I did a little poll on my Fittest Foodie Instagram last week asking if people would be interested in hearing what we eat during big training days, and the answer was a definite yes! We just wrapped up a big few weeks of base-building training, which involved a whole lot of hours of low heart rate exercise, with beautiful views and big adventure points. So here it is - A “day in the life of food on a big training day."
I tried to avoid ordering the McDonald’s double cheeseburger and happy meal. Then my friend Pat looked up at me over his plate of chicken McNuggets and fries and said, “People just don’t understand how good an oily calorie dump tastes after a 10 hour training day.” Then I ordered my double cheeseburger and happy meal.
I did a little poll on my Fittest Foodie Instagram last week asking if people would be interested in hearing what we eat during big training days, or how I fuel for races, or both. I was surprised that more people actually wanted to hear how we fuel for training days! I expected racing fuel to take the win (hearing about both actually took the overall win), but I guess with not currently being race season, that makes sense. I’ll start with a “day in the life of food on a big training day,” and go over race fueling in a separate blog post!
The past few weeks, we’ve had a group of Ryan’s climbing friends out to visit us for what has been deemed “winter camp.” They’re all great athletes, and not just awesome ice climbers, but really great backcountry skiers too. Ryan and I are renting a place in the Canadian Rockies this winter, and we’re all pretty excited about the snow, mountains, and adventure potential. Put a group of super excited and capable athletes together with a limited amount of visit time, and you smash each-other in to the ground. Everyone wakes up stoked for the day. If one person is tired at any point, the positivity of the others pull them through. Also, you don’t want to be the downer who makes everyone else stop the fun early because you’re feeling sluggish, so pretty much every day started with a 6am wake up and the adventuring wouldn’t stop until after dark (some days the headlamps came out too). Basically, this equates to a lot of calories! I started referring to it as “the winter stage race.” Eat, ski and eat, eat, shower and dry gear, eat, sleep (a bit), repeat. Winter camp is wrapping up now, and needless to say I’m excited for some sitting and some sleep!
Pat did a Costco run on his drive from the airport to our place, and he showed up with six flats of eggs and two giant bags of oats, each about the size of a small human. Our friend Adam eats a loooot of eggs! Ryan eats four every morning on a normal day, but Adam puts him to shame with a grand total of seven. We tease him about it, but he also makes the best scrambled eggs, so each morning would kick off by him cooking us 20-30 eggs. No exaggeration. Sometimes he’d mix goat cheese or Brie in, yum. I’d eat probably three (hard to tell when they’re scrambled), with a bowl of oatmeal or a bagel with nut butter and jam. The boys would eat the same things, but 1.5-2x as much. I had a nice break in the middle of winter camp where I got to go back to normal life and set the boys loose, and it was funny to watch the amount they ate escalate as the days wore on and their bodies sought the fuel they needed to nourish all the adventures.
On the drive to our destination of the day, Pat would want a cappuccino stop, so we’d all end up with one of those. Some days, I’d still be full from breakfast, other days, I’d be surprisingly hungry again only an hour later. The boys would usually get a snack of sorts, like a croissant or egg McMuffin (more eggs!), and I’d join in if hungry. Then the skis would go on our feet, and the 5-10hr adventure would begin!
Backcountry skiing is hard work, especially in deep powder. You ski up the hills as well as down. The uphill is a solid cardio session, especially in the Rocky Mountains when each climb is an hour, and the downhills are like the hardest leg strength session you’ve ever endured. A normal descent would typically include two or three stops with someone clutching their quads saying, “it burns!”
I don’t focus as much during these long days in the off-season on fueling at regular time intervals like I would for races. For races, I’m careful to consume some glucose every 15 minutes or so, and around 200 calories an hour. These long days are at a low intensity, so you don’t need as many fast carbohydrates, unless you’re feeling a “bonk” coming on. It’s more of a higher-fat, well-balanced nutrition scenario. Here are some foods we were eating regularly:
“Peanut butter and send bars.” More on that below!
Good to Go meals! Our friend Brent is a professional photographer, and got hooked up with a bunch of these dehydrated meals so he could take photos of us eating them in fun places. We’d bring some hot water in a thermos, or boil some on a jetboil in a backcountry cabin, add it to the meal bag, and voila. One day I got to eat pho on top of a mountain - so good!
Various oat and nut bars
Peanut butter and jam sandwiches
Homemade oatmeal cowboy cookies
Homemade double chocolate banana bread
Local bakery items (I talk about a few just below!)
