Winning Nutrition For Cold Weather Competition—Unless You’re Sage Kotsenburg

It was a thrill to watch Sage Kotsenburg “wing it” to a gold medal in the inaugural Olympic slopestyle event in Sochi. How did his pre-competition meal measure up to sports nutrition recommendations?

We cheered when the breathtaking aerial maneuvers of Sage Kotsenburg in the Olympic slopestyle event earned him a score of 93.5 and the gold medal. In an interview on TODAY, the 20-year-old snowboarder revealed his winning strategy to “stomp it” in the competition.

He skipped the Opening Ceremonies so he’d be fresh in the morning, and “…ate a bunch of candy and some chips and just … got into the Olympic vibe.”

It’s hard to argue with a gold medal, but we have to confess that sweets and chips don’t figure prominently in the diet recommendations of the U.S. Olympic Committee Sport Performance Division. Food and nutrition during training and competition can be key in helping athletes bring home the gold. In fact, Team USA sent an advance team of sports dietitians to Sochi to assess the availability and safety of the foods served to athletes in the Olympic Village.

Athletic training diets are typically higher in calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals than competition diets, because athletes work harder during training. The Olympic training diet is rich in antioxidants such as fruits, vegetables, and grains to fortify the athletes’ immune system prior to travel and competition.

During competition, nutritional requirements vary with the size of the Olympian and the demands of his or her sport. A figure skater may consume 1,800 to 2,000 calories daily, while a cross-country skier may need more than 4,000 calories per day. Typically, athletes eat four to six meals per day, evenly spaced no more than four hours apart.

Competing in cold weather brings some unique challenges. Proper nutrition helps regulate core temperature, maintains warm, and provides fuel for working muscles. In warm weather, it’s easy to sweat to regulate body temperature. In cold weather, metabolism increases to warm the cold air breathed in, and to burn the calories needed to stay warm. Ideally, athletes should eat two hours prior to competition. Foods like soups, chili, bread, bagels, pasta with tomato sauce, baked potatoes, cereals, peanut butter, lean meat, and low-fat cheese are good choices.

Of course, when the practice is over and athletes are psyching themselves up for their start,  the experts recommend a pre-event meal composed of foods that are familiar to an athlete’s body. Perhaps that was Kotsenburg’s thinking. Whether you follow the experts’ advice to the nutritional letter or occasionally reach for the chips just before your big moment, if you are living an active life, you are doing good things for your body and your health. To echo the words of encouragement offered by Kotsenburg’s brother, “Just go have fun. I’m sure you’ll stomp it.”

Share this on
Share on FacebookShare on TwitterPin on Pinterest
  • Erin Leslie, PA-C

    “Health is multi-faceted and complex. If I can help with a patient’s physical recovery, then I’ve improved at least one aspect of their health, and that is very rewarding.”

    More about this expert

Also see...