By Teemu Virtanen
Now, it’s time to take a break and enjoy the festivities that Christmas and the holiday season can offer. Most of us are going to gorge ourselves on tasty Christmas specials and sweet pastries and devour boxes of chocolate and seasonal candies. And we deserve it as the long training season is over and our eyes are on upcoming races and events.
But before we hit the Christmas buffet, it make sense to take a look at the food, nutrition, we should eat when racing and training for long distance skiing. Earlier, you were able to read an article about carbo-loading, but now you can educate yourself, or refresh your memory, about nutrition in overall.
Let’s get started with carbohydrates that are sugars and starches that fuel our bodies much like gas fuels a car. Each gram of carbohydrate contains ~4 calories worth of fuel, and the human body stores carbohydrates as glycogen in both our muscles and liver. These glycogen reserves are relied upon to stabilize blood sugars and allow for optimal muscle function.
If you are gearing up for a race that lasts longer than 3 hours, enhance carbohydrate stores pre-race, aka “loading”, by incorporating about 10 grams of easy-to-digest (low fiber) carbohydrate per kilogram of lean body weight each day the final 72 hours leading up to race day. You can read about the carbo-loading on our previous article at https://vismaskiclassics.com/news/articles/how-to-do-the-right-carbo-loading/
In the race mornings, aim for 100-150 grams of easy-to-digest (low fiber) carbohydrate in the 2-3 hours leading up to your race start. Be sure to allow one hour digestion time for every 200-300 calories you consume. During the race, aim for approximately ¼-1/3 your body weight in grams each hour of training or racing beyond 45-90 minutes. Common carbohydrate sources used in sports foods include maltodextrin, glucose or dextrose, sucrose, and fructose. After the race, aim for 50-100 grams of carbohydrate, preferably in liquid form to promote rehydration as well as carbohydrate repletion, as soon as possible upon finishing a hard workout or race effort.
Then, proteins, which scientifically speaking are large, complex molecules that make up 20% of our body weight in the form of muscle, bone, cartilage, skin, as well as other tissues and body fluids. During digestion, protein is broken down into at least 100 individual chemical building blocks known as amino acids that form a little pool within our liver and are used to build muscle, skin, hair, nails, eyes, hormones, enzymes, antibodies, and nerve chemicals.
When training, it is estimated that endurance athletes require approximately 1-3 grams of protein per kilogram of lean body mass daily. In the morning of your race, you should include 10-20 grams of protein in the 2-3 hour leading up to the race start to help stabilize blood sugars. Common pre-race protein sources include peanut butter, non-fat milk or yogurt, eggs, and energy bars.
If your race is longer than 4 hours, such as Vasaloppet, aim for up to 5 grams of protein hourly. Common sources include sports drinks, energy bars, as well as whole food alternatives like turkey jerky and peanut butter sandwiches. Right after the race, you should take 10-20 grams of protein to support muscle repair and immune function post-event. Common sources include milk, meal replacement shakes, and specialized recovery sports drinks.
In addition to proteins and carbohydrates, the replacement of electrolytes becomes instrumental in endurance bouts lasting longer than 1 hour. The principle electrolytes include sodium (generally bound to chloride), potassium, magnesium, and calcium. These electrolytes are involved in metabolic activities and are essential to the normal function of all cells, including muscle function. On your race morning, choose saltier carbohydrate sources, such as a salt bagel, and sip on a sports drink rather than plain water.
Finally, remember to drink enough water since it serves as the medium for all metabolic activity, helps to lubricate our muscles and joints, and also keeps our core body temperature in check. A good indicator of your sufficient water intake is your urine; if it runs pale yellow during the day, you have drunk enough. As an example, a 68 km man requires approximately 2.2 liters of fluid daily.