Fueled not Fooled: An Ice Skater’s Diet

Written By: Riedell | July 1, 2009

CarbsAthletes continue to ask about “low carb” diets. According to these diets, most carbohydrates, such as bread, rice and pasta, are considered bad and should be eliminated from your diet. Although some individuals may initially lose weight with a low carb diet, the fact remains that the primary fuel for skaters has been and will continue to be carbohydrates, and athletes who are deficient in this nutrient will pay the price with decreased speed, strength and stamina.

The Effects of Low Carb Diets
Low carb foods, such as sports bars and sports drinks, are full of caffeine and do not provide the energy an active body requires. Decreasing carbohydrate intake also results in fluid loss. Therefore, the effects of a low carb diet on performance can be harmful. Typically, athletes who do not eat enough carbohydrates can’t think as clearly, perform as well, or recover as quickly. Skaters who follow a low carb diet may lose weight initially, but only feel good for the first week of the program. They get increasingly more tired as the weeks go on.

What To Do With Your Diet
Riedell recommends being selective with your carbohydrates. Consuming a reasonable portion of carbohydrates before exercise can help to prevent hunger, delay fatigue and provide energy while you skate.

Fortunately, it’s easy to eat a healthy portion of carbohydrates (as opposed to protein). Many carbohydrate containing foods are hand-held and ready-to-eat, such as a bagel or crackers, whereas protein foods (meats, cheeses, etc.) typically require some preparation.
I always tell my athletes “never eat anything bigger than your head.” As silly as that sounds, it is very easy to overdo it when it comes to carbohydrate foods. Limit eating large portions of carbs. In addition, avoid carbohydrate foods with added sugars (i.e., desserts and snacks) and high fructose corn syrup (i.e., soft drinks and sweets). Instead, focus on carbohydrates through fruit, dairy products and grains. Consider the following options when choosing a meal or snack with carbs:

Carb Snack Options
– 2 oz bagel
– Cup of cereal
– 1/2-cup of hot cereal, pasta or rice
– Potato
– Fruit (apple, orange, banana)
– Vegetables (green peppers, carrots, celery)

The bottom line is that your body needs to be fueled, not fooled. You will be a better skater by including carbohydrates in your eating plan.

-Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD