different.

We interviewed Laura, an expert in nutrition to get her advice on the topic. Originally from Nice, she is very familiar with the demands of both water sports and mountain sports, competes in high-level fencing, and is a professional dancer. In addition to all of this, determined to make us reconsider our idea of productivity, Laura also works with the famous Monaco rugby club, where she supports several players.

After selecting the sports training that suits you best, come and discover our top tips on what and how to eat before, during, and after the upcoming ski season.

A woman eating a salad
Getting in good shape for skiing involves both physical fitness and nutrition – photo by Farhad Ibrahimzade

How can you prepare for the coming ski season?

To get back into shape for skiing, you need to gradually rebalance your diet. This means getting back to the basics of healthy eating, losing bad habits and replacing them with new, healthier options.

But it’s important to reinforce that we’re not talking about diets. Diets tend to involve some degree of deprivation, and as soon as you deprive your body, it can’t function properly.

So what are the ground rules?

1. Reclaim your body

One of the first things you need to do is reclaim your body and the sensations associated with eating: satisfaction, hunger, thirst, and the well-being you feel after a few days or weeks of re-calibration. Your body knows how to make itself heard and you can learn to listen. The feeling of thirst, for example, is not limited to a dry throat. Headaches, cramps, irritation and heat stroke all indicate a lack of hydration.

Vue d'avion d'un buddha bowl.A healthy Buddha bowl full of vegetables
A balanced approach to nutrition is vital ©Canva

2. Make sure you are eating and drinking enough

The second rule is to eat and drink enough.

Everyone, depending on their sex, size, age or physical condition, will need their own specific calorie intake to function at their best. However, it doesn’t really matter whether this intake is divided into three large meals or six smaller ones, as long as the calorie count is right.

This can even be an advantage. If you find it hard to eat in the morning (and don’t forget breakfast, by the way!), why not start the day with a few well-chosen snacks, spread evenly over the first part of the day to get you going? The first real meal can be eaten a little later.

3. Don’t eliminate – replace

Finally, the third rule: don’t eliminate, replace. Once again, rebalancing your diet is not a succession of prohibitions. It’s the art of gradually adding healthier, more nutritious foods to a diet that wasn’t really the best until now.

Replacements? That depends on the individual, for example:

  • Margarine instead of butter;
  • Red meat is occasionally replaced by chicken, eggs or fish;
  • Hard cheeses are replaced by goat’s or sheep’s cheeses such as feta;
  • Add a dose of vegetables to your favourite comfort food, a handful of peas to your pasta carbonara, or a portion of vegetables on your pizza, for example. You can also prepare a good raw vegetable salad as a starter before a particularly high-calorie meal.
Porridge and pears with coffee
Replace some items of your diet with healthier options – photo by Mushaboom Studio

What should you look out for once you’re in the mountains?

1. Altitude

The very first assumption is that athletes and non-athletes alike will be affected by altitude. Whatever your level or physical condition, altitude causes physical changes in our bodies. The heart rate changes, oxygen is transported more slowly through the body and all this can lead to side effects such as nausea, vomiting, a lack of hunger or, more dangerously, thirst.

All these phenomena are particularly noticeable at altitudes above 2,000 metres, so you need to be more careful about what you eat because your reactions will be different. Regular skiers and top-level sportsmen and women will certainly be less affected, but they should still prepare.

Two toasted sandwiches with salad, tomatoes and onion
A homemade sandwich with wholemeal bread makes an excellent snack. ©Canva

2. Eat and drink more

You’ll need to eat and drink more.

The average daily intake is around 2,100 to 2,500 calories. In the mountains, when you’re skiing all day at high altitude, it can reasonably be assumed that this basic intake should be increased by 20 to 30%. In addition, if you have reached your calorie quota but you need an extra snack, make sure to listen to your body.

As for liquids, in the mountains, you should be drinking 2-2.5 litres of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty, compared to the usual 1-1.5 litres of water.

3. Extra advice

  • In the morning, don’t forget your protein-rich breakfast. It’s important because protein triggers the secretion of dopamine, the feel-good hormone. It’s essential for getting your body off to a good start;
  • Adapt your meals. Drink plenty in the morning if it’s easier for you, and have several small snacks throughout the day if you feel they’re more digestible than large meals.
Poached eggs and avocado on toast
Having several snacks can help you reach your recommended calorie intake – photo by David B Townsend

What should you eat after a day of skiing?

