When I was younger, I used to watch these snowboard edits from this European crew called iSenSeven. There was this one chick, Silvia Mittermüller, that got a section in these films. She RIPPED! Over the years, through mutual friends and finding ourselves riding the same spots, we became mates. This winter in Perisher Australia, Silvia stayed a night with me and we got talking about food and the diet of athletes. She was dishing up a super healthy late night snack that got me asking all sorts of questions related to her diet, her injuries and what she eats in the U.S. when traveling on the road from comp to comp. A super passionate foodie as well as an incredible freestyle competitive snowboarder, Silvia educated me on a plethora of things that evening, from nutrition, farming techniques and GMOs in food (genetically modified organisms). She sports a slender frame, eats a clean, ethical and vegetarian diet, while boasting skin that you can see glowing across the snow park. There’s definitely a thing or two you can learn from her on and off the snow and I’m excited to share her views on food and her athlete diet with Still Stoked.
“Money unfortunately rules the world, but the way we spend it therefore also means we can also influence the path our word is heading. So eating well can´t just make you a healthy snowboarder, it can also make you someone who can change the world.”
As an athlete, especially a snowboarder operating in a winter climate, what is your approach to diet and nutrition?
My diet is driven by two main factors – ethical consciousness and health.
I choose to eat foods that keep my system running strong and healthy, but which also go along with my values. I don’t want to support an animal-product industry that cruelly abuses animals as “materialistic things”. Not only is this plainly wrong, but it also creates unhealthy bi-products and destroys our environment. So my diet is primarily run by trying to be a conscious “good” human, and by being as healthy and strong as I can be, as an athlete. Snowboarding maybe only plays a small role, in the way that sometimes I need to eat a lot of food when being active in cold temperatures and at high elevation.
“I choose as much organic food as I can, avoid most processed foods and all meats and dairy. That’s all it takes. Cut out the poisons and chemicals, then you don´t need any antidotes. Isn’t it stupid to take supplements to make up for bad eating habits when you could just eat healthy instead?”
As a vegetarian, do you pay any attention to specific things in your diet such as protein or iron?
I don’t really worry about protein, iron or anything else. Once you’ve left unhealthy, fake-flavoured, chemically enhanced foods behind you, your taste buds and entire system will adapt to a “healthy reality”. Your body is very good at telling you what it needs, simply by making you WANT to eat certain things or even crave them.
I quit meat and dairy in 2007 and haven’t taken any supplements ever since. Consequently I’ve had very good results in every blood test I’ve taken since. There are tons of food myths out there, most of them created as advertising strategies by food or supplement industries. They use people’s worries (the lack of something/disease/injuries) and desires (to be healthy/strong/skinny/beautiful), to manipulate the public into thinking to need A, B or C product. But if people really lack nutrients, it is those individuals with shitty diets in the first place. If your diet mostly consists of white flour and sugar, any additional vitamins or minerals may make you feel better. But isn’t it stupid to take supplements to make up for bad eating habits when you could just eat healthy instead?
I think protein is one of those products advertisers wants you to think you need more of. It originated from the meat and dairy industry and has by now, successfully made its way into most people’s heads who think they are remotely athletic. I’m not saying you don’t need protein. I’m just saying that there is no reason to worry about getting enough and where to get it from. I bet no one reading this has any friends proven to have had a lack of protein or had a true lack themselves? I haven’t eaten meat since 2007. Since then I have lost all the muscles in my leg three times following 3 ACL surgeries. I always got the muscle back without ever worrying about increasing my protein intake, or eating specific foods. During 2 ACL surgeries, I was a strict vegan (now I eat “good” (organic) eggs but still no other dairy).
What I am saying is that you just need to learn to listen to your body. If you need something your body will crave the foods containing it. So if you eat what your body tells you to eat, you’re usually fine. It does take sometime for your taste buds to overcome the confusion from fake flavoured, high sugar foods. Once you apply healthy eating habits everything simply falls into place, at least from my own experience.
I don’t worry about the exact nutrients I need, only about avoiding as many of the sickening products as I can – industrial animal products, anything containing GMOs, chemically processed foods and foods containing a overload of pesticides and fertilisers. In clear words I choose as much Organic as I can, avoid most processed foods and all meats and dairy.
You mentioned to me about paying attention to GMOs especially in the USA, can you tell me about this and why you think it is important?
GMOs are one of my most passionately hated things, I could fill pages about this but will give my best to keep it short.
To understand the dangers of GMOs you have to understand how they are made and how they work. There are different “styles” of genetically modified plants. The 2 most common ones are plants that have been made resistant against highly toxic pesticides (so you can spray tons of chemicals over them, kill all weeds and bugs around the plants, and only the resistant plant survives), and plants that have been modified to release a toxin themselves (so any bugs trying to eat the plant die). Either way the plants are toxic through being sprayed with the most aggressive herbicides out there, or creating the poison themselves. Us humans, don’t instantly die like a little bug, but that doesn’t mean that those poisons don’t leave traces inside our bodies. Actually our bodies are already proven to recognize GM plants when we eat them and react to them (check out this website GMO evidence). Other issues that are noted include fertility problems and cancer development. Since GMOs are a big money industry, researchers, media and politicians are often getting paid to work for the industry (and say the right things). I believe we really need to make an effort to educate ourselves. We can’t just trust governments to do the right thing or rely on news outlets to communicate what we need to know.
