Keeping the zombie you at bay: the not so secret ingredient for keeping pace with the pros

Want to be faster on the uptrack? Focus on the essentials: the right healthy foods.

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Power to the peak with healthy snacks. Photo: Zoya Lynch

It’s 4 p.m. Hangry symptoms are beginning to surface, and tunnel vision for a poutine and beer from Revy’s nearest restaurant seems to be the only logical option. A nap sounds pretty good too.

This was the state of my boyfriend after a day in the backcountry ski touring. Mumbles in zombie language was the extent of feedback I would get until he consumed anything edible as if he hadn’t eaten for days. Slowly, zombie-man would retreat and signs of the man I knew would return.

I rarely see the hangry zombie these days. Not for lack of hard ski days, but due to his conscious effort to periodically refuel himself with one of our most basic needs of human life, nourishing food.

This may seem completely obvious, but sometimes in the midst of the exhilarating feeling we get going down that heart-pumping line, or the rush of dropping 20-foot cliffs on Mt. Begbie, our brains create excuses and the feeling of hunger gets pushed aside. At some point, you finally notice the hollowness in your midsection and the only message your brain receives is “Caution: further functioning requires food.” Filling that void with convenient junk food may feel satisfying at the time, but one day, maybe not so far away, your body will reach its limit when it cannot effectively process the junk anymore and it will start shutting down, one function at a time.

During prolonged exercise, without replenishment with nourishing food to maintain blood glucose levels, our muscle and liver glycogen stores get depleted, causing fatigue and reduced performance, increasing our risk for injury (which can be a near death sentence for some of the inhabitants of Revelstoke). A drop in blood glucose can cause light-headedness and a lack of concentration. Sound familiar?

I checked in with a couple of our local athletes, Izzy Lynch and Andrew McNab, to see how they keep up energy levels while adventuring on the mountains. Both rely on energy-dense snacks full of complex carbohydrates to munch on, and taking short breaks to avoid stopping for too long and getting cold. Izzy’s freezer is full of homemade granola bars and energy balls and she always has a Thermos full of herbal tea or miso soup to drink when it’s cold out. Andrew’s energy sustaining breakfast before a day of touring sounded so good I couldn’t wait to try it myself! Pancakes made with bananas, nut butter and eggs topped with antioxidant rich berries? Whoever said eating well tasted like unseasoned cardboard obviously never tried these out for a morning meal.

Another helpful tip from the pros is the importance of always having some extra emergency food with you in case your adventure ends up being longer than expected, or you’re outputting more energy than you thought. Izzy always has an emergency energy bar or two buried in the bottom of her pack.

Try a few of these on your next adventure for more power:

  • Homemade energy balls (One of many recipes: dates, cacao nibs, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, honey, blackstrap molasses, pinch of sea salt – throw in a food processor and roll into balls, sprinkle with coconut – voila!)
  • Dark chocolate (70% or more)
  • Seeds and nuts (not ones labelled “roasted” – these were most likely deep-fried. Yuck!)
  • Coffee, tea, miso soup or bone broth
  • Raw veggies (carrots, broccoli, cucumber, celery, etc.) or dehydrated veggies like seaweed
  • Good quality cheese
  • Boiled eggs
  • Jerky or pre-cooked nitrite-free bacon/chicken/steak from local sources

Revelstoke also has many local shops with snack choices; Le Marche Gourmet, Mountain Goodness, The Modern to name a few. Try making them yourself though, with a little creativity you can save some money and get the good stuff for that extra bout of liveliness!

Things to avoid when choosing energy sustaining foods:

  • Anything processed, refined, packaged or fried – these aren’t doing you any favours
  • Trans fats and industrial seed oils (corn, cottonseed, soybean, safflower, and canola), industrial animal fat and excessive sugars – CHECK INGREDIENTS
  • Artificial additives, colours and preservatives

Additional recommendations for keeping that awesome energy for adventure days:

  • Have a nourishing breakfast with protein, good fat and deeply coloured veggies and fruit (eggs, nitrite-free bacon, dark leafy greens, berries, smoothies, avocadoes, even steak!) For an extra boost of goodness, Izzy adds homemade cashew-date milk to her morning coffee … yum!
  • Eat complex carbs (not refined) within two hours after exercising to replenish your glycogen stores – try whole-grain rice, ancient grains and starchy colourful (not white) veggies like sweet potatoes, carrots or beets
  • More from the pro, Izzy suggests, “if you’re anticipating a big day, drink lots of water the night before,” this will help keep your body in a state of euhydration

Giving your body the food energy to prolong fatigue can make any day a better day. Reaching that fading point never quite seems worth it at the time. It’s not easy avoiding the junk; even our local professionals Izzy and Andrew get those cravings for burgers and fries or potato chips and beer! We’re only human, but every effort counts, so keep those bellies full of nutritious and delicious snacks. Stay healthy Revelstoke and surprise yourself with what you can accomplish with more energy!

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Cori Baker
Cori Baker is a passionate world traveller and cook who’s recently pursued a career as a nutritionist. Her dedication to discovery and learning about different cultures and food has taken her to all corners of the globe and by last count the only continent she has yet to step foot on is Antarctica.