As a sport, skiing encompasses a wide range of events from endurance focused cross-country to power driven jumps. The varying forms of physical activity under conditions of cold and high elevation make nutrition different than any other sport. Not adjusting to the unique nutrition demands of this sport can put skiers at risk for fatigue, injury, and poor performance. On the other hand, teenage skiers who train and compete properly fueled will see improved outcomes. So, what should a teenage skier eat? Whether you’re a competitive skiier or ski for fun, this guide will help you stay healthy, energized, and perform at your top potential.
Teenage skiers should ensure adequate consumption of calories to meet the elevated energy needs of the sport. The higher altitude will increase the ratio of carbohydrates to fat used for energy while active. Subsequently, skiers should consume adequate calories from carbohydrates, often at a higher point on the recommended 45-65% range of total calories. Protein and fat remain essential to protect muscle, hormone and overall health. Skiers will want to eat 10-30% of calories from protein and 25-35% from fat.
Some of the best foods for skiiers include bagels with peanut butter, pancakes and fruit, oatmeal with favorite toppings, rice and veggies, granola and greek yogurt, hummus with veggies and crackers, tilapia with rice, chicken noodle soup, egg and tomato sandwich, PB&J sandwich, chicken soft tacos, salad and chicken, etc.
Hydration should also be emphasized in winter sports. Altitude and physical activity increase water loss while cold weather makes it less likely for a teenager to drink enough fluids. Skiers may also be at risk for iron deficiency and should eat high iron foods such as meat, legumes (beans, soy, lentils) and enriched grains. Finally, antioxidants from foods, not supplements, help keep the body healthy and prevent inflammation. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, cocoa and legumes increase antioxidant content of a teenager’s eating pattern.
Continue reading to learn more about effective dietary strategies for a teenage skier.
How Can You Eat Healthy While Skiing?
Ski resorts do not offer a lot of food variety in their isolated locations. The food options may also come with an uncomfortably high price. For these reasons, some skiers will want to bring their own meals and snacks. However, a lack of refrigeration or warming options can make it more difficult for a skier to know what to bring. What fits in a backpack and pocket will be easiest so you don’t have to make a trip to the car and cut down on time on the slopes.
Effective skiing meals and snacks will contain easily digested foods that won’t spoil and that a skier can store and carry easily. The following list gives some examples of these types of meals and snacks. Depending on the weather or where the food is located, a small ice pack can keep foods cold.
Meals to Eat At the Resort or Car While Skiing
- Nut butter on a bagel with a banana
- Dry oatmeal and you can often ask for hot water, add a sliced banana and chia seeds
- Nut butter with pancakes or waffles
- Bean burger
- Cottage cheese and fruit
- Salad with canned chicken, dressing and pita
- Tuna or salmon pouches and baked potato
- Favorite sandwich or wraps
- Cold pasta
- PB&J sandwich
Snacks to Bring Skiing
- Dried fruit and nuts
- String cheese and Triscuits (whole wheat crackers)
- Fruit (apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, applesauce pouches, etc.)
- Fruit leather
- Energy balls (a homemade combination of oatmeal, nut butter, and favorite add-ins)
- Low sugar muffins
- Granola bars, protein bars, or other energy bars
- Candy bars can be a good option too for quick energy!
Try this recipe for cereal bars to bring skiing:
Cereal Bars for Skiiers:
- 1 1/2 Cup Oatmeal
- 1 1/2 Cup Cereal (cheerios or flakes)
- 2 Tbsp or to taste Honey or Syrup
- 1 Cup Peanut Butter
- 1 Egg
Mix together with your favorite add-ins: nuts, chocolate chips, seeds, raisins, dried fruit, etc.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease or put parchment paper in 8×8 pan. Pour all ingredients in pan and mix together. Press mixture flat into pan. Cook until slightly browned.
What Should You Eat Before Skiing All Day?
In the days leading up to skiing all day, try to eat well rounded meals and snacks. This balance prepares skiers for upcoming training and events. The Myplate diagram offers a guideline with half the meal fruits and vegetables with a quarter of the plate grains and a quarter protein foods. Skiers should avoid eliminating any food group, nutrient or food to avoid deficiencies, cravings and lack of satisfaction.
While eating an array of nutrient dense foods along with the occasional treat works well in the days prior to an event, teenage skiers may need to be more selective in what they eat in the hours before competing. Certain foods at the wrong time can cause gut distress, bloating, sluggishness and energy crashes. Of course, every skier is different and should find what works best for them. Skiers should avoid new foods and dietary habits immediately ahead of important ski events. However, skiers should include variety and feel free to try new foods at other times, such as during training.
Foods high in fat, fiber and sugar alcohols (artificial sweeteners) will affect digestion. A skier should limit these foods 0-4 hours before high level skiing. Also, while foods high in sugar cause a quick spike in energy, a drop in blood sugar or energy soon follows. These high sugar foods should be saved for another time.
A skier eating a meal 3-4 hours before skiing will want to choose a meal with easily digested carbohydrates along with some protein.