More people have been waking up to the dangers of GMOs in the last years though, asking for clear labelling solutions and the banning of GMOs. Let’s just hope that the countries that have been resisting these technologies so far, stay strong and that conventional crops haven’t been contaminated. That’s another reason to keep fighting GMOs – when their pollen gets blown into conventional crops (pollen can be blown over huge distances), they cross-breed with those plants. So what is thought to be non-GMO, suddenly has gene traces of GM in it. Over time GMO is irreversible. Humans have the chance to destroy true nature on a wide scale if we keep going down this GMO road.
Shit this answer is already so long –and I haven’t even gotten into patenting of seeds, new glyphosate-resistant super-weeds, third-world farmer suicides and marketing myths/tweaked false studies of the GM industry. Whoever has read this far and is still open to more GM stuff should go watch “the world according to monsanto” (an older movie that changed my life back then and started to make me aware of all this) or go to http://www.gmoevidence.com to find information about the effect of GMOs.
Related article from Kelly Slater who is also a huge activist against GMOs and farming techniques: Kelly Slater Diet: Nutrition & sustainable living
You tore your achilles tendon last year and were out of action for a while. Did you change your diet in any way to support your recovery?
“I´d love to say “eat this food when you’re healing and you heal so much faster” but I fear it’s not that simple. I think it’s the full package of a healthy lifestyle and a happy and determined heart.”
Yes, I tore my achilles and had surgery on Dec 2nd 2014. After 2 months, I started learning to walk and went to Barbados for 7 weeks. The while time, I simply ate good and healthy foods: GMO-free, organic, no meat and no dairy. Once I was on the island and saw how the fishermen were fishing using 100 year old techniques, selling fish off the boat at the local fish market, I also added some fish into my diet. But only little fish like flying fish (a Barbados specialty). They are at the end of the food chain, so they don’t collect the heavy metals/plastics in their short life span that the big fish do. I didn’t eat flying fish because of my injury, it was because I was on an island and I could see where the fish came from and it was ok with my values (fish is the only meat i’ve occasionally eaten in island environments like this, since turning vegetarian in 2007). Once I left Barbados fish was off the food list again. I was back on snow in late March. I think I owe my quick recovery to the combination of a very pro-active rehab, lots of sleep, generally healthy eating habits and being happy inside.
You travel so much for competitions and snowboarding, how do you ensure you maintain a healthy diet on the road?
I always plan in advance and bring food for long drives or onto the plane.
In the car it’s easier since you don’t need to carry all your stuff around, so I just make sure I pass an organic store on the way out and get whatever I need for the drive.
Flying is a little trickier, I usually go for hard snack items that won’t get squished or spill: raw carrots and apples are always a safe one. I also like to bring dry organic oats as a last resort. I mix them into a glass of orange juice on the plane if I really need more food. Main course wise, I often bring whatever I had left at home with me (put leftover pasta, rice, salad or whatever into a glass jar) and always request vegan food in advance for the plane food. I pick out what looks good to me (anything soy/sugar definitely contains GMOs).
The first stuff I buy when going to a new place is usually breakfast items. I always eat right after I get up and don’t like to compromise for shit food just because I travel or stay with people who have bad eating habits. My most staple breakfast is organic oats with some fruit. I just make the oats with hot water and add whatever fruits or seeds I have. The most basic version is hot water+oats+banana. It doesn’t win a Michelin-star but does the job to give you some healthy energy to start the day!
Can you describe what your typical meal plans are through the day when snowboarding?
On the road I usually do oats for breakfast as I said – with hot water and fruit (banana, apple, berries, seeds). When I’m home I may also make some bread with 1egg and a ton of vegetables. Then I snowboard however long I last. If I get hungry, I often bring a glass jar with leftover breakfast oats or I make avocado-sundried-tomato sandwiches. Once I leave and go home, it’s usually already later afternoon and I’m really hungry so around 3/4pm I usually eat a huge meal of whatever I feel like that day: pasta, rice, lentils, beans with tons of vegetables. If I’m really desperate I always have a stash of Amy´s organic vegan microwave burritos. Im not proud of it but they are cheap and fast and the only microwave food I eat :-) At night I have a smaller dinner in addition to my 3pm meal, but it’s the same kind of stuff, it’s a soup or salad. I love making pumpkin soup and mustard salad dressing.
Check out Silvia Mittermüller’s go-to organic pumpkin soup recipe or her YOLO-Witch Sandwich recipe.
Why do you think maintaining a health diet is important as a female athlete, particularly a snowboarder?
The benefits of a healthy diet exceed supporting the body’s ability to handle the demands of high altitude, cold weather and long days – by generally elevating well-being, both physically and mentally. Making good nutritional choices is a hurdle to pass on the path of fulfilling one’s full physical potential. I believe it also stands for a chance to live up to one’s values, by consciously purchasing items coming from sustainable, non-toxic agriculture and humanly raised animals. Money unfortunately rules the world, but the way we spend it therefore also means we can also influence the path our word is heading. So eating well can´t just make you a healthy snowboarder, it can also make you someone who can change the world.
Thanks Silvia. So many interesting points and great links to some further reading. I urge anyone that has been inspired by Silvia and this post to go and watch the movie on Monsanto. Silvia is not alone maintaining an educated, clean, organic diet, in the pro athlete world. Surfer Kelly Slater regularly speaks about this topic on his social media. He was the first to encourage me to read more about it. He also urges you to read the labels, know where your food has come from and make better decisions.
Follow Silvia Mittermüller on her Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and her website silviamittermuller.com