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Nutrition and Hydration on the Slopes

Spending all day on the mountain has its perks, but have you ever experienced that afternoon “bonk”? When it comes to winter sports, making sure you are properly hydrated and well-fed is important. Not doing so could make you feel fatigued and negatively impact your performance on the mountain.

Sarah Zou, MPH, a registered dietitian at University of Utah Health, answers questions submitted by members of the Ski Utah community about ways to ensure you are prepared for a day in the snow.

Does diet need to be adjusted at higher elevations?

In general, a balanced diet is sufficient for activities at altitude. But it's good to keep in mind that we burn carbohydrates faster at high altitude. Carbs are our body's preferred energy source, so you may want to include some complex carbs in your pre-ski meal.

How much water does a person need?

Aim for about 64 ounces per day. You can use the color of your urine to determine your hydration status—it should be a pale yellow.

When skiing or snowboarding, aim for about 12 ounces per hour or more if you feel thirsty.

How can someone avoid muscle (leg) cramping?

Make sure you're hydrated before you start and stay hydrated throughout the day. You should consider adding electrolyte powders or drops to your water. Food also contains electrolyte, so having a snack is important.

What are the best powerful pocket snacks?

Trail mix, protein bars, and PB&J sandwiches are good options. Look for snacks with a combination of carbs and protein.

Any tips for keeping kids from getting hangry?

Be prepared with snacks that easily fit in pockets and try not to deviate from regular mealtimes. Protein-rich snacks such as nuts or string cheese will satisfy them for longer than just carbohydrates alone. When in doubt, offer a snack to your kids—and one for yourself, too!

What is the best pre-skiing/pre-snowboarding meal?

A balanced meal that contains a complex carb, protein, veggie, and fluid. Example: A turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with one cup of baby carrots and 24 ounces of water.

How can someone create a proper eating program to support the exercise from skiing or snowboarding?

A registered dietitian can help you develop a personalized eating plan to meet your health goals. If your focus is on exercise, I'd recommend seeking out a sports dietitian.