Different skiing demands different diets


My friends knew a column on "ski food" was bound to appear soon.

I finally decided to learn to ski, and just had to investigate the energy "ins" and "outs" of both the downhill and cross-country varieties.

Downhill skiing is essentially a skill sport. That is, it requires lots of practice to train muscle groups to perform quickly and accurately to keep you upright. (Otherwise you get plenty of practice doing pushups in the snow!)

Like other skill sports (golf, bowling) it burns few extra calories, despite a great time investment.

During actual skiing time, women expend about 5 calories per minute, men about 9 calories per minute. While standing in the lift line and riding the ski lift, a woman can burn as little as 1 calorie per minute, a man as little as 2.

In an hour spent equally divided among skiing, standing in line and lift-riding, a woman expends about 150 calories, a man 250. A cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream contains about 250 calories.

But before you despair, remember, any movement is better than none. Your spouse, having hot chocolate by the fire, burns only 60 calories per hour.

You also burn more and more calories to keep warm as the temperature drops. And a few extras carrying all that gear around.

By and large, however, your normal, well-balanced diet will provide all the energy you need unless you ski really hard for many hours each day, without spending much time in line or on the lift.

Let your hunger be your guide. Choose plenty of fruits, vegetables, breads and cereals, with a little low-fat meat and milk thrown in, and go easy on added fat. Eat as long as you feel hungry. Stop when you first begin to feel satisfied.

For cross-country skiers, however, the story is totally different.

A woman skiing on the level at a walking pace burns about 7 calories a minute, double if she quickens the pace going uphill. Since there are no lift lines or riding, even a moderate workout will burn 400 calories per hour, an energetic one about 600 calories per hour. A man burns about 11 calories per minute on the flat, and 21 uphill, for close to 1,000 calories per hour.

An ounce of peanuts, 1/3 cup of raisins and eight chocolate kisses total 500 concentrated, high-fat calories, suitable for maintaining your energy and body heat while on the trail.

Even on the flat, a weekend outing of two or three hours will put a dent in your muscle glycogen stores.

If you're going to ski cross-country on several consecutive days, be sure to eat plenty of high carbohydrate foods during the first two to four hours after each outing. During that time, muscles are most receptive to glycogen restorage, so you'll be refueled, energetic and ready to ski the next day.

Focus on pasta with red sauce, rice with beans, bread, bagels, muffins, baked potatoes, peas, corn, yams and lima beans. Glucose polymer athletic drinks are good energy replacers, too.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore and national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

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