Alpine skier Wendy Holdener reveals her top tips for eating right whenever you’re on the road

Swiss ski racer Wendy Holdener is coming off her best-ever season – one that included attaining her first world title and a silver medal on home snow at the 2017 FIS Alpine Ski World Championships in St Moritz.

Holdener’s improved performance might be partly attributed to advice she received from her nutritionist to make small changes to her diet. Over recent seasons, the 24-year-old has placed a greater emphasis on incorporating more protein into her diet, especially while at races.

“I found out that I should eat more protein during the main meals and especially at breakfast, so I now eat more eggs, meat and natural yoghurt when possible,” she explains.

“I should have 40 grams at each meal and when I don’t, I need to drink a protein shake,” adds Holdener, who is 1.69m tall and weighs 62.5kg. “Having a well-balanced diet and also drinking plenty of water is very important.”

Like most elite athletes, Holdener faces the burden of eating properly despite extensive international travel and time spent in unfamiliar hotels.

“It’s a big challenge,” she says, about trying to make the best of limited hotel and airport food options. “Sometimes they just have a buffet or one meal for 60 people and nothing else. It can be really hard to eat right and well-balanced.”

Now, as she focuses on becoming the very best, Holdener offers her best advice to fellow athletes on eating well when competing around the world…

Don’t overeat during training
“During hard training sessions or for me between runs, I don’t eat too much. When I eat too much, I get really tired and then the body has to work a lot harder. On race days, I don’t eat too much between the runs either. It’s also a good idea to have something that is easier for the stomach to digest because sometimes you are really nervous and your whole system might be a little bit upside down.”

Sports bars are a good supplement but not a substitute
“Don’t rely solely on sport nutrition brands and sports bars. Also, eat fruit or other things that can provide the carbs and proteins that you need. Have a diverse diet. Sport nutrition bars are good now and then, but sometimes a banana may be a better option. Change it up because it’s good for both the body and mind.”

Treat yourself on occasion
“Sometimes my father brings me a croissant or fresh bread in the morning and I try not to say, ‘no’. Treat yourself. If you have a good day or even a bad day, you need some sweets sometimes. Or if you go out to dinner with friends, it’s no problem to eat only carbs, like pizza, once in a while. We train hard enough and use so much energy that we need some carbs. Sometimes a little bit of chocolate or chips are OK too. As an athlete at the highest level, you need to watch what you eat, but you can’t stress out about it every hour. You have to also feel good to be happy and ski fast.”

Incorporate new foods into your daily appetite
“Try new things. There are many healthy and diverse foods in stores. In Switzerland, we say: ‘What the farmer doesn’t know, he doesn’t eat’. I’m also one of those, but sometimes you should try new things – you will discover good food that is healthy. Refine and develop your appetite. Stay open to new foods and learn how your body works. This can be very positive. Earlier in my career, I didn’t like to eat warm oatmeal, but my nutritionist said it was the perfect food for the stomach on race days. I discovered that by adding fruit or a little more flavour, you can make oatmeal that tastes very good. Make food that you might not like better by combining it with something healthy or other things that you do like.”

Make it a habit to carry healthy snacks with you
“I always carry some food in my backpack like fruit or yoghurt. When I’m travelling, I try to have some food with me that is healthy. Or a nutritional shake with protein and carbs is also a good idea. This is a good back-up for when I’m starving and can’t eat something good!”

To find out more about diet and nutrition, take the Athlete Learning Gateway course “Sports Nutrition: Eat to Compete”