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Fuel for the Fire: A Guide to BC Nutrition | 01/18/2011, by JDubUtah
Adequate nutrition is one of the cornerstones of any successful athletic endeavor; however many backcountry enthusiasts fail to properly feed and water themselves during training and performance. The conventional diet for endurance athletes centers around high carbohydrate consumption with moderate protein and very little fat. However, an increasing number of recreational and elite-level athletes have abandoned this conventional diet in favor of a diet based on the eating habits of humans prior to the advent of agriculture, commonly referred to as a Paleo diet.
Amongst the purported benefits of Paleo diets for athletes are improved intestinal health, decreased systemic inflammation, improved recovery, and more efficient lipid metabolism. The latter of these is the real kicker for backcountry skiers, as fat is the primary fuel source for low-intensity activities pushing beyond the three to four hour mark. Carbohydrates still play a part in fat metabolism; however their role is basically to serve as the fire to burn lipids in.
Here are the basic tenets of a Paleolithic diet for outdoor athletes:
Eat meat, vegetables, and healthy fats at every meal. Base your diet around whole foods. Choose organic veggies and meat from free ranging animals as much as possible. Eat fats that are monounsaturated such as olive oil and avocadoes, medium chain saturated fats from coconuts, or animal based fats from free range sources such as pastured butter or fatty cuts of grass-fed meat.
Eliminate inflammatory foods. This includes all grains (wheat, oats, rye, quinoa, rice, etc.), legumes (soybeans, beans, peas, peanuts), dairy, and processed foods. Choose foods with very few ingredients and no ingredients that a second-grader could not spell.
Aim for a macronutrient ratio of roughly 25% of daily calories from carbohydrate, 25% from protein, and 50% from fat. Time carbohydrate consumption to the window during and immediately following activity, and steer towards starch- or glucose- based carbohydrates. My favorites are sweet potatoes and maltodextrin-based sports gels such as Hammer Gel or Gu. Fructose (fruit, honey, corn syrup, half of sucrose molecules) must be metabolized by the liver before muscles can use it in the form of glycogen, and is not a good source of fuel for athletes during or following exercise.
Here is a sample day of eating for backcountry skiing:
Breakfast – 4 whole eggs cooked in 2 tablespoons pasture butter. 1 cup blueberries with 1 cup whole-fat coconut milk and cinnamon. Half of a large sweet potato sautéed in 2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil. Coffee.
During skiing – 200 calories per hour of Hammer Gel. Snacks consisting of raw macadamia nuts, raw almonds, organic beef jerky, and dark chocolate throughout the day. Water.
Lunch – Tuna cup. Mix a can of tuna (I like wild planet albacore) with half of a diced pear, half of a diced avocado, 1/4 cup blueberries, 1/3 cup raw pecans, 1 tablespoon raw sunflower seeds, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil. I usually carry this in a small screw-top container inside a zip-lock bag.
Post Skiing (ideally within an hour or so) – Half of a large sweet potato sautéed in 2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil and 2 organic chicken sausages.
Dinner – 1 pound grass fed flat iron steak sautéed in olive oil. 2 cups carrots, sliced and sautéed with garlic and italian spice in olive oil. 8 cups raw spinach with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 3 oz dark chocolate.
Try it for a couple weeks and let us know how you feel! If you have a sample meal plan that you would like to share- submit it in the articles section of your profile (click on "My Stuff" in the upper right hand corner).