Are you a snow-skier or boarder who spends all day on the mountain and sometimes forgets to eat or drink enough?
Have you ever felt brain fatigue at the end of the day, or an afternoon energy slump?
Fatigue on the slopes can be linked to deficiencies in food or liquid consumption. Proper hydration and nutrition are two crucial elements for all-day mountain readiness, performance, and safety.
Nutrition for Function and Recovery
Every cell, tissue, and organ in our body requires energy to function properly. If we do not consume the proper foods to provide that energy, then these cells, tissues, and organs cannot perform optimally. Think of the last time you skipped a meal and had to put in long hours at work… Or perhaps, a long day on the slopes and you decided to skip lunch to get in a few more runs… When we skip meals, or when our energy requirements far exceed our food intake, we are essentially creating an energy deficiency. The result of an energy deficiency is a lack of available energy to power our muscles and brain, causing mental and physical fatigue to set in. Researchers have found that there is a direct correlation between fatigue and injury due to decreased reaction time, reduced decision-making skills, and decreased performance.
Proper nutrition also plays a roll in tissue recovery. When performing high-demand activity throughout a ski season, our tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments) are under high stress levels and can become damaged. During recovery periods (such as during sleep), our bodies attempt to heal these damaged tissues. However, if the essential “building-blocks” of tissue are not available because of poor nutrition, then proper healing cannot take place. If this pattern is repeated throughout the season, our bodies are prone to what are called “repetitive-stress” injuries such as tendonitis, muscle strain, etc.
To reduce mental and physical fatigue, experts recommend that you consume a combination of complex carbohydrate and protein every 2-3 hours when performing at high levels. They also recommended that you avoid foods that are high in sugar, because they are metabolized quickly and can cause an energy slump later. So when on the job or on the slopes, be sure to have a snack between meals to make sure you avoid fatigue in the late morning and late afternoon (when fatigue-related injury rates are highest).
Hydration for Function and Performance
Hydration (consuming enough liquids) also plays a roll in reducing fatigue in the workplace or during exercise. Throughout the day, our body naturally looses liquid via evaporation at the skin. The evaporation process occurs more rapidly during exercise and high intensity work, which we recognize as sweating. However, if we do not replace the liquid that we lose through sweat, eventually our blood volume will decrease. Reduced blood volume means that our heart cannot effectively pump blood to our muscles and brain, which will “starve” them of essential oxygen and nutrients to function. The result of a lack of nutrients and oxygen to our brain and muscles is what we call mental and physical fatigue. Studies have linked dehydration to decreased overall energy, reaction time, mood, short-term memory, and attention.
Experts recommend consuming 16oz of liquid for every hour of intense exercise or physical activity. It is also important to consume liquids with a proper balance of electrolytes to replace the salts that are lost through sweat, such as sports drinks vs drinking plain water. However, as stated earlier, avoid those sports drinks high in sugar which are burned quickly and may result in a “sugar crash” soon after.
If you are lucky enough to spend your days sliding on the snow, whether it’s for work or pleasure, be sure to protect yourself from preventable injuries by being physically and mentally prepared.
- Biomed Res Int. 2013;2013:121832. doi: 10.1155/2013/121832. Epub 2013 Jul 25. Injury prevention for ski-area employees: a physiological assessment of lift operators, instructors, and patrollers. Roberts D1.
- Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 May 29;16(11). pii: E1891. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16111891. Effects of Dehydration and Rehydration on Cognitive Performance and Mood among Male College Students in Cangzhou, China: A Self-Controlled Trial. Zhang N1,2, Du SM3, Zhang JF4,5, Ma GS6,7