Nutrition for Athletes Training for 14ers

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Sports nutrition expert Heather Kelly shares her tips on diet and nutrition for athletes preparing for The Colorado 54

Heather Kelly's photo for The Colorado 54.

Sports nutrition expert and owner of OpeNutrition, Heather Kelly, on a backpacking trip field testing trail-ready foods.

From backpacking in Alaska, to epic rafting trips down the Grand Canyon, Heather Kelly has taken on some extreme adventures. As a passionate sports nutrition expert, she has field tested all of her favorite foods to figure out exactly what satisfies on-trail hunger and provides the most ideal nutrients for an active body. To show her support of The Colorado 54, she reached out to discuss how hikers can properly care for their nutrition while gearing up for their fourteener. Some debunked theories? The value of all things “low fat” and our favorite trail snack, fruit.

Not All Fats Are Created Equal

Intuition suggests that a healthy diet means less fat, but that myth is busted, says Heather. For an athlete out there burning tons of energy, there are many healthy fats that help our bodies restore and strengthen themselves. For example, decreasing the amount of omega 6 that we’re taking in from sources such as vegetable oil, and increasing the amount of omega 3 that we consume from animal products is extremely beneficial.

“We’re better off eating the fat off a grass fed steak than putting flax oil on our salad,” Heather explained, “We’re actually going to use and absorb more of the omega 3’s from the animal products.”

Some yummy foods high in animal based omega 3? Grass fed butter and pasture raised eggs, the perfect start to any mountain adventure day.

Nutrition for athletes, pasture raised eggs and grass fed butter.

Pasture raised eggs and grass fed butter, the ultimate breakfast high in animal based omega 3.

For the trash, Heather says, all of your vegetable oils. Despite the fact that these conventional cooking lubricants are veggie based (and therefore healthy, right?) these products actually pale in nutritional value to things like coconut oil.

“Anytime you can get coconut into your diet it’s going to be great for your energy levels and great for your body composition,” Heather said. “It’s good to use for your cooking oil because it’s heat stable, versus olive oil which is sensitive to both light and heat. Save that stuff for finishing your vegetables, not cooking in it.”

Grandma was right about your potatoes

Increasing your carbohydrate intake means focusing on having vegetables at every meal, even breakfast, Heather emphasized. Savor the flavor of your cast iron skillet with a delightful morning spinach, mushroom, and bacon scramble.

Nutrition for athletes, the Colorado 54.

Potatoes, mushrooms, and bell peppers, excellent sources of carbohydrates for the 14er bound athlete.

“I see in the athlete community that people hammer fruit, but really vegetables are going to be a lot more nutritious than fruits,” Heather said. “Fruits are really high in sugar, and when you’re out there working, after a while your body can’t handle any more fructose and you’re going to experience digestive upset.”

Instead, replace your fruit snacks and fruit based power bars with something higher in carbohydrates. Potatoes for example, or squash, will have a higher nutrient profile. Even sweet potatoes, which are deliciously deceptive, are packed full of carbohydrate goodness. For Heather, homemade pumpkin leather does the trick.

Starting to get hungry? Scribble down your new and improved grocery list for your next camping trip or expedition. Stay tuned as Heather Kelly and The Colorado 54 team share the secrets of making the ultimate nutritious trail mix and other ascent day snacks.