Daily Nutritional Needs
Exceptional snowboarders require a daily moderate-carbohydrate (CHO) diet to maintain stamina, replenish lost glycogen stores, and fuel the ATP/CP system (i.e. the “power system”) during practice, competition and/or weight training. Snowboarders are powerful athletes who need to produce explosive movements repeatedly throughout the day. They need a moderate amount of protein to repair the explosive muscle fibers damaged by powerful movements.
For athletes, the American and Canadian Dietetics Associations recommend 55 to 58 percent of calories be CHO, 12 to15 percent protein and 25 to 30 percent fat (1). These are the same requirements for sedentary individuals. However, there has been a growing body of evidence that protein and fat requirements may need to be altered for active individuals, especially when15% of the diet is protein (2,9,10). In order to avoid muscle loss, the protein and fat requirements have been slightly altered here for the recommended training diet as described below.
The Training Diet
The recommendations of the training diet suggest meals should be comprised of 60 percent carbohydrate, 20 to 25 percent protein and 15 to 20 percent fat. The goal is to provide adequate energy for recovery and tissue repair quickly and efficiently – without adding body fat – thus maintaining a high strength-to-weight ratio. Individuals who participate in the different forms of Slalom and Boardercross Snowboarding should have a little more fat (20 percent) and less protein (20 percent) than Halfpipe, Big Air, and Slopestyle boarders.
For simplicity, if you ate 2,000 calories a day, 55 percent of that is 1,100 calories from CHO, which is equal to 275 grams of carbohydrates (there are four calories of CHO per gram; thus, 1100/4 = 275 grams of carbohydrates). For some it is easier to keep track of grams than calories.
Some research suggests that protein should be 1.6-1.8 g/kg bodyweight (bodyweight in kg = bodyweight in pounds / 2.2 kg) per day (9) or as high as 2g/kg bodyweight per day in athletes (10). The Recommended Daily Allowance of 0.8g/kg bodyweight per day protein is based on what is healthy for the average sedentary individual, which is not necessarily enough for athletes.
The additional protein is crucial not only for muscle repair, but also as an additional energy source. During times of fatigue and over-training, the body may start using its own muscle as an energy source. Because it is so difficult to build and maintain muscle, athletes should be careful not to lose it.
Keep fat intake to about 20 percent of your total calories, consisting primarily of essential and monounsaturated fats. Essential fatty acids are a type of fat that the body cannot create from fish and walnuts. Monounsaturated fats, which are fats with one binding site, can come from olive or canola oils, seeds and/or avocados.
For someone consuming 2,000 calories a day, the fat intake should be about 400 calories. This is equal to about 44 to 67 grams (each fat gram contains nine calories).
You may be tempted to ingest as little fat as possible, however, this is also unhealthy. Keeping your fat intake to less than 15 percent may have a harmful effect by inhibiting absorption of those vitamins that dissolve in fat, and it has no effect on improving your body fat percentage.
The primary purpose of the pre-competition meal is to offset fatigue. Although a single event will not diminish muscle glycogen stores, in a tournament, surrounded by the audience, the adrenaline, the stress and the repeated rides may undoubtedly deplete your glycogen and fluid stores; having an effect on your performance. Pre game preparation may make the difference in how well you finish – the difference between victory or defeat.
There is no one-size-fits-all prescription for the pre-competition meal. Different people react differently to the same foods. Try to find food that won’t cause “nervous diarrhea” and will help to maintain focus and endurance. A few guidelines:
- Eat low-glycemic foods, such as whole grain cereals, certain fruits, sandwiches made with whole wheat bread, etc., approximately two to three hours before a competition. The closer to your match, the smaller the meal. This will help sustain blood-sugar levels.
- Keep protein and fat intakes low because they slow digestion.
- Avoid bulky foods, like raw fruits and vegetables, dry beans, peas and popcorn, which can stimulate bowel movements.
- Avoid gas-forming foods such as vegetables from the cabbage family and cooked dry beans.
- Drink 400 to 600 mL (14 to 22 oz) of fluid two to three hours before exercise depending on tolerance (1).
- Do not try new foods just before a match. Eat foods familiar with your digestive system.
- Some athletes prefer to use their favorite foods, which may give them a psychological edge.
In snowboarding events, the demand for your performance varies with the intensity of the event. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Because your nerves may be a wreck throughout the competition and you may have gone through a pre-competition-ritual of Mountain Dew or Red Bull, your sense of hunger may be a bit skewed. Munch on small bits of high-carbohydrate foods, such as bananas, trail mix or meal-replacement bars that are easily digested and portable. This will help maintain glycogen (i.e. energy) stores and focus.
