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From licensed healthcare providers who are experts in their field

A Sports Dietitian's Top 5 Tips for Nutrition in the Mountains

Oct 17, 2023

Written By: Lauren MacLeod, Registered Dietitian


Athletes who train at altitude have their own unique nutrition needs. In this article we’ll cut through the noise, debunk nutrition myths, and get specific about what you can do to enhance training, increase energy, and optimize recovery when you’re well above sea level.

1. Eat a high carbohydrate snack 30 minutes-1 hour before training.

Altitude can decrease feelings of hunger, but it’s necessary to fuel before most training sessions. You will want to find a balance between nourishing yourself and preventing discomfort. Try to choose snacks that are low in fat and fiber and moderate in protein. These nutrients slow down digestion and may increase gastrointestinal (GI) distress. 

Some options include:

  • Fruit smoothie made with apple or orange juice

  • Fruit and granola bar

  • Toast with peanut butter and banana

  • Dried fruit on its own

  • Sports drink or juice

  • Goo’s, waffles, or gummy candy

2. Eat an easy-to-digest snack every hour on the hour

If you train for longer than one hour, eat an easy-to-digest snack every hour on the hour. Pre-fueling ensures your muscles have a continuous supply of energy to keep you going. See the above examples of pre-training snacks for more ideas.

Along the same lines, I do not recommend training fasted unless your training is less than one hour, or if eating before training causes significant stomach distress. Training at altitude increases energy expenditure, and most high-altitude sports are high intensity. Staying well-nourished is the key to training effectively.

3. Follow up with carbs and protein

About 1-2 hours after training, make a meal or snack that contains carbohydrates and protein. These two nutrients need to work together to build muscle and replenish energy storage--that protein powder won’t do the trick on its own. Need an idea for what to eat after training? Check out my recovery smoothie recipe below.

4. To help fight inflammation, include fats with meals

Some level of inflammation is normal after exercise, but too much can impact your ability to recover and rest up for your next training session. Choosing unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids can help with both modulating inflammation and keeping blood sugar balanced so you don’t crash between training sessions.

Recommended fat sources for athletes:


Plant-based oil (canola, olive, avocado, sunflower seed, sesame)

Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, pollock, catfish)

Nuts and nut butters


5. Hydrate

Staying hydrated in the mountains has its own unique difficulties: first, the air is dry so you lose more fluid through your skin and breathing. Second, just like your appetite, the sensation of thirst can be suppressed. 

Make sure you consistently drink enough water, not just during training but throughout the day. Some symptoms of dehydration (that don’t include thirst) are trouble focusing, fatigue, and dizziness. You don’t want these issues getting in the way of your training! Try to get about half your weight in ounces of fluid per day.

For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, aim for 75 ounces of water per day.

Other sources of fluids include juice, smoothies, soup, and high-water foods like melons, grapes, and cucumbers. 

Outdoor Women's Wellness 

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