Snowshoeing is often as strenuous as it is rewarding. Our sport is an integral part of advanced levels of fitness and vibrant health.
Mother Nature’s challenges are both invigorating and fraught with invaluable lessons applicable to daily life. The law of diminishing returns is one such lesson. It is human nature to test one’s snowshoeing limits without regard for consequences. We begin to learn (or at least feel) the limits of our physical prowess during maturation. Recovery has never been more important.
The Importance of Recovery
The most basic formula for snowshoeing enjoyment and success consists of two phases: training and recovery. Training stresses your body while recovery rejuvenates it. These disciplines are often called “stress” and “rest.” Adaptation to your training only occurs when your body can adequately recover from said stressors.
Sports scientists, personal trainers, coaches, mentors, and athletes spend tremendous time and energy improving performance. Countless training regimens, statistics, supplements, strategies, and so forth are meticulously implemented to enhance an athlete’s speed, strength, stamina, flexibility, and power. However, recovery is often overlooked in the process.
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Four Basic Components of Recovery
Proper recovery after snowshoeing is at least as important as your training regimen, with mindful nutritional choices at the forefront. Your body will recover appropriately from training when four basic components have been met. Mindfully synthesizing these factors will hasten your recovery and open the door to new levels of sustained snowshoeing exertion.
Training harder and longer neither guarantees training smarter nor your desired snowshoeing results. Your body will only be able to recover proficiently from your training where an appropriate balance of sugar, salt, water, rest, and sleep exists. Consistent effort and discipline to facilitate speedy recovery from training or snowshoe outings will propel you to new fitness and snowshoeing levels.
Glucose and/or fructose (simple sugars) fuel your body at the cellular level and are converted to glycogen and blood sugar. Liver glycogen feeds your brain, while muscle glycogen and blood sugar fuel your muscles.
Replenishing muscle glycogen and returning blood sugar levels to normal is vital to efficient and effective recovery. This goal can easily be accomplished by consuming fruit after snowshoeing, exercising, or training. The enzyme glycogenase enhances your body’s ability to convert blood sugar to muscle glycogen. The two-hour window after snowshoeing is critical to this conversion, thus, a speedy recovery.
Most of your muscle glycogen and blood sugar will likely be zapped after two hours of snowshoeing at 70 to 80 percent VO2 max. If your snowshoeing endeavor is long or intense enough to deplete the supply of glycogen, it can take at least 24 hours (even at optimal replenishment rates) to normalize muscle glycogen and blood sugar. You must have sufficient fruit sugar before, during, and immediately after snowshoeing to not compromise your training and recovery. This does not include refined sugar products.
Simple Sugar Options
The glycemic index measures the speed blood sugar concentrations rise. Moreover, the level of water in your body dictates whether sugars are correctly converted to glycogen. Thus, whole fresh fruits blended with water offer superb assimilation and absorption to maximize your recovery.
Bananas and raisins contain the required glucose and fructose for optimal glycemic index uptake. Excellent sources to maximize replenishment also include grapefruit, oranges, most berries, tangerines, grapes, dates, figs, pears, plums, and most sweet fruit, to list a few.
Although cooked fruits provide ample sugars for recovery, they fail to provide the necessary enzymes and vitamins. Enzymes become useless when heated at 116 degrees., and vitamins become useless at 130 degrees. Avoid pasteurized fruit juices and other products because their proteins, enzymes, and vitamins have been denatured in the process (161 degrees).
There are at least twelve minerals with specific functions at the cellular level. Salts take the form of electrolytes with positive-and-negative conductive properties (ions). Electrolytes conduct charges (osmotic pressure) within our tissue, which is essential for muscle contractions, heartbeats, fluid regulation, and nerve function. Chloride, calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium are the primary minerals in electrolytes. No osmotic pressure means no life. So, maintaining homeostasis is imperative.
Sodium and potassium are two of the vital minerals necessary for electrolyte balance. Celery represents one of the best vegetable sources of sodium, with raw dulse (a sea vegetable) another excellent option. Most all fruits represent good sources of potassium, with bananas, tomatoes, dates, and avocados heading the list.
Fluids within your snowshoeing body are deemed primarily intracellular or extracellular. Potassium represents the intracellular mineral (inside the cell), while sodium represents the extracellular (outside the cell) mineral slot. Potassium delivers nutrients into the cell, while sodium flushes metabolic waste out of the cell.
Your snowshoeing proficiency and enjoyment hinge on the delicate and critical relationship between sodium and potassium. The success of this formula is magnified by your body’s acidic and alkaline levels. Strive to maintain a neutral pH balance (about 7.35). In essence, alkaline-based minerals must neutralize the acidic by-products of snowshoeing and metabolism to help satisfy homeostasis. So fresh fruit is again your answer.
Read More: The Complete Electrolyte Story
This invaluable substance could never get enough attention. Yet, this fluid is often the most neglected in wellness, sports performance, and survival. All body functions rely on sufficient water. Your life depends on water. Period.
Your body, when in proper health, is about 70 percent water. Water loss of merely 5 percent of total body weight necessitates medical concern. Sufficient water is required to absorb salts, convert sugars to glycogen, and too many other functions to list.
Snowshoeing taxes your body. However, at least one gallon of water per day from various sources is necessary just to function. The consumption of whole raw plant foods, fresh fruits, and vegetables provides the greatest water ratios per food group.
Sweat during snowshoeing is part of the body’s innate and intricate cooling system and is effective only when it evaporates from the skin. More water is necessary when perspiration dissipates, lethargy rears its ugly head, or salt forms on your skin or lips, among other symptoms. Dehydration often signals the end of your snowshoeing plans.
Do not underestimate the value of this substance. Use a bathroom scale before and after snowshoeing to evaluate water loss.
Rest and Sleep
Snowshoeing often tests our limits long before we realize it. Part of the recovery formula is listening to your body and heeding its clues. This idea is simple at the instinctive level yet much more challenging to master intellectually.
Types of rest include physical, sensory, emotional, and physiological. Rest is an invaluable and proactive proposition – honor it. Metabolism is the sum of anabolic (constructive) and catabolic (destructive) activity at the cellular level. The delicate balance of anabolism and catabolism represents metabolism in a homeostatic state. Proper nutrition and sufficient sleep will ensure growth (anabolism) and maintain homeostasis.
Snowshoeing requires a tremendous amount of energy from your body which inherently means an increased need for rest and sleep to expedite recovery.
Overall, implementing more attention to these four components (simple sugars, mineral salts, water, and rest) will likely accelerate your recovery and improve your next snowshoe outing.
This article was first published on December 20, 2010, and most recently updated on June 29, 2023.