Gas Guzzlers

Fueling up for winter activity. 

Bozeman provides endless opportunity for outdoor recreation. For those of you exploring the mountains in winter for competition or adventure, your mood, cognition, and overall performance will reflect your fueling choices.

The average downhill skier burns 300-600 calories per hour, and cross-country skiers burn well over 600. 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, suboptimal performance, focus, and weight loss occur due to insufficient calorie intake.

Cold temperatures can also result in impaired thirst response, leading to suboptimal performance. Sport drinks can aid in the absorption of needed electrolytes and water. Having access to hot beverages, such as hot chocolate, increases motivation and comfort as well as rehydration. High-output activities like cross-country skiing, biathlon, snowshoeing, and backcountry skiing require more calories for the long bouts of high-intensity excursion.

Whether you’re out exploring all day or prepping for a race, follow these tips for maximum performance:

  • Consume a balanced meal two hours prior to exercising. Ensure this meal contains slower-burning carbs like oatmeal and whole grains.
  • Chow down on a snack consisting of at least 30-60 grams of carbs 30 minutes before your activity.
  • Fuel during the activity is vital to keeping energy levels up. Sport drinks or gels give the muscles what they need and are easy for the gut to process. If an event is longer than 4-6 hours, be sure to stop and fuel up with a meal.
  • A post-event snack or meal that contains around 60 grams of carbs and 20 grams of protein must be consumed within two hours to replenish glycogen (stored fuel in the muscles).
  • Be sure to have a balanced evening meal to fully replenish your muscles for the next day’s activities.