In winter sports, proper nutrition is essential to preserve your health, athletic performance, and general wellbeing.
Winter sports include:
- alpine skiing,
- sky touring,
- cross-country skiing,
- ski jumping,
- ice skating.
In this blog, you'll learn how to support your winter activities with correct nutrition to get the best results in your favorite winter sport.
Why is nutrition important in winter sports?
Winter sports usually take place in environments with temperatures ranging from -25 to 5 °C. Since many winter sports depend on the constant presence of snow cover, they often take place in glacial environments from moderate (2000 to 3000 m) to high (above 3000 m) altitude.
Cold temperatures and high altitudes represent hard environmental conditions, which also result in increased dietary needs of winter athletes who train and compete in such conditions. This results in an increased need of energy, carbohydrates, and fluid.
Furthermore, high altitudes may suppress your appetite. This can prevent you from consuming a sufficient amount of energy, which long-term could lead to health problems, such as RED-S.
Altitude and cold temperatures increase your need for carbohydrates and fluid.
Carbohydrates in winter sports
Carbohydrates are your body's main source of fuel, especially at high intensity. Nothing new here, but many athletes still fail to acknowledge their crucial importance.
Chills are not common during exercise, but it could happen on the snow. In fact, cold temperatures can increase oxidation of carbohydrates up to 6 times. Even standing still, glucose consumption increases at high altitudes. This could lead to energy deficiency for athletes who train in cold environments or at high altitude.
Similar to summer sports, the type and amount of carbohydrates you need to consume are based on 3 parameters of your training sessions:
Winter sports require a high intake of carbohydrates.
Protein and fat in winter sports
Muscle recovery and growth is impossible without protein. We recommend a daily intake of 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass. To increase absorption rates, divide this intake evenly among several meals. Learn more about protein in sports nutrition.
To sustain the health of a winter athlete, another essential nutrient are dietary fats. These have several crucial functions in your body – they are the building blocks of your cells, regulate your metabolism, enable the absorption and transport of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, take part in hormone productions, and provide insulation. Learn more about dietary fats in sports nutrition.
Protein and dietary fats are both essential to preserve your health and performance in winter sports.
Hydration is crucial even in cold and high-altitude environments
In low winter temperatures, hydration is often overlooked. That's a big mistake. In fact, hydration in winter is equally important as hydration in summer. Low temperatures reduce your sensation of thirst, but they also increase your need for fluid, as cold air contains less water than warm air, which makes you lose more water with breathing.
Increased ventilation and low humidity of high-altitude air increase the loss of water from your body. This can quickly lead to dehydration. Dehydration, among other things, may cause a drop in performance, headache, reduced concentration, confusion. To avoid this, you need to drink enough water. As a bonus tip, you can use a thermos to keep the water warm.
During the activity, you also lose electrolytes with sweat. Electrolytes are crucial for your body functions, and you need to replace them. Make sure you drink enough fluid throughout the day, but keep in mind that only water is not enough. You need minerals aka electrolytes.
A highly-efficient way to take care of your hydration, as many athletes do, is by using an isotonic sports drink.
The isotonic sports drink Nrgy Unit Drink contains electrolytes in citrate form. This means they have extremely high absorption levels and do not cause digestive issues. Furthermore, the isotonic sports drink also contains carbohydrates, which allows you to sustain your energy levels throughout the day.
Proper hydration requires the intake of water and minerals aka electrolytes.
Don't forget about vitamin D
In wintertime, sunlight is too weak in Europe to enable the synthesis of vitamin D. This can quickly lead to a vitamin D deficiency.
That's bad news. Vitamin D plays a key part in:
- preserving bone health,
- enabling muscle function,
- boosting the immune system.
Include sources of vitamin D in your diet, such as fat fish (salmon, mackerel), egg yolks, enriched dairy products, and mushrooms. But since foods are generally poor in vitamin D, it makes sense to supplement vitamin D.
Especially in winter, supplementing vitamin D is crucial four your immune system.
Iron and winter sports
Athletes training at high altitudes must be mindful of their iron intake, as their needs increase due to the production of red blood cells.
Iron deficiency and depletion are very common in winter sports. To prevent iron deficiency, it is recommended to add iron to your meals, especially for female athletes.
Iron+ 4Endurance Pro is a high-quality source of this key mineral, optimized for high absorption and the elevated needs of endurance athletes.
Endurance athletes often suffer from iron deficiency.
Example of meals for winter sports
Start the day with a carbohydrate-rich breakfast with some protein. Avoid a high intake of fats and dietary fiber, as they will slow down your digestion and cause stomach discomfort during exercise.
- Bread with ricotta, smoked salmon, and cherry tomatoes
- Rice pudding with ricotta
- Milk with semolina and cacao
- Pancakes with Greek yoghurt and jam
During exercise, you have to replace the lost energy. Use simple snacks that contain carbohydrates, such as banana, dry fruit, or an energy bar.
Since your appetite may decrease in cold weather and at high altitude, you have to make a nutrition plan beforehand instead of relying on your sensation of hunger.
Learn more about the intake of energy during exercise aka the nutritional strategy called fueling.
After any physical activity, you need to have a recovery meal. Learn why recovery is crucial and how to do it correctly.
After exercise, you must provide your body with the optimal nutrients to recover. Immediately following your activity (within 30 minutes), consume a meal that contains carbohydrates and protein. This combination will allow you to regenerate your muscles and replenish your glycogen stores.
Examples of recovery meals:
- white bread with Greek yoghurt and jam,
- ricotta with banana and honey,
- chocolate milk.
Winter sports, such as skiing, cross-country skiing, and biathlon, are also endurance sports and require a correct approach to sports nutrition.
You must take care of the proper intake of carbohydrates and protein before, during, and after exercise.
You must also be very mindful of hydration, as the harsh environmental conditions increase water loss and decrease the sensation of thirst. Drink plenty of water and add minerals aka electrolytes.
You can accomplish a lot with regular food, but for maximum efficiency we recommend the use of dietary supplements, such as an isotonic sports drink and a recovery drink.