Cross-country skiing is not only about good conditioning and smooth technique. What you eat and drink can make or break your training session or a fun day out on the tracks.
Here are five important nutrition and hydration tips to help you perform at your best, whether you’re a casual Sunday skier or an ambitious XC ace training towards a big race.
1: Make sure to get enough energy
Cross-country skiing demands a lot from your body. Your arms, legs and midline are working hard alongside your heart and lungs. It also takes a lot of calories to keep you warm in freezing conditions.
This means your body needs a lot of energy. In a New York Times article, it was estimated that an elite-level male cross-country skier must consume between 7,000 and 8,000 calories per day!
Even if you’re not an elite athlete, make sure you get enough energy to support your performance and recovery. Relative energy deficiency in sports (RED-S) is detrimental to your skiing and can lead to serious health issues.
2: Remember to hydrate
Being outdoors in sub-zero conditions can get very sweaty. And even if you wouldn’t sweat that much, you lose a lot of fluids via breathing as your respiratory system warms and moisturises the cold and dry air.
In winter, you may not feel as thirsty as you do in the summer. That’s why it’s important to take care of your hydration before you become dehydrated. If you’re planning to ski for more than an hour or plan to go very hard, it’s smart to take something to drink with you.
Having a sports drink is a good idea, as it provides also the electrolytes you have lost via sweating. Nosht Winter Sports Drink is designed specifically for winter activities and it tastes great both hot and cold.
3: Take some energy with you
If your workout is short, under an hour or so, it’s usually enough that you eat before and after the workout. But if you’re heading on a longer tour or plan to work out at a high intensity, it’s smart to take some energy with you.
A good rule of thumb is to eat somewhere between 30 and 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour – even 90 grams if your workout lasts longer than three hours and your stomach can handle it (see tip #4).
Taking energy with you is also a safety factor. Especially if you’re heading for a longer trip in an unpopulated area, having extra drink and energy with you can be a literal life-saver if things turn sideways.
It can be challenging to eat in the cold. Sticky gels can freeze up completely, and cold bars can be hard to chew and swallow. Nosht High Energy Sports Drink gives you all the hydration and energy you need in one tasty drink, and it works well in cold, too. Another great option is Energy Chews which won’t freeze even if you’re out and about for hours.
4: Train your gut
If you’re training for a cross-country skiing race, you should also train your gut. Months of preparation can go to waste due to stomach problems, such as gassiness, bloating or having to rush to the woods in the middle of the race (and you know how hard that can be in winter, on skis, wearing bib pants!)
Over 80 per cent of Finnish endurance athletes suffer from stomach issues sometimes or often. To prevent stomach distress, it’s smart to plan your hydration and nutrition in advance and test all the products you will be using during the race well in advance in race-like training sessions. You can also test how many grams of carbohydrates work best for you and gradually increase the amount towards the big day.
5: Focus on recovery
Once your skiing session is done, it’s time to focus on recovery. You can kickstart the recovery process by eating something with carbohydrates and protein soon after the workout. The optimal would be to eat a proper meal but getting home from the tracks can take a while.
If you can’t get a full meal soon after you’re off the tracks, Nosht Recovery Drink Mix is a wonderful option. You can mix the powder even with warm (plant-based) milk if you want to enjoy a luxurious, hot chocolate type of drink to warm you up. Or you can make it at home, put it in a thermos and drink it in the car or bus on the way home!