Skiing & Winter Sports Nutrition & Sports Supplements for Skiers

skiing-nutrition-and-sports-supplements-for-skiersThe cumulative effects of extreme cold and altitude are two of the most important nutritional factors for skiers and other winter sports athletes to consider.

The extreme environmental conditions encountered by skiiers and winter sports athletes can lead to increased energy output; a greater reliance on blood glucose and muscle glycogen, and increased fluid losses, and if not dealt with correctly can result in both a deterioration in mental and physical performance.

Fluid requirements are higher under such extreme environmental conditions because cold air has less water than warmer air.

Therefore, exposure to the cold leads to a small, yet significant, increase in respiratory water loss and can result in an impaired response to thirst and increased diuresis, usually leading in turn to dehydration.


While there are no specific recommendations for fluid replacement during skiing or other winter sports in the cold or at altitude, there are certain things you can do to counter the effects of the fluids that have been lost.

Specially formulated sports drinks, for example, can encourage fluid intake, assist with fluid retention – they reduce the need to urinate while on snow – and they can provide additional carbohydrate to meet some of the fuel needs.

Because of the significant anaerobic output required in alpine and freestyle skiing, glycogen stores can be reduced by as much as 50 per cent, while in cross country skiing it is even more marked, with fatigue often associated with the almost complete depletion of glycogen supply.

Cool fluids are generally preferred during strenuous sessions, but under very cold conditions warmer fluids may be more inviting, so try packing a Thermos type flask or insulated drinks container.

Keep it in mind, however, that fluid intake is usually reduced when fluids are very cold.

Cold flavoured milk is good, as well as fruit juices, but if you like it hot then how about hot chocolate or steaming soup, or a hot coffee based beverage?

Sports supplements and meal replacement shakes are also suitable for recovery purposes.

For cross-country skiing events longer than 15kms sports drinks are of great value.

It can, however, be tricky carrying them and maintaining their temperature at the recommended 10 to 20 degrees, so keep them in leak-proof containers with thermal covers.

For other skiing events, fluid is often provided at the end of the first and final run or jump and carbohydrate-rich snack foods will normally also be available if required.

Skiing and winter sports nutrition

In the general run of things, however, food is eaten only if there is a race delay due to the weather.

There are a number of snack options that you might like to try including:

  • Muesli bars
  • Sports bars
  • Fresh fruit (oranges, bananas are best because they are easy to peel wearing gloves)
  • Muffins or toast with jam
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Jam or peanut butter sandwiches
  • Soup or hot chocolate in a Thermos flask
  • Liquid meal supplements

One practical but important thing to remember when selecting snacks and drinks for skiing: liquids freeze and bars go hard in cold temperatures!

The antidote is to pack a Thermos flask with warm liquids and place a heat pack around bars. It’s as simple as that!

Thermal bowls are also available. They will keep hot meals hot if sealed well.

Incidentally, socks can be handy to keep bars in!

Another tip: when training you can keep foods packed into pockets and jumpers.

Your own body heat will do the rest.

Post-event nutrition

So much for before and during events. What about afterwards?

There are important considerations with regard to replacing glycogen stores, for example.

Because of the significant anaerobic output required in alpine and freestyle skiing, glycogen stores can be reduced by as much as 50 per cent, while in cross country skiing it is even more marked, with fatigue often associated with the almost complete depletion of glycogen supply.

Therefore, recovery of these stocks should begin as soon as possible after the completion of racing or training.

Another problem arises with the unavoidable delay in skiers returning to their accommodation, so have snacks and meals handy on your return journey. The following are ideal to keep you going:

  • warm soup and bread rolls
  • rice or pasta with a low-fat sauce
  • noodles with tuna
  • porridge made with milk
  • meat and vegetable stir fry with rice

Note that noodles, pasta, rice etc. can be kept warm in thermal containers, while hot water for noodles or powdered soup will stay hot in a Thermos.

Iron deficiency

It has been known for some skiers, especially females, to suffer from problems associated with iron deficiency, so you should have your levels checked regularly during intense training or if you are getting tired more quickly than usual.

If you are an elite winter sports athlete at the top end of the competitive spectrum you will often spend up to six months a year overseas so you need to plan your dietary needs very carefully.

Get to know about the culture of the country or region where you will be staying and think about what you might choose if eating out.

Ask yourself are the specialised sports foods you use at home available at competition venues?

If not, then take some with you, along with other regular items which you know, through experience, help to keep you fit and nutritionally satisfied.

The recovery phase

After an event or training has been completed, it is always advisable for athletes to follow the correct recovery procedure as, in many instances; this stage is just as important as the initial preparation stages, especially during periods of intensive training or competition.

There are three golden rules to successful rehabilitation; and we refer to them as the three R’s:

  • Refuel

    Refuel muscle glycogen (carbohydrate stores). This is particularly important as glycogen stores can be reduced by as much as 50 per cent, and even more so with cross country skiers where almost complete depletion of glycogen reserves can sometimes occur.

  • Repair

    Repair muscle tissue (for maintenance and development).

  • Rehydrate

    Rehydrate to replace fluids and salts lost through sweat.

Therefore your ideal recovery meals and snacks must contain carbohydrate (for fuel replacement), some protein (for muscle repair and/or gains) and plenty of fluids to replace sweat losses.

Want to get involved in skiing and winter sports?

If you’re not currently involved in skiing or other winter sports and are keen to learn more about taking part then read on. Here we’ve brought together a number of useful links to winter sports organisations that may be able to help you.

  • British Ski and Snowboard (BSS)

    British Ski and Snowboard (BSS) is the National Governing Body for Skiing and Snowboarding in the United Kingdom. Recognised by the International Ski Federation (FIS) and by the British Olympic Association (BOA), it manages the elite British teams and the development pathway for those elite teams. It selects, manages and leads British teams to international events, promotes participation in FIS disciplines, and provides opportunities for athletes to achieve their full potential as individuals and as a team. It provides development programs in four FIS disciplines: Alpine, Cross Country, Freestyle and Snowboarding. It also licences competitors in Telemark, Speed Skiing and Ski Jumping.

  • International Ski Federation

    International Ski Federation, FIS (Federation Internationale de Ski) is the worlds governing body for international skiing and snowboarding. It is responsible for the Olympic disciplines of Alpine skiing, Cross-Country skiing, Ski Jumping, Nordic Combined, Freestyle skiing and Snowboarding. It also sets the international rules of competition rules and is based in Oberhofen am Thunersee, Switzerland.

  • Skiing in Wikipedia

    Skiing is a recreational activity and competitive winter sport in which the participant uses skis to glide on snow. Many types of competitive skiing events are recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the International Ski Federation (FIS)…

Want help with nutrition?

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