Proper Nutrition: Key to Success in Mountain Sports, Says Nutritionist Elena Casiraghi
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Nutrition plays a crucial role in mountain sports, whether it’s for amateur enthusiasts or professionals. To shed light on the importance of correct nutrition for optimal performance and overall well-being during mountain excursions, we reached out to Elena Casiraghi – a renowned nutritionist, sports integration specialist, and author of multiple books on nutrition. Casiraghi, who holds a degree in motor sciences, provided valuable insights and advice on how to approach mountain trips with maximum results, both athletically and physiologically.
“Why is proper nutrition important?” we asked Casiraghi.
“Food is the fuel for our bodies,” she responded. “The better we can balance the substances that provide energy, the better our ‘machine’ will work. It’s crucial to consume less sugar and fat, but hydration is even more vital. Hydration should be constant, even when at home, as it promotes mental clarity. It’s best to avoid carbonated drinks or those rich in added sugars.”
When questioned about her recommendations for those planning mountain trips, Casiraghi emphasized the importance of mental efficiency in such challenging environments. She stressed the significance of targeted hydration, stating, “Hydration goes beyond simply drinking a bottle of water. It must be supplemented with sodium, which is lost through sweat and physical exertion during the trip. I recommend adding one gram of coarse salt for every half liter of water and consistently drinking every 10 or 15 minutes, without waiting to feel thirsty. Gulping half a bottle at once is ineffective, as the body can only absorb a certain quantity of liquid before eliminating the excess.”
Regarding breakfast, Casiraghi advised against overeating. “There’s no need to ‘fill up’,” she explained. “Similar to water, the body can only absorb a specific quantity of food, and the rest goes to waste. Stick to your regular eating habits, incorporating proteins such as lean cold cuts, low-fat cheese, low-fat ricotta, or jam. Carbohydrates, which are slower to absorb, increase the feeling of satiety and are burned more slowly.”
A break during the excursion is also highly recommended, according to Casiraghi. In addition to staying hydrated, she suggested supplementing with dried fruit or oily fruit bars, which can be prepared at home. This lifestyle not only leads to better results for those looking to shed some weight during mountain walks but also aids overall physical benefits.
Casiraghi stressed that the half hour immediately after physical exertion, depending on the level of effort, is crucial. “You must dry off and change clothes immediately to avoid a decline in immune strength, making the body more susceptible to external agents that can cause illness. It’s also essential to consume something like a sandwich with mocetta or lean raw ham, as the salt present in the sliced meat helps recover lost sodium. Specific post-activity products, like Enervit’s Recovery R2, can also be valuable.”
Speaking about supplements, Casiraghi emphasized their role as an addition to a good diet and not a standalone solution. “Supplements are advisable to cater to individual needs and make it easier to give our bodies what they require. For example, taking 20 grams of protein for breakfast can sometimes be challenging with a natural diet, so one sachet of supplements is sufficient to fulfill those needs. Bars are more balanced than regular snacks and act faster on a digestive level during trips. Gels can be useful for intense efforts when immediate response is needed from the body. They are also convenient, particularly when one hand is occupied during activities like via ferratas or mountaineering climbs. Furthermore, specially designed powders and solids can be integrated post-trip, as they don’t require refrigeration and can be kept in a car without spoiling. However, it’s important not to overuse supplements and seek guidance on their appropriate use based on individual needs, intolerances, or allergies.”
In conclusion, Casiraghi’s expertise highlights the significance of proper nutrition in mountain sports. Whether you’re an amateur or a professional, maintaining a well-balanced diet and prioritizing hydration is crucial for achieving the best results in your mountain adventures.