Optimal Recovery: Four Basic Components

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 its consequences. We begin to learn (or at least feel) the limits of our physical prowess during maturation. Recovery has never been more important.

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 referred to as “stress” and “rest.” Adaptation to your training only occurs when your body is allowed to properly recover from said stressors.

Sports scientists, personal trainers, coaches, mentors, and athletes impart tremendous time and energy into improving sport performance. Countless training regimens, statistics, supplements, strategies, and so forth are meticulously implemented to enhance an athlete’s speed, strength, stamina, flexibility, and power. Recovery is often overlooked in the process.

Proper recovery is at least as important as your training regimen with mindful nutritional choices being on the forefront. Your body will recover properly 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 there exists an appropriate balance of sugar, salt, water, rest and sleep. 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 are vital to efficient and effective recovery; can easily be accomplished by consuming fruit after snowshoeing, exercise, 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 rates of replenishment) to normalize muscle glycogen and blood sugar. It is imperative that sufficient fruit sugar is supplied before, during, and immediately after snowshoeing so that training and recovery are not compromised. This does not include refined sugar products.

The glycemic index measures the speed blood sugar concentrations rise. The level of water in your body dictates whether sugars are properly converted to glycogen. Whole fresh fruits blended with water offer superb assimilation and absorption to maximize your recovery.

Bananas and raisins contain the requisite 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 in the provision of necessary enzymes and vitamins. Enzymes become useless when heated at 116 degrees. Vitamins become useless when heated at 130 degrees. Avoid pasteurized fruit juices and other products because its proteins have been denatured in the process (161 degrees) along with its enzymes and vitamins.

Mineral Salts

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 essential for muscle contractions, heart beats, fluid regulation, and nerve function. Chloride, calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium are the primary minerals in electrolytes. No osmotic pressure means no life. 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 hinges 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. Fresh fruit is again your answer.


This invaluable substance could never get enough attention; yet, this fluid is often the most neglected respective to wellness, sports performance, and survival. All body functions rely on sufficient water. Your life depends on water. Period.

Your body in proper health is composed of 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. A minimum of one gallon of water per day from a variety of sources is necessary just to function. The consumption of whole raw plant foods, fresh fruits, and vegetables provide the greatest water ratios per food group.

Sweat during snowshoeing acts as 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, for example, 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 is simple at the instinctive level yet much more difficult to intellectually master.  

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. Metabolism in a homeostatic state is represented by the delicate balance of anabolism and catabolism. 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. Implementing more attention to these four components will likely accelerate your recovery and improve your next snowshoe outing.


  • Jeff Kildahl, Wellness Editor

    Jeff Kildahl is a writer, author, wellness consultant and philanthropist advancing preventive health care by synthesizing primary source nutrition and fitness as the principal components of the practice of medicine. Kildahl is a sponsored vegan ultra-endurance athlete credentialed in bioenergetics, biomechanics, metabolic efficiency™ testing, sport nutrition, and natural medicine. He is a dynamic member of CUBE™ ~ a professional speakers group ~ empowering others to harmonize the "Keys to Living in the Song of Life." He is the wellness editor at Snowshoe Magazine, United States Snowshoe Association columnist, and contributor to health, fitness and wellness sites, blogs and publications. He is a US-based ultra-endurance athlete and philanthropist for the 100 FOR 100 Movement ~ https://100for100.me. Kildahl is the creator and president of The Wholistic Edge® ~ a visionary firm providing synergistic solutions to transcend health, performance, and potential in life and sport from the inside out via the principles of Performance Medicine™ ~ http://thewholisticedge.com.

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