Best Foods to Eat Before Skiing All Day:
- Bagels and peanut butter
- Pancakes and fruit
- Oatmeal with favorite toppings (nuts, fruit, coconut,
- Rice Cakes with nut butter and fruit
- Rice and veggies
- Granola and greek yogurt
- Hummus with veggies and whole wheat crackers
- Tilapia with rice
- Chicken noodle soup
- Egg and tomato sandwich
- PB&J sandwich
- Chicken soft taco
Another point to consider is quantity. Eating too much 0-4 hours may not leave enough time for digestion. Especially with only 1-3 hours left, a skier may find it more beneficial to eat a high carbohydrate and moderate protein snack or small meal rather than a full meal. This eating occasion could include something like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, bagels and bananas, or some crackers and cheese. Immediately prior to the event, a skier may want to choose a simple carbohydrate snack like a granola bar, fruit, or dry cereal.
Without fail, teenage skiers should make hydration a part of their pre-competition fueling plan. A lot of fluid all at once can cause water sloshing, electrolyte imbalance, frequent urination and other symptoms. Therefore, teenagers should drink consistently in the days and hours before competing. In fact, rather than relying on the delayed signal of thirst, athletes should look for a urine color of pale yellow to indicate hydration.
Sport nutrition experts recommend drinking 16-24 ounces two hours before the athletic performance. Some athletes like to combine nutrition with fluid by making a smoothie, but water works great in most cases.
Need specific personalized help from a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist? Check out my Teen Athlete Meal Plan eBook with nutrition tips to get you from off-season to competition day!
How Many Calories Do I Burn While Skiing?
Several factors affect the rate of energy use during skiing. Weight, height, age, gender, ethnicity and body composition alter the number of calories burned per person doing the same activity. Type of skiing, intensity and conditions will also significantly change the calories burned per hour.
The following numbers come from a table of activities created by Harvard Medical School.
Examples of Calories burned per 30 minutes of skiing based on weight
|Activity||125 pounds||155 pounds||185 pounds|
This table only refers to one intensity. Remember, this doesn’t include breaks or time on a lift. Some estimates for more intense cross-country skiing can be as high as almost double the calories burned. For instance, a 125 pound person cross country skiing at 4 mph can burn around 268 calories in thirty minutes.
The following websites offer more insight into calories burned while skiing and how to calculate those calories burned:
What Nutrients are Important for a Skier?
A skier will want to eat a variety of nutrients, but some stand out with their abilities to support performance, recovery and well-being on the slopes. Here’s a few to focus on for top skiing performance:
Carbohydrates fuel the large energy demands of this sport. A lack of carbohydrates causes fatigue and brain fog, which can seriously hamper skiing ability. As an exercise performed at high altitudes, skiers may need even more carbohydrates than athletes in other sports. Studies show a correlation between altitude and the body using more carbohydrates over fat as energy.
Complex carbohydrates contain components like fiber, protein, fat and more branched chains of glucose. These characteristics tend to provide longer lasting energy while simple carbohydrates or sugars lead to only short spurts of energy followed by crashes.
Complex carbohydrates: fruit, starchy vegetables ( potatoes, corn, peas, winter squash), whole grains, milk, yogurt, legumes
Simple carbohydrates: sweets, candy, sugary beverages, and other high sugar foods. Combining proteins or healthy fats with simple carbohydrates can help regulate the blood sugar response to avoid a “crash” later on.
This nutrient helps maintain blood sugar and preserve lean muscle mass. Athletes usually need more protein than the standard recommendation of .8 grams(g) per kilogram(kg) of body weight. Teenage skiers may want to aim for a higher amount of around 1.2-1.8g per kg of body weight depending on individual circumstance.
Foods that offer a good source of protein include eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, cheese, seafood and lean meat or poultry.
Unsaturated Fats (Omega 3)
Dietary fat provides energy, especially at lower exercise intensities. Eating enough fat aids endurance athletes in their performance. Fat is also vital to hormone production, nutrient absorption and organ protection. Many athletes fail to eat enough of the unsaturated fats found in plant oils, avocado, olives, nuts, seeds and fatty fish. These unsaturated fats, especially omega 3, promote heart and brain health.
Antioxidants can be found in most plant foods. Just some of the many foods known for their high antioxidant content include berries, beets, pomegranates, dark leafy greens, purple cabbage, beans and cherries. Research shows that athletes may experience higher stress and lowered immunity at high altitudes. Antioxidants help combat this increased inflammation and protect longevity.
Athletes who train at higher elevations experience increased production of red blood cells. As a crucial component of healthy red blood cells, iron is an important nutrient for skiers. Athletes with inadequate intake of iron will struggle to produce sufficient and healthy red blood cells. However, iron from food is preferred to supplements unless under the direction of a healthcare provider. While too little iron harms health, too much can be toxic.
Iron from animal sources like meat, poultry and fish is easily absorbed. Plant sources of iron like legumes, nuts, seeds and leafy greens offer less easily absorbed iron. Yet combining a vitamin C rich food (tomatoes, citrus, kiwi) increases the bioavailability or absorption of the iron in these plant derived foods.
