Delicious deli meats and fruit allies of high-altitude athletes


For all lovers of the mountains and winter sports, the cold and snow have finally arrived. More than 12 million Italians will be on the move in the run-up to the festive season, according to a recent survey by Federalberghi. Of these, those who will stay in Italy will primarily choose the mountains (28.5%).

For those seeking sporting recreation or relaxation in the mountains, however, it is very important to pay attention to nutrition, because the cold and the altitudes – moderate or high – can increase energy expenditure and the need for specific nutrients, especially in those who dedicate themselves to sporting activities on the white mantle.

The most important nutritional challenges for snow sport enthusiasts, exposed to even extreme environmental conditions, relate to high energy expenditure (the daily energy consumption of a cross-country skier varies from 4780 to 5985 kcal!), faster utilisation of carbohydrate reserves in the form of muscle and liver glycogen, intensified fluid loss and increased iron turnover. What then to put in your rucksack? Energy and key nutrients such as water, carbohydrates, protein, iron.

We asked nutritionist biologist Elisabetta Bernardi for her contribution on this important aspect of the ‘mountain away-from-home’: ‘while sporting activities at altitude accelerate the production of new red blood corpuscles (an excellent adaptation, especially for endurance athletes), they also require a higher consumption of iron reserves which, if inadequate, can lead to fatigue, frequent headaches, shortness of breath and compromise recovery. An approach that is also confirmed by winter sports champions, such as Matteo Eydallin, ski-mountaineer of the Italian national team and 2021 Individual World Champion and Ambassador of the Let’s EAT project, who on his relationship with food revealed: ‘My diet never lacks deli meats and fruit, which are perfect for post-competition recovery and to supply the muscles with all the oxygen they need. In short, a nice bresaola and apple sandwich after putting down the skis is always a good idea!” – he concluded.

The value of the only apparently unusual combination of deli meat and fruit is also emphasised by Elisabetta Bernardi, who specified that: “the combination of deli meats and fruit is optimal thanks to the presence in the latter of vitamin C, which is fundamental for facilitating the absorption of the non-heme iron present in deli meats in addition to the heme iron, which is more easily absorbed.”

Elisabetta Bernardi then, talking about mountain activities specifically, also added that: “training at altitude entails an increase in iron requirements, an increase in fluid intake, a constant intake of carbohydrates, an increase in resting metabolic rate and a decrease in appetite, which may not allow you to have enough energy and may cause you to lose weight (especially due to the increase in calorie requirements). It is therefore good to carefully prepare one’s nutrition and hydration for winter sports.

Basically, to optimise recovery, the ideal mountain snack should be consumed within 15-30 minutes after finishing training or winter activity and be rich in carbohydrates and protein, precisely to facilitate glycogen deposition and the absorption of essential protein amino acids, respectively. Good options could be small deli meat sandwiches to try with fruit, to supplement the ready-to-use carbohydrates and vitamin C.

Some practical and tasty ideas? Sandwich with speck and apple; milk sandwich with bresaola, kiwi and rocket; bread roll with mortadella, kiwi and beetroot hummus; piadina with crudo, apple and spinach; walnut bread with bresaola, apple and parmesan shavings.