Performance Nutrition for Winter Sports | ABC’s of maintaining your game |

Performance Nutrition for Winter Sports | ABC’s of maintaining your game

Dana Lis
Special to the Tribune

Training in cold, dry and high environments requires extra nutrition planning due to the unique environmental conditions that place additional physiological strain on your body.

Increased fluid losses, altitude, and heavy clothing are just some of the challenges to fueling for sport in Tahoe during the cold weather.

Here are the fundamentals of fueling right:

• Add energy to meet increased needs: Shivering, warming and humidifying the air you breath, and moving in heavy gear are some factors that increase energy expenditure compared to similar exercise in warm environments.

The average athlete who trains daily on snow or ice has an increased energy requirement of 10 to 15 percent.

To balance this energy output with intake for daily refueling requires increased food energy intake.

Make sure this extra energy comes mostly from high-quality food choices such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats.

A few apres ski beers does not count as an effective way to replace fluids and may actually compromise rehydration and tissue repair.

• Boost up fluid intake: Dehydration is one of the main reasons for decreased performance in cold.

In Tahoe-type climates, we lose more water during exercise via respiration and cold-induced diuresis -when the body pools fluids toward your core to keep warm, which, in turn, tells your kidneys to excrete urine even if you are dehydrated.

In addition to a decreased desire to drink, many people voluntarily choose to drink less to avoid the hassle or dealing with inconvenient restrooms on the slopes.

Make sure to drink two cups of fluids one to two hours before, one to four cups per hour during, and three to four cups within two hours after training.

Again, six beers does not equal rehydration or carbohydrate loading.

• Carb up to meet increased demand for fuel: Did you know that your body actually increases its carbohydrate use for fuel in cold environments?

This is partially due to the constriction of blood vessel in your extremities to keep warm, which limits your body’s ability to break down fat for fuel.

Low blood glucose can lead to fatigue, increased injury risk, decreased mental and reduced physical performance, submaximal aerobic capacity and decreased endurance.

Make sure your pre-, during- and post-training foods are high in carbohydrate, such as whole grains and fruit.

If exercising more than 90 minutes, keep easily digestible carbohydrate snacks or fluids on hand.

Increased iron and antioxidant needs are two more key considerations for fueling in cold, high and dry environments.

On Tuesday, Jan. 11, I held a Performance Nutrition for Winter Sports workshop, to discuss fueling for your sport this winter, at the Tahoe Environmental Research Center at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village.

For more information, visit http://terc.ucdavis


– Dana Lis is a Sport Dietitian (Canada) RD, BSc., IOC Dipl. Sport Nutrition Dietitian to Canadian National and provincial team athletes with the Canadian Sport Center Pacific and owner of Summit Sports Nutrition. E-mail her at info@summitsports or visit

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