The ability to soar down a snowy mountain at breakneck speeds and impeccable form requires adequate and appropriate fuel, consumed at optimal times throughout the day. Olympic skiers therefore require a scientifically designed nutrition plan, which dictates what they eat while in training, in the off-season and before and after a race or Olympic event.
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A diet called the Alpine Ski Diet became popular in the 1970s. This diet had nothing to do with the US Ski Team. The marketers of this high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet claimed that followers who adhered to the plan could lose 20 pounds in two weeks. All you had to do was send $2 to an address in Alpine, Calif. In September of 1972, the Consumer Protection Division of The United States Postal Office ruled that these claims constituted false representation. A mail stop order was issued. The weight loss allegations were not the only falsehoods associated with this diet.The diet's minimal carbohydrates and high protein indicates that it would not provide sufficient fuel for Olympic skiers.
Protein repairs muscle damage, but the authors of the International Ski Federation cross-country ski nutrition document warn that protein only plays a small role in energy expenditure. Carbohydrates, when stored in the body as glycogen, are the primary energy source. Fats provide insulation in cold environments, and may be an additional source of energy for Nordic skiers, who compete in long distance events. Female Olympic skiers may require iron and supplementation. A 1987 study published in the "Journal of Sports Science" details the iron status of Olympic Nordic and alpine skiers, speed skiers and hockey players. Lead author DB Clement reports that most of the female athletes had some sort of iron deficiency. Iron deficiency may lead to iron deficiency anemia, which may impede sport performance.
In 1985, the US Ski Team partnered with Shaklee, a nutrition company, who launched a study of Olympic skiers' eating habits. The study results inspired dietary changes. The team now consumes a diet composed of 55 to 60 percent carbohydrates, 25 to 30 percent fats and 10 to 15 percent of protein, reports sports writer Bob Ottum, in an article featured on the Sports Illustrated website.
The US Ski Team uses nutritional supplements in certain situations, but these supplements must be approved by the ski team doctor. Group A supplements are recommended under supervision, and may include antioxidants, calcium, electrolyte replacement drinks and sports bars and gels. Group B supplements require approval, and are only used under strict supervision. Probiotics and iron are examples of Group B supplements.
Post event nutrition plays a key role in preventing fatigue, illness and injury. The US Ski Team nutrition page features a document that explains the post-race nutritional requirements. Team nutritionists advise skiers to consume a meal containing protein, carbohydrates and fats soon after a competition. Immediate carbohydrate consumption is required to prevent glycogen depletion.