Nutrition before ski race

Imagine you standing on the starting line, ready to perform your best in a ski race. You have put down many hours of training during the year and prepared yourself mentally. To perform as desired, you must not forget what to eat the days before the competition.

Individual preferences are important to take into account and you need to identify what’s nutrition strategy is best for you before races. It is also important to bear in mind how long long the race is. Anyway, it will be crucial to ensure that you have enough energy from the start.

Food intake hours before the race

It’s important to get a main meal 2-3 hours before the race and a small meal 30 minutes – 1 hour before the race. If the competition starts early (like many of them do), you don’t need to stand up at night to eat, but make a good supper and breakfast.

Examples of food 2-3 hours before:

  • Oat meal / cereal with milk / yoghurts and fruits
  • Slice of bread with topping such as cheese, meat, eggs, fish and juice/milk
  • Hot meal (1/3 carbs, 1/3 proteins, 1/3 vegetables)

Examples of food 30-60 minutes before competition:

  • Fruit smoothie/drinking yoghurt
  • Fruit and berries
  • Dried fruit
  • Energy bar
  • A slice of bread with topping

Carbo-loading

For ski races lasting 90 minutes or longer, carbo-loading can help improve performance up to 2-3 % by increasing your glycogen store about 50-100 %. This can make it easier to maintain the pace towards the end of the race.

This strategy was first known in the 1960s. The idea was to eat very little carbohydrates the first part of the week (four days) and train a lot, and thereafter reducing the training load and eat much carbs the last three days before the race. The current strategy is much less stressful and more appropriate. You eat normal portions the past four days, but increase the amount of carbohydrates (up to 10 g per kilo body weight) 1-3 days before the race and reduce the training. You are doing this until lunch or dinner  the day before. After the last meal of carbohydrates you should go back to normal portions to avoid stomach problems. Drinking energy drink can be smart in the last 24 hours to top the glycogen store.

It can be challenging to consume so much food, so select options that saturate more energy dense in these few days. It is room for an extra dessert or slightly lighter bread. Remember to not introduce new food choices during this carbo loading.

Tips to increase carbohydrate intake:

  • Cut bread thicker than usual and select smaller grain bread.
  • Eat bread as a side dish for dinner
  • Between-meals with bread or grain and sweet toppings
  • Let the plate consists mainly of pasta, rice or potato (less carbs in potato than rice and pasta).
  • Eat hot meals of pasta and rice
  • Drink juice or drinking-yoghurt
  • Eat dessert

Fluid intake before the race
You also have to be in fluid and electrolyte balance to perform your best.  To get a status on this balance, you can for instance check the color of your urine. If the urine is light (and you haven’t eaten anything that puts color), you will most likely be on the right track. Drink the quantities that is natural for you. If you are not sure, around 0,5 L during the last two hours is fine. Sports drink should be used to make sure that you are in balance. Please  remember that there is salt in the food you eat, so overdoing will have no purpose.

 

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Barbro Sætha works as nutrition adviser and personal trainer at Myrens Sport Center. She has been cross-country skiing since early childhood and is now an active skier for LYN. Barbro will participate in several Visma Ski Classics races during the season, including Toblach-Cortina, Maricialonga, Vasaloppet and Birkerbeinerrennet.

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