man ready for a cross-country ski race

Nutrition strategies for cross-country skiers

Our nutritionist, Sophie, shares her tips to help optimize your race day performance.

Man cross-country skiing race

Before the race

Your muscles and brain get most of their fuel from carbohydrates during exercise. Make sure to prep accordingly:

- 3-4 hours before the race: Eat a regular-sized meal if your stomach and nerves allow it. Liquid foods like smoothies are a good option if you tend to not tolerate solids well when you're nervous.

Choose carbohydrate-rich foods to top up your energy levels, and limit foods that are high in fat and fibre to avoid stomach discomfort leading up to the race.

How much carbs should you eat? Aim for 3-4g of carbohydrates per kg of body weight. For example, if you weigh 60kg (132lb), this would represent 180-240g of carbs.

What that means for your meals:

- 1 cup of oatmeal  + 1/2 cup of apple sauce + 2 Tbsp. honey + 1 cup of milk  + 2 cups of a sports drink or juice (total: approx. 180g of carbohydrates)
- 2 cups of white pasta with tomato sauce + vegetables + 100g chicken breast + 1 granola bar + 1 fruit + 2 cups of juice or a sports drink (total: approx. 200g of carbohydrates)

- 1 hour before the race: have a snack that contains 1-2g of carbs per kg of body mass.

Make sure to choose familiar foods that you know work for you, like a sports drink, an energy bar or a banana.

woman cross-country-skiing race

During the race

For events lasting longer than 90 minutes, prevent muscle and mental fatigue by fuelling throughout the race.

Between 30 and 90g of carbohydrates per hour is recommended for prolonged endurance events.

Eating while exercising takes practice. Don’t change your plan overnight for the above recommendations. Aim to build up to these numbers over time by incorporating nutrition strategies into your training routine. Your gut needs training too!

Pro tips for eating and drinking while skiing:

- Pre-open your food packages (except gels!) before the start of the race and place them in an easily accessible pocket.
- Carry a sports drink in an insulated bottle to prevent it from freezing. Warm it up before the race if possible!
- Get someone to hand you food at specific spots on the course.
- For longer races (25km+), ensure proper hydration during the race by drinking regularly. Water and sports drinks are usually available at these events, so make sure to take advantage of them!

woman take off her cross-country skiing jacket

After the race

Follow the rule of the 3 R's

- Replenish your energy with carbohydrate-rich foods.

- Rehydrate with fluids and electrolytes.

- Rebuild your muscles with protein-rich foods.

Last, but not least...

Remember that nutrition is personal, and finding out what works for you may require practice — so, give yourself time and don’t leave it until race day!