Cup-a-soup (salty, noodley, delicious)
(This is Brent trying to photograph Good to Go meals with an iPhone after his professional camera lens fogged up from too much cold exposure while skiing. It didn't make the cut hehe, we had to re-shoot the next day, but the hut stop and hut meals were great!)
I seem to love taking the Scandinavian approach, and packing a big sandwich with lots of meat and cheese. When I’d get sugar cravings, I’d eat a cookie, “peanut butter and send bar,” or a few favourites from our local bakery I’ve discovered. They make these amazing coconut macaroon things that are full of dried fruit and nuts that I’ve developed a severe addition to! I also love their salted caramel pecan squares! A nice lunch sandwich is awesome to have, but at some point some sugary items and salty items are just what the body wants, while you’re using a lot of glucose and losing sodium as you sweat!
So throughout a typical big backcountry ski day, with 5-6 hours of moving time, I’d probably snack on my sandwich along with three or four of those other snacks throughout the day. Keep in mind, the cookies are face-sized, about 5” in diameter. I usually eat half of one, or half a bar, so I’m having a good sized snack every hour or so. If you ever start to feel really hungry on a day like this, eat something! Fueling a lot a consistently is the key to success, staying happy throughout the day and having energy for the whole thing. Of course my muscles would be tired by the end of the day (very tired!), but getting too hungry on a day like this can result in hypoglycaemia, which is no fun for anyone in the group, especially you! You want your body to get the most out of these training hours you’re putting in, and fueling it well of course helps your body to absorb that load!
“Peanut butter and send bars” - I made a big tray of these on a whim, because I thought they’d be good adventure fuel and the boys would enjoy them. They did not disappoint ;) I don’t think I’ve ever had such rave reviews hehe I had a request for a second tray and kept hearing about how yummy they were for days afterwards. It made me very happy :) I didn’t have a recipe, but I used my favourite oatmeal cookie recipe to bake a thick base. Then I mixed peanut butter with some maple syrup and coconut oil, and made a layer of that over top of the oatmeal cookie. THEN I made a chocolate ganache and topped it all with that, plus a sprinkle of sea salt (cuz some salt tastes so good when you’re exercising so much!). Ryan coined them Peanut Butter and Send bars. I found them really sweet when I ate one outside of training, but when you’re out on a big day, the amount of sugar involved is so good. I asked if I should reduce it, but there was a chorus of insistant “no”’s. I’ll write up the recipe and post it in the blog one day soon!
(Ryan ice climbing with his PB&S bar)
After ski - more food! Usually the unhealthy type. I must state, on a normal day Ryan and I eat pretty healthy. We have salad every night, usually a protein with dinner and a carb like sweet potatoes. Yummy! However, as I stated at the beginning of this blog, after 6-10hours of training you’re just soooo hungry, and that’s just not going to cut it. If you know, you know! If you’ve never had that big of a training day and had the ensuing craving for a basket of fries, well, don’t bash it until you try it. We’d usually roll by somewhere on the way home and grab something like a slice of pizza, McDonald’s the one day, Ryan has been crushing A&W with our friend Troy. After a big day, it usually involves something oily, savoury and salty. I’d usually consider this dinner, but it would end up being “first dinner,” because we’d be hungry again two hours later!
(my Whoop data when the training camp ended! Time for rest!)
I actually pre-made a bunch of meals and froze them in prep for this trip, but they’d still involve some amount of kitchen time and clean up. We’d be so tired, want to shower, hang out wet gear, figure out our plans for the next day and sort our gear for that, we’d just end up eating white pasta with a jar of sauce poured over top (more of Pat’s Costco purchases! Thank goodness he had the foresight for buckets pasta and about 8 jars of ready-made sauce!). There was a lot of Athletic Brewing non-alcoholic beer consumed. Normally we love a beer after a long day, and we had one a couple nights when we went out, but we hadn’t actually bought any. This group aren’t really big drinkers, and non-alcoholic was actually awesome because it’s a great rehydrating recovery drink that doesn’t leave you feeling any amount crummier the next day! I imagine our bodies we’re working hard enough to recover as it was.
This may seem like a lot, but I promise I’m not exaggerating! I’d go to bed feeling full, but not stuffed, and wake up again soooo hungry the next morning. Bring out the eggs, Adam! If you have any questions, please feel free to send me an Instagram message any time, whether it be about fueling, recipes, or backcountry ski suggestions ;) Play hard, fuel hard everyone!