Well-being in the mountains

Health and nutrition tips to maximise your performances by Elena Altukhova

Let’s be honest, winter is not the surfer’s favorite season. Not everybody have the necessary equipment, bravery and determination to step into a 10°c water while the air temperature is 0°c. Meanwhile, it’s quite a chance to be able to experience a true season’s change, because thus can ride in the ocean in summer and in the mountains in winter, without going too far. So I propose you to switch your favorite surfboard for a snowboard, just for a while.

It’s been 4 years since I fell in love with snowboarding, so I spend at least one week riding in the Alps each winter. It means: fresh air, magnificent landscapes, 4 to 5 hours of intense physical activity per day, white powder, new encounters, hot wine in front of a chimney… But it means as well: altitude challenge for the body, overexposure to the sun and the wind, frosty weather, poor food as a “traditional” attribute of the ski stations.

So, whether you are a skier or a snowboarder, here are few important principles you should know in order to fully enjoy your stay in the mountains and be at the top of your physical condition and well-being.

D-30: physical conditioning

Usually, in winter our bodies are on a hibernation mode, which means they mostly stock and preserve energy rather than utilize it. You probably haven’t surfed for several months or even haven’t done any sport. Well, it would be a good idea to prepare your muscles and your heart to be very active again before going out there to conquer the slopes. The better you are trained, the better you will manage your muscle recovery and avoid injures.

Go for cycling, footing and swimming.

D-7 : skin and hair care

To resist efficiently to frost, wind and sun exposure, your skin and hair need resources. That means proper cleansing, moisturing and nutrition.

  1. Body care

Before showering I make myself a gentle massage with a natural dry brush, going from the toes up to the heart. And at the end of the shower, I alter hot and cold water during 1 minute. It helps eliminate dead skin cells, open the pores and launch detoxification process. After that I apply coconut oil on my humid skin as a perfect natural moisturer.

  1. Face

Before leaving (and this is true for any surf trip by the way), I use a gentle face scrub and apply a purifying mask, like rhassoul. The night before leaving I apply a rich moisturing mask.

  1. Hair

From time to time, and especially to reinforce my hair’s resistance to wind and sun, I like to spend a night with an argan oil on my hair. In the morning I just shampoo the head and leave some oil on the tips for a few days lasting effect.

  1. Food that helps your skin contains C and E vitamins (orange, kiwi, broccoli) and healthy fats (avocado, seeds and nuts, small fish).

My mountain travel kit essentials

– The all-purpose cream « Egyptian magic » that can be used for literally everything: face moisturer, hands and nails care, lips balm, hair mask, make-up remover. It is 100 % natural and efficient. It saves money and space as well, because you use only one product instead of 10. I am an absolute fan of this little miracle!

– Coconut or shea butter as a body moisturer after each shower

– A good quality natural sun screen for face (SPF 30) and lips (SPF 50)

It is well known that in the mountains we don’t easily get a good quality food. Traditional winter dishes are mostly composed of bad fats, bad carbohydrates, and processed food. With that kind of fuel you cannot truly expect your body to give its best performance. Meanwhile, when doing a lot of sport, especially such a challenging activity as snowboarding or skiing, your muscles need some true nutriments: vitamins, minerals, oxygen. And if your meals are mostly composed of fried potatoes and melted cheese, well, you are not really helping them. Instead of gaining energy or recovering, your body must face a difficult digestion of all those heavy foods for at least 8 hours.

  1. Breakfast

Sometimes, in my everyday life I  skip breakfast, and it can even be beneficial from time to time. But in the mountains, it would not be a good idea at all, especially if you are planning to start the day with 2 or 3 hours of riding. This first meal is of crucial importance. So here are my two favorite options to start a day the right way:

  1. Soft boiled egg + whole grains bread + ½ avocado

  2. Good quality mueslis + coconut or soya yogurt + fruits

Both versions are plenty of proteins, good fats and quality sugars in order to keep you satisfied until midday.

By the way, finding some good quality mueslis may be challenging in the mountains’ small shops, so I always bring it with me. Here is the simplest, express mueslis recipe that you can prepare the night before leaving

Very simple express muesli

300 g of whole non-processed oats, without added sugar

100 g of any non-salted raw nuts – almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashew

5 spoons of chia seeds

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

150 g of dried fruits such as raisins, goji berries, cranberries, apricots, dates, figues

Put the nuts in the oven heated to 160° C for 10 minutes, until they are slightly golden, but not dark brown. Then mix all the ingredients together, put them into a jar and throw into your travel bag. Your super breakfast is ready! In the morning, just mix it with coconut or soya yoghurt and fresh fruits.

NB: if you buy ready-to-eat packed muesli, please try to find a simple traditional version of it, made of whole oats without any added sugars. Beware of all those crunchy sweet nicely packaged and advertised breakfasts that promise you to be “healthy” and “light”. It’s only a piece of marketing. All this crunchy stuff is highly processed and plenty of bad sugars. You surely don’t need that.

  1. Lunch

My strategy for a lunch on the slopes is a light, yet satisfying meal, which gives me just the right amount of energy to continue having fun in the snow. Today a lot of ski stations propose new healthy food alternatives, like soups and stews, quinoa salads, vegetable pies, so you have more suitable choices. And if you can prepare your lunch in advance and take it with you on the slopes, it’s even better, thus you can have a nice sandwich or wrap composed of an avocado, goat cheese, spinach, chickpeas, dried tomatoes and so on. This type of lunch is a good way to recharge our batteries and continue riding without feeling heavy and sleepy during digestion.

  1. Dinner

Your evening meal’s principal function is to assure good rest and muscles recovery during your sleep.

Proteins + raw veggies + cooked veggies = my perfect equation for the winter dinners in the mountains

I don’t eat meat, and I rarely eat fish, so usually I compose a sort of buddha bowl with various ingredients. For example:

  1. Buckwheat + feta cheese + mushrooms + beans + fresh spinach

  2. Lentils + carrots + olives + ratatouille + avocado + houmous

Whatever you eat, always put some fresh veggies in your plate, this is the principal source of nutriments.

  1. Water and snacks

For an energy boost during your riding day, in between two slopes or two waves, as you wish, the best snack is a natural one – nuts, seeds and dried fruits. I always put in my backpack a handful of almonds, of dried apricots, a banana, a raw and 100% natural energy bar, like Rawbite, Lifebar etc. When choosing your energy bars, read carefully the list of ingredients and follow this rule: if you do not understand all the ingredients, don’t buy it!

And of course you should always bring with you a bottle of fresh water. We will never overestimate the importance of the appropriate water supply, especially during intense physical effort, in the mountains or in the ocean. 1,5l – 2l of a still water per day is the minimum requested to promote good recovery and to ease muscle soreness.

  1. Rest

You obviously want to optimize your time and spend each day out there on the slopes. But one day-off per week would be a great idea, for example on the 4th day of your stay. Enjoy some rest, go to a swimming pool, enjoy a steam room or have a massage. This relaxation will be very beneficial for your muscles and your overall state of health. Your performance will be even better the next day and you’ll considerably reduce the risk of injuries and overtraining.

All these tips can, of course, be applied to other intense physical activities, especially during the cold season, like, for example, a cold-water surfing.

Keep yourself warm, drink a lot of water, take care and have fun!