Healthy Living

NO NO NO naughty nibbles!

No refined sugar! No Gummy Bears or M&Ms! And definitely no Easter Baskets brimming with “goodies” for the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team whether on the road or at home.

And the team’s routine won’t waiver come February 3, 2015, at the start of the prestigious World Alpine Ski Championships slated for Vail and Beaver Creek when 70 teams from throughout the world are expected to attend the highly touted event.

Nutrition is key to prime performances and it has been Adam Korzun’s job for the past two years to assure meals and snacks lead to healthy athletes. As the high performance dietician at the Park City, Utah, headquarters for the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association, Korzun works in conjunction with trainers and conjures up meal plans for each individual athlete.

“There’s no one plan for all; not one fit for everyone,” Korzun says, “only individual approaches specific to each athlete. The process starts early in the fall to keep them healthy and not get run down so they can come in and peak at the time of the races.”

While training and racing are of utmost importance so, too, is their food and fluid consumption. Never gimmicky, their nutrition is healthy. Each summer, and two to three times a year, the athletes are tested for body composition, strength, mobility and aerobic measures. Blood work is done annually. From those tests Korzun devises a specific routine for each racer zeroing in on what fuel source they need.

What is their weight and height? Do they need to build muscle mass, or lose weight or gain weight? If they are rehabbing from an injury, they might be reevaluated monthly.

Korzun stresses the full approach of proper fuel with multi-vitamins and supplements providing an additional safety net for added precaution.  Of crucial importance is for the racers to stay hydrated with water or an energy drink such as Gatorade. Their priority for those months ahead is healthy eating. Korzun recommends lots of fruit and vegetables. He promotes more of what he calls “real food” and less fast shakes and bars. Instead he advocates carbs and protein and a more balanced snack, pointing out that nuts, seeds and oil are great antioxidants.

The racers always take a “goodie bag” either to the top of the racecourse or leave it at the bottom of the hill. In it are “real food” items such as a handful of peanuts or half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or ham or turkey sandwich or Greek yogurt with fruit and trail mix.

“Orange slices, like in the old soccer days, are good, too,” Korzun adds.

On race days, breakfast menus vary with a lot of preferences like fat-free granola, scrambled or hard-boiled eggs, bagels, fruit and muesli. Dinners run the gamut from salmon to barbecue, to steaks and pasta.

“I cook what they ask for, but I make it a healthy way, like mashed potatoes mixed with milk, not cream,” Korzun says. “It’s a lean cut of meat, always.

“Burritos are great because they can make the whole meal the way they want with beans, salsa and rice. When we’re on the road, I like to bring the comfort of home with hamburgers.”

Korzun stresses to the athletes the importance of taking personal responsibility for their individual food intake. They know the amount and what to select along with how much protein, carbohydrates and fluids they need to achieve high performance.

“If you don’t know what’s in it, do you really want to put it in your body?” he asks them.

It is not uncommon for the larger teams like the U.S., Austria and Switzerland to travel with their own chefs. One year, the Austrian team brought their chef to Beaver Creek for the World Cup, according to John Dakin, Vice President of communications for the Vail Valley Foundation and host of the World Championships.

In fact, the U.S. Team has a pretty robust recovery RV of its own. It is complete with a mobile kitchen that travels throughout Europe for the men’s alpine team. That way there’s greater control over the food and proper nutrition for the team.

“Some of the smaller teams will utilize meals at the hotel where they will be staying during the 2015 Championships,” Dakin says. “They will probably eat more American food because it will be more readily available. I’m sure a steak or two will be devoured.”