Altitude and physical activity increase loss of water. Additionally, cold weather often covers up dehydration by reducing the feeling of thirst and tangible sweat. Skiers will want to ensure they stay hydrated by drinking water even without noticeable thirst or sweat. While water works great for short events, skiers find it helpful to drink fluids with carbohydrates and electrolytes for competitions that last longer. Skiers often need a sports drink with exercise lasting longer than 90 minutes, under extreme conditions or at high levels of intensity.
While not a nutrient, calories play a huge role in a successful performance. Too few calories results in poor energy, lowered immune system and a higher risk of injury. Some types of skiing, like jumping, may call for a lighter body. However, dietary restriction and its consequences often outweigh the benefits of any weight lost.
Altitude and the cold can both increase calorie needs. Also, some ski events, like cross-country skiing, can significantly raise energy needs. A teenage skier should prioritize eating adequate calories without restriction or dieting. Eating frequently with 3 meals and 2-3 snacks can help athletes meet their elevated needs.
What Should a Skier Eat Before Skiing or Competing?
As a general rule of thumb, athletes should focus on carbohydrates the closer they get to exercising. If you are eating 3-4 hours before exercise, you will probably be fine to include good sources of healthy fats and protein since you will have plenty of time for your food to digest. However, if you are eating half an hour before exercising, you might need to eat a smaller quantity that is higher in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fat.
Remember that carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy and they typically break down pretty quickly if you aren’t eating a lot of fat, protein, and fiber with it. Liquid protein like milk or a smoothie made with greek yogurt is a little bit easier to digest- especially if you have a sensitive stomach. What works well for a lot of athletes is eating a more balanced meal a few hours before your workout followed up by a high carb snack 30-60 minutes beforehand.
High carbohydrate snacks that are easy to digest include things like:
- Banana or other fresh fruit
- Fruit smoothie
- Chocolate milk
- Fruit leather
- Fruit juice
- Sports drinks
- Fruit snacks
What Should a Skier Eat During a Competitive Event?
Generally, if you are exercising for more than an hour and a half, you likely will need to eat or drink something with simple carbohydrates to keep your energy levels stable. Competitions, practice, or just hanging out in the mountains can make for a long exercise bout. If this is the case, try including 30-60 grams of carbohydrates each hour during your exercise.
If you are spending a full day skiing, you will want to pair your carbohydrates with some extra protein to help you make it through the full day. Take advantage of longer breaks between runs to eat a meal or more substantial snack.
Some people like to take an occasional snack break, and some boarders take snacks to go in their pockets or backpacks and eat on the lift! The best “lift snacks” include dried fruit, candy bars, granola bars, and protein bars.
What Should a Skier Eat After an Event?
After an event, recovery is a top priority. It is really important to get a balanced snack with a focus on carbohydrates and protein soon after you are done exercising. Protein will help with muscle recovery and provide your body with the materials it needs to rebuild and get stronger. It is essential to replenish your carbohydrate stores after using up so much energy during exercise too!
If you don’t feel hungry after exercising, I recommend at least having a small snack or drinking some chocolate milk or juice to start refueling. Eating or drinking something can also help to stimulate your appetite!
What Should a Teenage Skier Eat on a Rest Day?
On a rest day, you still need to properly fuel your body. You might even be surprised to find yourself extremely hungry, even when you aren’t doing much physical activity that day. Skiers might have a hard time eating enough on a day they are out on the slopes, so they might need to consume more the next day to help their body catch up and recover from the calorie deficit.
Even on rest days, snowboarders should be eating frequent, balanced meals and snacks throughout the day. Most skiiers will need to be eating at least every 4 hours, on rest days and on active days! Portion sizes can always be adjusted to meet your daily needs, but getting in a pattern of regular meals and snacks helps keep you on top of your fueling so you don’t get behind.
Hydration Needs for Skiers
Sometimes it is easier to remember to hydrate when you are exercising in the heat and sweating a lot, but hydration is still super important for winter athletes that are exercising in the cold! The key to staying hydrated as an athlete is to start early and stay on top of it. If you are about to start a run and you realize you haven’t had anything to drink all day- that usually isn’t the best time to start, unless you are okay with taking lots of bathroom breaks during your workout or competition.
An easy way to figure out how much you need to be drinking is to drink 1 mL for every 1 calorie you burn during the day. So if you are burning 3200 calories, you would need about 3200 mL of fluid (3.2 L). This might not meet all of your fluid needs, but some of the foods you eat will also contain water and can help you make up the difference.
Rather than chugging a bunch of water all at once, it is best to sip throughout the day to stay hydrated. During exercise, you may want to also include some electrolytes to improve your hydration and replace what is lost through sweat. Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are a great way to replenish fluids and electrolytes at the same time! (Plus, they provide carbohydrates to keep your energy levels up).
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- Best Meal Plan for Teenage Athletes (FREE Download)
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