How to eat like a pro for optimal winter performance
When it comes to eating, ski pioneer Kim Reichhelm lives a double life.
In summer, the former U.S. Ski Team racer, two-time World Extreme Skiing champion and 30-year pro ski guide decamps to Baja California, Mexico, for surfing, spinning, fishing and renovating her off-grid seaside home located 20 miles from the nearest store or restaurant (when not working on her adventure business, Ski With Kim). The hot climate begs her to follow a clean diet of mostly organic produce, fish and other lean protein. Lunch is her largest meal of the day, typically barbecued veggies (peppers, onions, cauliflower, beets, asparagus) and beans or lentils topped with fresh avocado, tomatoes and cilantro.
Reichhelm will roast a chicken to eat in various ways throughout the week, and snack on coconut water-based smoothies, nuts and dried blueberries. Unless hosting houseguests, a light evening plate of salad or fruit or no dinner at all is the norm and alcohol is rarely touched. This nourishing approach is easy, she admits, when living alone south of the border.
Then comes winter.
“I start skiing, and it all falls to pieces,” says Reichhelm, a part-time Aspenite (15 seasons and counting) who travels around the world to lead ski camps and adventure expeditions. “I literally do not cook one meal in the wintertime. I eat out all the time, certainly every single dinner. If I’m hosting a group, it’s lunch. I don’t even do cafeteria food that much; with clients it’s almost always sit-down, served meals. Lifestyle-wise, it’s a matter of trying to make the best decisions I can.”
Balance is key for many of us once Aspen’s après-ski season heats up. So, here’s how to eat like 59-year-old Reichhelm, named by Skiing Magazine as one of the “Top Ten Most Influential Skiers of All Time.”
EAT FOR YOUTH
“You need to eat well and keep your body fueled to stay healthy — and stay warm,” says Reichhelm, who avoids consciously cutting calories in the winter. “I’m a very efficient skier, so it’s extremely difficult to get a workout skiing, especially with clients. I’m not out there ripping nonstops with the Freaks; Truth is, I’m freezing!”
What’s more, “At this point in my career, I’m not building muscle naturally. I gain weight easily because I’m postmenopausal. If I want to run around and act like I’m 10 years younger than I am, it’s important to be strong, so I don’t break. And you can’t be strong if you’re not putting nourishment back in your body to build muscle.”
PICK LIGHT PROTEIN
“I’m always gonna have one meal a day that has a big hit of protein,” says Reichhelm, who chooses mostly fish, chicken and pork. “I digest pork really well, and it makes me feel healthy and strong.” (Her pick at Cache Cache: double-cut Duroc pork chop, sub veggies for potatoes, request extra apple brandy sauce.)
Red meat, meanwhile, tends to have an opposite effect. “My fingers swell and I’m a little more achy if I eat red meat.” She realized it was an arthritic trigger while cutting out certain foods during menopause a few years ago. “If I’m gonna eat red meat — sometimes you feel like you need it — I’ll do a really high-quality ground-beef burger instead of a steak.” (Find her favorite local burgers, opposite page.)
ABSOLUTELY NO BREAD BEFORE DINNER
This is Reichhelm’s one hard-and-fast rule. “Do not eat the bread, whatever you do. It’s so hard if you’re really hungry. I will skip meals, and sometimes don’t get to dinner until 8, 8:30. As an athlete, you’re taught to have discipline, to set goals, to set parameters. If you want to be successful you have to make sacrifices.”
OBSERVE ENERGY LEVELS
“I’m kind of a low-carb person. If I eat a lot of carbs I feel it: I’m not as quick, not as energetic, a lot more tired.” In winter Reichhelm eschews complex carbs in favor or soups, salads, fish and vegetables. “And I always have a protein bar in my pocket,” adds the Clif Bar-sponsored athlete. “Last year they came out with a Luna Coconut that is fabulous, and rich. I love chocolate … but chocolate makes me kind of crash.”
“If I miss anything in the winter, it’s more fresh veggies,” Reichhelm says. “A scoop of greens powder, coconut water and a frozen banana is my go-to winter smoothie. (No protein powder, because I eat plenty of protein.) It keeps me energized, my brain working really well, and hopefully I stay warm.”
GO AHEAD, SKIP BREAKFAST …
… if a big lunch is inevitable. “When I’m with clients I can’t skip lunch: they’re tired and need to take a break, and I’m not gonna sit there and not eat,” Reichhelm says. Conversely: “If I know I’m gonna hike the Highland Bowl a couple of times and skip lunch, then I’ll definitely have breakfast: coffee, banana, maybe a little yogurt and granola.”
CHOOSE ALCOHOL WISELY
“I like to drink, I really like to party, I’m definitely leading the charge oftentimes,” says Reichhelm, who tends to hire young, footloose co-instructors who can “carry the flame” after she dips out on a group following obligatory tequila shots. “I stick mostly to vodka soda; might do a splash of pineapple juice to get some flavor, but I stay away from margaritas and sugary drinks.” Reichhelm also favors red wine, “but not that often because I do want to drink the better stuff. I find that (drinking) malbec and Chilean wines, I get less hungover; I think it’s the lack of tannins.”
BOOST ELECTROLYTES AS NEEDED
“If I’ve been drinking, replenishing with electrolytes can really make me feel better quickly. I eat electrolyte chews, Clif Bloks,” she says.
HYDRATE — WITH CHIA-SEED WATER
Reichhelm’s top hydration hack: chia seeds, about one tablespoon per 16 ounces water, best shaken in a bottle and consumed quickly. “My personal theory — and this is not scientific in any way — (is) that because the seeds absorb the water, you don’t flush it as quickly. If I can remember to pound a glass of chia seed water before I go to sleep, I feel 10 times better in the morning.”
BE NICE TO YOURSELF
“Balance is really important, and not being too hard on ourselves. So, you missed a workout or drank too much and now have a hangover? Whatever, get over it and get healthy again. I try to be forgiving with myself. And embrace the fun, bad behavior, and bad habits and make up for them in other times and other ways.”
Amanda Rae agrees with Kim: chia-seed water is a lifesaver! firstname.lastname@example.org
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