Proper Hydration & Nutrition Can Help Prevent Ski Injuries

August 11, 2022

Skiing is a great form of exercise that works out many parts of the body while allowing you to experience the outdoors during the colder parts of the year. There are many steps to ensuring a successful day—and season—on the slopes, including the use of appropriate clothing, proper protective gear, and planning ahead. But another crucial component to this process that should never be overlooked is good hydration and nutrition.

What you eat and drink before, during, and after a day of skiing can have a major impact on your performance on the mountain. Sticking with a smart nutritional plan over time can also lead to better overall fitness and help you work towards optimal levels of strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance. This is particularly important for skiers, since the sport is associated a fairly high injury risk, with injuries to the knee—especially sprains and tears of the medical collateral ligament (MCL) and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)—being most common. Therefore, focusing on proper hydration and nutrition could help you take your skiing skills to the next level while also reducing your risk for injuries to the knee.

Why is hydration important and how much do you need to drink?

Water is vital to our health and ability to function. Every cell, tissue, and organ relies on water, and it makes up about 60% of our body weight. Water is essential for many of the body’s most important biological tasks, and keeping the body hydrated helps the heart more easily pump blood to the muscles, which makes them work more efficiently.

On the other hand, when muscles are dehydrated, they are deprived of electrolytes that are necessary to proper functioning. This can impair both muscle strength and control, which can negatively affect your performance on the slopes. In one study, underhydrated individuals were significantly less capable of performing a resistance exercise compared to those who were adequately hydrated. Being dehydrated may also play a role in developing muscle cramps, but evidence is conflicting, and other factors are likely also at work.

It’s also important to realize how hydration needs are different when skiing. In cold weather, the body doesn’t get as hot, sweat evaporates more rapidly, and the body’s thirst response is diminished by up to 40%, even when you’re dehydrated. As a result, you may be fooled into thinking that you’re properly hydrated, even when your body requires more water to function properly. This is why you should never wait until you’re thirsty or notice symptoms of dehydration—such as little or no urine, dry mouth, confusion, nausea, headaches, fatigue—to start drinking water. Instead, aim to stay well hydrated (meaning your urine is pale yellow) before, during, and after skiing. Exactly how much water you’ll need varies from person to person depending on body weight, exercise intensity, and other factors, but the following ranges are a good starting point:

  • Before skiing: 17-20 oz. of water at least 2 hours before getting on the mountain
  • While skiing: 7-10 oz. of water for every 10-20 minutes on the slopes; try carrying a plastic, reusable water bottle with you and/or take frequent water breaks
  • After skiing: 16-24 oz. of water for each pound lost due to sweating; it is particularly important to rehydrate if you’re skiing again the next day

What comprises a strong nutritional plan for skiing?

Making smart dietary choices while skiing may take some additional effort on your part, but doing so could make a real difference in your energy levels and how well you’re able to carve as a result. This means planning ahead and not relying only on the food offered at lodges, which don’t always provide the best possible options.

Before skiing

  • Having a quality, nutritious breakfast is essential for starting your day off on the right foot; an ideal breakfast before skiing should include a slow-burning carbohydrate source combined with a protein source
  • Consuming the right amount of carbohydrates will ensure that you have sufficient energy levels to get through an entire day of skiing
  • Protein can help to improve physical performance in several ways, particularly by increasing the amount of muscle mass you’re able to gain while skiing
  • Some of the best breakfast options that contain both carbs and protein include a smoothie made with bananas, nut or oat milk, and protein powder, yogurt with fruit, oatmeal with chia seeds, flax seeds, and/or nuts, and avocado toast with egg
  • Try to avoid eating just protein or just carbs for your entire breakfast (like a piece of fruit), as it will fail to keep you full for an extended period of time

While skiing

  • While a well-balanced breakfast is key for the day, aim to keep it relatively small, as eating too much can overburden your digestive system and lead to fatigue
  • Instead, keep yourself sustained with easy on-the-go snacks throughout the day; pack a few low-sugar bars (especially whole foods-based nutrition bars with minimal ingredients), peanut butter packets, pieces of fruit, or a bag of nuts or raisins; these will keep your energy levels high and blood sugar stabilized as you burn calories while skiing
  • Be sure to also eat a lunch that fills you up without overdoing it, with protein and carbs again being the main macronutrients to focus on; try to limit your intake of fats, as it can take more energy to digest high-fat foods
  • Smart lunch options include a chicken or ham sandwich, fish tacos, a burger with a side salad (skip the fries), and soup/chili; if you’re able to cook on your own, here’s a great recipe for turkey chili
  • We realize that cafeteria options are not always great on the mountain, so if your lunch is subpar, you can always make up for it with a healthy recovery dinner

After skiing

  • Ideally, you should try to have another small snack within two hours of getting off the mountain—aprés ski usually fits the bill here—and then a fairly large meal for dinner; if you haven’t noticed, there’s a general trend here: you should be eating most of the day when skiing
  • Consuming a meal loaded with a good balance of carbs and protein is also important after you’re done for the day and the recovery process begins
  • These macronutrients are important for different reasons during your recovery, as protein will help with the repair and growth of muscle, while carbs will replenish your stocks of glycogen (energy storage for muscles) for the next day
  • While fats should generally be avoided during the day, feel free to eat some fats with dinner (preferably healthy ones), which you can do by topping your food with avocado, using olive oil in meals, or fatty fishes like trout and salmon
  • Great recovery dinners include meatballs with veggies and a small serving of pasta, herbed chicken with roasted broccoli and potatoes, miso ginger tofu bowl, and salmon with veggies.
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