News flash, fueling for performance is important in EVERY SPORT!
Sorry cyclists and runners, I know I focus a lot on you, but step aside while we dive into the intricacies of fueling for cross country skiing.
Luckily, nordic skiing is an amazing way to cross train to boost fitness in runners and cyclists, so if you haven’t tried it, get after it! By nordic skiing, I mean cross country skiing (skate or classic) and not alpine skiing which is downhill skiing. Since I started dating my now fiancé Luke Russell (a long time skier), I’ve gotten more into the sport of skate skiing. A few years back he even persuaded me (by signing me up without my consent - we love each other) to ski the American Birkebeiner; a 53k ski race in northern Wisconsin and the biggest American ski race. A year ago, we moved to Minnesota and to improve my fitness during the harsh winters, I’ve taken to incorporating more skate skiing into my training routine. Let me tell you non-skiers, its tough as heck full body workout. Nordic skiers are known to be the fittest athletes with the highest VO2s.
Looking at the table, you can start to see how much higher the fitness impact of XCS is and begin to understand how nutrition can play into these athlete’s success.
Not quite sure what nordic ski training entails?
Here’s a peak at an elite training schedule. Volume wise it is roughly 4 hours less than my elite weekly cycling training, however, remember that nordic skiing is a full body activity with more impact than cycling. Based on this schedule, the athlete would expend 7,000 - 10,000 calories a week in training.
Like all sports, total calorie expenditure will be dependent on intensity, efficiency and body size. On average, an athlete will burn 700 calories an hour xc skiing while cycling is closer to 500 and running 600. When you add up hours of training a day, day after day, getting enough fuel in the tank to perform and recovery while maintaining a lean body is tricky.
Add liquid calories (soups work great in winter!)
Have a large breakfast
Consume multiple mini meals throughout the day
Consume 60+ grams of carbohydrate per hour of training
Limit simple sugars to training
Consume complex carbs, produce, quality proteins and healthful fats outside of training.
Drink a recovery shake of 4:1 carbohydrate to protein after training
Have a snack before bedtime
Of course, xc skiing has more intricacies than just total calories. This sport is completed in cold temps, often below freezing which increases calorie consumption as your body struggles to maintain warmth. The cold temperatures also mean that fuel can freeze, making it impossible to consume. Also, wearing mittens/gloves and multiple layers can limit ability to access fuel. Having hands fastened to poles also makes it hard to maintain pace while grabbing fuel or drink. When getting fuel is made so difficult, many skiers are unable to get in enough calories to support training. In these cases, opt to consume more before and after training sessions and take the following tips into consideration to make fueling your ski easier.
Staple gels to bib numbers
Wear a belt or backpack for fuel and hydration
Fill your hydration with warm water
pre open food packages
Bring soft food options that are less susceptible to freezing (gels, soft cookies)
Place a hand/toe warmer next to fuel to prevent freezing
Pause! Stopping for a brief moment for energy will be less detrimental to your race than bonking.
If you’re struggling with fueling your body for a successful athletic season, enlisting the help of a sports dietitian will be hugely beneficial! Check out my sports nutrition services HERE.