As a remedy, bring a water bottle containing a solution of six to seven percent CHO and electrolytes, such as Cytomax, Heed, Hammer Gel, or G Push. Try to avoid Gatorade, Powerade or any of the common sport drinks seen on commercials because they contain a considerable amount of table sugar, which may lead to diarrhea and poor replacement of muscle glycogen.
Still, something is better than nothing. It is important to consume carbohydrates in order to prevent performance decrease. For high intensity games longer than an hour, a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink, rather than water, is recommended.
Should you drink a sports drink during a weight-training workout? If your workout lasts more than an hour at a high intensity, then yes you should drink a CHO and electrolyte sports drink. If not, water is fine.
Depending on the intensity and schedule for the next competition, consume 0.75 to 1.5 g/kg bodyweight of CHO-rich, low fiber foods and beverages within 30 minutes or as soon as possible after a game and again every two hours for four to six hours to replace glycogen stores (1). This may be difficult when traveling, but failing to do so will encourage under-recovery and potential muscle wasting.
After physical activity or exercise lasting longer than an hour, the body best restores lost glycogen when carbohydrates and protein are consumed together in a ratio of 4:1 (6) or 3:1 (7,8), rather than simply consuming carbohydrates alone. Furthermore, the combination of CHO and protein has the added benefit of stimulating amino acid transport, protein synthesis and muscle tissue repair, all of which will further speed recovery and re-energize you for your next competition.
Products such as Endurox R4 by Endurox and Recoverite by Hammer Gel will provide both nutrients. When in a bind another option is drinking 20 oz. of low-fat chocolate milk post-exercise.
It is better to consume the “meal” as a liquid in order to facilitate recovery faster, and follow with a variety of whole-foods between two and four hours later.
Return to the normal Training Diet at the next meal.
DO NOT FORGET the post-competition meal!
The temptation of binge drinking may come more after a match for a celebration of victory, receiving a higher ranked belt or a gathering to ease the pain of defeat. A sensible amount will not hinder performance or health. In general, this means one drink for women and two for men.
But alcohol intake can interfere with the game and post-exercise recovery (3-5).
Get a post-exercise meal and fluids in first before drinking any alcohol. This way, less alcohol will have a tendency to be absorbed into the bloodstream and pass into the small intestine with the rest of the food.
Avoid any alcohol 24 hours post-exercise if you have any soft tissue injuries or bruises. Alcohol and injuries are a bad combination, and it may actually increase swelling, bleeding and delay recovery (3-5).
1. Nutrition and athletic performance – Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine. J Am Diet Assoc.;100:1543-1556, 2000.
2. Kraemer, W.J., J.S. Volek, K.L. Clark, S.E. Gordon, T. Incledon, S.M. Puhl, N.T. Triplett-McBride, J.M. McBride, M. Putukian, W.J. Sebastianelli.
3. Physiological adaptations to a weight-loss dietary regimen and exercise programs in women. Journal of Applied Physiology, 83, 270-279, 1997
4. El-Sayed, M.S. Effects of alcohol ingestion post-exercise on platelet aggregation. Thromb Res. Jan 15;105(2):147-51. 2002.
5. Peters, T.J., S. Nikolovski, G. K. Raja, T. N. Palmer, P. A. Fournier. Ethanol acutely impairs glycogen repletion in skeletal muscle following high intensity short duration exercise in the rat. Addict Biol.;1(3):289-95. 1996.
6. Burke, L. M., G.R. Collier, E. M. Broad, P.G. Davis, D.T. Martin, A. J. Sanigorski, M. Hargreaves. Effect of alcohol intake on muscle glycogen storage after prolonged exercise. J Appl Physiol. Sep;95(3):983-90. 2003
7. Williams, M. B., P.B. Raven, D. L. Fogt, J. L. Ivy. Effects of recovery beverages on glycogen restoration and endurance exercise performance. J Strength Cond Res. Feb;17(1):12-9. 2003
8. Zawadzki KM, Yaspelkis BB 3rd, Ivy JL. Carbohydrate-protein complex increases the rate of muscle glycogen storage after exercise. J Appl Physiol. May;72(5):1854-9. 1992.
9. Ivy, J. L., H. W. Goforth, Jr., B. M. Damon, T. R. McCauley, E. C. Parsons, T. B. Price. Early postexercise muscle glycogen recovery is enhanced with a carbohydrate-protein supplement. J Appl Physiol. Oct;93(4):1337-44. 2002.
10. Lemon, P.W. Beyond the zone: protein needs of active individuals. J Am Coll Nutr. Oct;19(5 Suppl):513S-521S, 2000
11. Tipton, K. D., R. R. Wolfe. Protein and amino acids for athletes. J Sports Sci. Jan;22(1):65-79. 2004
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