We often focus solely on the food we eat before physical activity. This is indeed important, as you’ll need energy to be in shape for skiing, but it’s crucial not to neglect the aftermath – recovery.

During physical exertion, the body produces metabolic waste products such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid. After a day’s skiing, the body has to work hard to eliminate these waste products accumulated in the muscles and blood.

Secondly, even when you’re at rest after exercise, the muscles continue to contract slightly, known as “residual muscle contractions”. This can lead to fatigue and muscle tension.

Finally, depleted energy reserves need to be replenished.

All these processes will be much smoother, more comfortable and less painful if you hydrate and eat properly at the end of the day. Here are four recipes for post-workout smoothies.

Someone pours sauce over red meat
Red meat is an excellent source of iron- photo by Vitor Monthay

By the way, when we say drink, we mean water! Before consuming alcohol, the body needs to recover from its physical activity. Let’s say you come back from your day’s skiing at around 5 pm, it would be reasonable to wait until 8 pm before enjoying an aperitif. You’ll thank yourself the next day!

Should you take supplements?

It’s a good idea to look into the question of micro-nutrition.

Micro-nutrition refers to vitamins, minerals and trace elements, which are required in small quantities but play a vital role in maintaining good health and bodily functions. This is contrasted with macro-nutrition, which covers all the nutrients the body needs in large quantities: carbohydrates, lipids and proteins.

In simple terms, macro-nutrition provides energy, while micro-nutrition supplies the cofactors and regulators essential for optimal health, depending on the particular conditions you find yourself in. For example, in winter, or in the mountains, you may be subject to vitamin D deficiency due to the lack of light and sunshine.

As a general rule, dietary supplements should only be taken after a medical examination and on prescription. For occasional mineral or nutrient supplements, an adjustment to the diet is all that’s required.

A person tips vitamins into their hands
Most nutrients can be found in a healthy diet – photo by Daily Nouri

Micro-nutrition and skiing: What nutrients should you look out for?

At altitude, atmospheric pressure is lower, reducing the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. To compensate, the body produces more red blood cells, which contain iron, to carry more oxygen. This can lead to increased iron requirements, which can exacerbate deficiencies. This is especially true in non-menopausal women, who are already highly prone to anaemia.

In terms of supplementation, snacks a little richer in iron will do the trick: red meat, pulses, dried fruit or cocoa beans. For greater effectiveness, these iron supplements should be combined with vitamin C, which helps bind iron. You’ll find it in citrus fruits and red peppers.

You can also slightly increase your intake of:

  • Calcium – essential for proper muscle contraction;
  • Magnesium – an essential mineral with relaxing properties that helps balance the body after exercise and aids muscle recovery;
  • Omega 3 – which supports heart muscle contraction, which is more difficult in the mountains due to the lack of oxygen.
A hand holds a plate of meat, eggs and veg
In the mountains, remember to increase your intake of iron, calcium, magnesium and omega-3 – photo by Eduardo Roda Lopes

And what about drinks?

When it comes to hydration, you can safely stick to water alone. However, you can also take a leaf out of the book of seasoned athletes, who often use isotonic drinks.

An isotonic drink has a concentration of electrolytes (minerals such as phosphate and sodium) and sugars similar to that of blood. It is designed to be rapidly absorbed by the body and replenish electrolytes and energy levels during intense physical exercise. With its help, you’ll prevent sluggishness and be in better shape for skiing.

Avoid hypotonic and hypertonic drinks, as they can disrupt the digestive system. There’s no need to add more stress to your body, especially when you’re already dealing with the challenges of high altitude!

A man drinks water in front of a mountain
Make sure to keep hydrated in the mountains

Proper nutrition will be your best ally during the ski season. Re-establish some good basic habits, prepare snacks rich in micronutrients, allow yourself to indulge in some traditional regional dishes, and you’ll be in top form on the slopes.

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This article is the last in our mini-series “How to Get in Shape Before the Next Ski Season”. If you want to stay updated on all our news, subscribe to our newsletter.

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