The relationship between injury and poor nutrition, a healthy diet and athlete staying power; Helen Schettini knows a thing or two about both these things. After breaking her legs three times over three consecutive seasons, she was motivated to study the link between nutrition and injury. Changing her diet to start including nutrient-rich foods had a huge impact on both her and her snowboarding. Energy levels began to rise, her stomach stopped hurting and she was pumped to go snowboarding and running again. Now everyday, even when traveling with the Full Moon Film crew to locations with delicious and tempting local food (like Italy and Japan), she makes healthy eating a top priority, doing what’s best for her body. It was good to chat to her about her journey to this point, find out a few tricks about healthy eating in winter and learn a few recipes off her.
Looking back on your diet in those early winter seasons plagued by injury, what nutrition do you think you were you lacking?
I wasn’t eating enough food and what I was eating, lacked nutritional value. A major deficiency would obviously be calcium, since I kept breaking bones, but there are so many other nutrients involved with the absorption of calcium like Vitamin D and magnesium that I lacked. Quite simply, I just wasn’t taking in enough nutrients to balance the intense exercise and impact of snowboarding.
Do you remember the moment you made the decision to change your diet? What spurred this change?
I started going to rehab for my broken legs and had a personal trainer to work with, helping to rebuild the muscle and movements needed for shredding. I think it was at this point that I started to realize that healthy living is both energy expenditure and energy intake. I can’t be working out this hard every day and recovering properly on nutrient deficient foods. That is what spurred my fascination with the diet.
I am lucky to be very self motivated in all aspects of life. I look at a goal and just do anything I can to get there; snowboarding career, gym, online courses, working (before shredding took off, I had 3 jobs in the summer to save up for snowboarding all winter).
Related article: Injures Suck: The best food & vitamins for ligament repair
How does being mindful about nutrition impact on your ability to snowboard at a high level today?
It’s pretty incredible to see the difference in my energy level and happiness when I’m eating how I want to be eating. One of the first times I went snowboarding in Europe I took advantage of the culture with their food and wine. By the 3rd day I was lethargic and not wanting to do anything, my stomach hurting every moment. So that was a major eye-opener in seeing how my body reacts to certain types of food. This last time I was in Europe, I ate out less than 5 times in 5 weeks. Most of the time I’d hit up a grocery store and grab a ton of veggies and some easy protein and have that for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It saved me. Every morning I was revving to go and excited for the day.
When snowboarding, what do you typically eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner & snacks? – Do you take any supplements?
I usually eat a green smoothie every morning that I’ll pre-make in a batch at the start of the week so it’s not time consuming everyday. If I’m in a hurry I’ll eat a couple hard boiled eggs on my way out the door but if I have time, I’ll make a vegetable scramble, with eggs (really similar to pro wakeboarder Angelika Scriber’s breakfast vegetable omelette recipe).
If I am heading out sledding/filming, I’ll usually make an extra big dinner the night before and throw ½ of it in a Tupperware container. Or I’ll make a huge batch of soup or stew and pre-portion them in the freezer so I can heat it up, throw it in a thermos and chuck it in my bag.
Snacks I love are raw carrots, hard-boiled eggs, raw nuts, and GoMacro bars. These give you instant energy to keep hitting the jump or hiking the line.
For dinner I’ll almost always make a stir fry of some kind since that’s the easiest. I love trying out new recipes but not on a day you’ve been shredding and just want food in your body. My stir fry consists of protein (usually chicken) and cut up vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, peppers) with some coconut oil, Braggs, and dried herbs. I don’t use any pre-made sauces or salad dressings. I try to avoid the vegetable oils, sugar, and preservatives in those things.
Supplements I take are:
- Fish Oil
- Vitamin D (in the winter only)
- Activated charcoal
- Chlorella – A herbal supplement that really helps the liver cleanse the blood
Related article: Kelly Slater Diet: Nutrition & sustainable living
As an athlete, how do you ensure you get enough protein? Is this something that you are focused on at different times (e.g. in pre-season training)?
I’m not that concerned with protein intake. I think a lot of people think they need a lot more than necessary. I follow the guideline that you need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. So for an average size athletic woman (120 lbs) it takes about 43 grams of protein. That’s essentially one chicken breast. So I think people’s obsession with protein is a little uneducated. I definitely eat more than just that with my eggs, green veg, raw seeds, and dinner protein, but I don’t actively try to.
Related article: Your protein diet needs when training
Space and weight in your backcountry pack is sacred. What nutritious food do you pack for a full day riding or sledding? Any tips?
That’s a tough one. When we go sledding, I have a huge bag on my sled that I can fit my two thermoses (one for tea and one for soup), 2 litres of water, and a ton of snacks. But when you’re having to carry everything on your back then you minimize big time. Sometimes I just carry a small water and some trail mix/bar with a couple hard boiled eggs. A light bag is key to riding big lines. I’d rather go hungry than have a bag that takes me out in the middle of a run.
This ultimate protein ball recipe is an awesome and healthy backcountry snack.
Do you have a go-to healthy meal that you love to cook?
Cauliflower rice is a great substitute for rice or any other starch. You get so many good nutrients out of it and there’s egg involved so that it could be a whole meal with that complete protein.
Healthy food is perceived as being expensive. Is it possible to live a Whistler seasonaire lifestyle and still eat cheap & healthily?
Eating healthy at home is sometimes hard to start doing since the first grocery shop to get the essential herbs, spices, oil, and other basics can be a large bill. But once you have those essentials then it can be so much cheaper than grabbing a slice of pizza or burrito every meal of the week. You just need to keep the vegetables and protein stocked up and meals can be as cheap as a few bucks if you broke it down (her above cauliflower rice recipe is a great example of this). I obviously prefer organic whenever possible, but I’m not so adamant about it. Some people go for only organic, and since it’s super expensive, they’ll just go out to eat, not even knowing what the quality of those foods are. If you have to, go conventional (non-organic) groceries, because home cooking with non-organic is still healthier than random takeout that uses GMO foods, MSG, sugar and rancid oils.
You’ve been riding and filming with your good friends for the Full Moon Film. Have your views on healthy eating impacted/inspired your snowboarding peers in anyway?
Hmmmm….. Im not sure. I know they all eat really healthy so it’s nothing new to them. But I think I have a little more self control so certain times they may see me avoiding the pizza when they all indulge. Haha. I think the biggest thing was being with all of them on a heli/split trip last January. I bought and prepared all the meals and snacks for 7 straight days in a winter cabin for 10 people. I think they saw my organization and dinner ideas and got psyched. So in that sense, I may have impacted their imagination for meal options.
Complete the sentence: Maintaining a healthy, nutritious diet is important for a snowboarder because …..
… It keeps your body alive and feeling energised to make the most out of your day. It’s constant how often the people around me will get exhausted half way through the day while I’m just getting started. I make the boot pack for hikes regularly, and being in great shape makes for less goggle fog since you’re not sweating. Haha. That is one thing that can really ruin a day!
Thanks Helen! I can’t wait to see the Full Moon movie come out Fall 2016 and hopefully catch up this winter in Whistler for some shredding. Thaks for the inspiration on and off your snowboard.
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Check out the Full Moon Film web series SIDETRACKED for more insight into what keeps some of the best women in snowboarding sidetracked.
SIDETRACKED for Full Moon: Helen Schettini on Healthy Eating