Fueling for Winter Sports


Winter provides endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. For those pursuing the mountains in the winter for competition or for an expedition, your fueling choices will reflect your mood, cognition and overall performance. Winter athletes looking to gain a competitive edge, this article is a must read!


Fueling Tactics

Average skiers can burn 300-600 calories per hour & XC skiers’well over 600 calories per hour.


Training in high altitudes and cold climates causes hormonal changes in the body leading to vasoconstriction, increased vascular pressure and increased respiratory ventilation (breathing). The effects of altitude and cold temperatures lead to increased energy expenditure to maintain body temperature and normal function. Without proper fueling, sub-optimal performance, focus and weight loss can occur due to insufficient calorie intake.


Cold temperatures can result in impaired thirst response leading to sub-optimal performance. Sport drinks can aid in absorption of needed electrolytes and water. Having access to hot beverages such as hot chocolate can increase motivation and comfort as well as re-hydration.


~XC/Biathlon/Snow-Shoeing/ Backcountry & Mountaineering require the greatest amount of calories for the long endurance and bouts of high intensity pace during the trek. Whether you’re out just exploring all day or have a race follow these tips for maximum performance-

  • *Consume a balanced Pre-event/Training meal 2 hours prior to event. Ensure this meal contains slower burning carbs like oatmeal and whole grains.

  • *Top off with a snack consisting of at least 30-60g carbs around 30 minutes before you take off.

  • *Fuel during the day or race is vital to keep energy levels up. Sipping on sport drinks or gels are a reliable source of fuel the muscles need and is easy for the gut to process. If an event is longer than 4-6 hours be sure to plan time to stop to fuel up with a meal.

  • *Post event/Training snack or meal must be consumed within 2 hours to replenish glycogen (stored fuel in the muscles) that contains around 60g carbs and 20g protein.

  • *Be sure to have a balanced evening meal to fully replenish your muscles for the next day’s activities.

~Downhill/ Alpine/ Slalom/Snowboard Cross events require great strength, agility, and focus. Energy needs for these athletes require fuel utilization at higher intensities that last up to 3 minutes. This means the body burns fuel, primarily carbs, at a higher rate to fuel the athletes’ muscles.

Follow these guidelines to maximize performance-

  • * Consume a balanced pre-event/training meal 2 hours prior to event. Ensure this meal contains slower burning carbs like oatmeal and whole grains.

  • *Be sure to top of your fuel tank before your event with a snack providing fast burning carbs that will be utilized by your muscles during the race. Examples of fast burning carbs including energy gels, most cereals, gummy bears, Gatorade.

  • *Post event/Training snack or meal must be consumed within 2 hours to replenish glycogen stores. Dependent on how much recovery time is between events in training or competition, a fast burning carb based snack may be more appropriate to avoid gastrointestinal distress that may be experienced with a whole meal.

  • * Be sure to have a balanced evening meal to fully replenish your muscles for the next day’s activities.

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