hydration and nutrition for cross-country skiing

Nutrition and hydration

As all athletes know, diet plays an important role in endurance and performance.
In cross-country skiing this is particularly true since it is a sport that is practised in the cold and consumes a lot of energy.
Even if you're not looking to break records, good nutrition and regular hydration can help keep you energised and protect you from injury or trauma.
Here are a few tips to help you:

1 - Nutrition & cross-country skiing

Cross-country skiing is a particularly energy-intensive sport, not only because it is practised in cold, often dry conditions, but also because it works the heart and all the muscles of the body.
It is therefore necessary to provide sufficient energy with carbohydrates before going out, to preserve it with antioxidants and to hydrate it regularly during your outings.

Depending on your objectives, you can adapt your diet or not. 

A - If you only cross-country ski occasionally or if you are not particularly looking for performance, don't change your habits and just adapt your diet the day before or in the morning at breakfast, if only to avoid digestive discomfort.

B - If you practice cross-country skiing intensively with performance objectives, you can adapt your diet a few days before or just the old one to increase your carbohydrate reserve. Low glycaemic index carbohydrates, which are digested more slowly and gradually release glucose into the bloodstream, are preferred: wholegrain cereals or bread, quinoa, buckwheat/basmati or wild rice/pulses/fruit and vegetables. Eating slow sugars such as starchy foods the day before can be beneficial because the body will have digested them and will be ready to use them the next day. 
In the long term, and in the case of regular and intense practice, sport accelerates the ageing of the body through a process of oxidative stress. Sustained exercise increases the production of free radicals and this affects the cells in the muscles and joints, which can lead to reduced strength, fatigue and digestive problems. Don't panic! If you practice intensively, you can simply compensate with a regular intake of specific foods.
Example: Fresh fruit and vegetables / Dried fruit / Seafood / Garlic, onions, parsley

Again, it depends on your goals!

Before you hit the trails, choose foods that will provide you with energy in the form of carbohydrates while being easy to digest. Eat enough to avoid getting tired but not too much to digest properly.
For breakfast, opt for bread or toast, preferably wholemeal with honey for example, a piece of fruit, a yoghurt with some dried fruit. If you like savoury food, eggs and ham, with a slice of wholemeal bread, it can also be a very beneficial meal before a ski session Eat enough to avoid getting tired but not too much to digest properly.
In general, foods that are more difficult to digest or that can cause stomach discomfort are foods that are too fatty, spices, alcohol and stimulants like coffee. It is therefore advisable not to consume them before a cross-country skiing session. However, in absolute terms, no food should be banned for athletes. If you want to indulge yourself and eat a tartiflette the day before your day of cross-country skiing, there's nothing stopping you! It all depends on what you are looking for in your practice (pleasure, performance, release, etc.). Moreover, we all have different eating habits and metabolisms, and we are the sole judges of what will or will not "stick to our stomachs". The most important thing is to feel good about your body in order to enjoy yourself on the slopes.

2 - Hydration & cross-country skiing

Good hydration before, during and after exercise is as important for performance as nutrition. Indeed, during a sports session, we lose a lot of water, and our muscles are made up of 60% water, which makes hydration important for athletes. 
Water also allows nutrients to be transported to the places in the body where they will be used, it regulates body temperature by evacuating heat in the form of perspiration, and it also plays a role in the lubrication of joints. 
The consequences of dehydration can have an impact on your cross-country skiing session.
General fatigue, leg pain and shortness of breath are signs of dehydration. These can be accentuated by altitude and lack of oxygen. This can lead to falls and injury


Drink often during a cross-country skiing trip, as the body cannot store water. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink. When you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. 
Drink regularly every 20 minutes and in small quantities.
Adapt the type of drink to the intensity and duration of your cross-country skiing trip. If you ski for an hour or less, a simple water bottle is enough to compensate for the loss. If your skiing session lasts between 1 and 3 hours, you can add a little sugar, such as orange juice, to your water to provide additional carbohydrates. After 3 hours, we advise you to take a special sports drink, which also contains mineral salts, especially sodium, to compensate for losses due to sweat.
Be careful not to over-hydrate, as you may feel bloated.

Choose a cool or temperate drink, because even though hot drinks are desirable in cold weather, they are not necessarily the most suitable. Coffee and tea, for example, are not very hydrating and, if overdrunk, can reduce iron binding.
Iced drinks can cause digestive problems.
Don't choose a fizzy drink, choose still water or an isotonic drink rich in carbohydrates, potassium and vitamins. 

hoose equipment that is adapted to carrying drinks, so that you can hydrate yourself easily and quickly on the slopes while allowing you to keep your freedom of movement during your cross-country skiing trip. You can opt for a water pouch, a water bottle holder or a hydration belt.


Feeling peckish?

When you go cross-country skiing, don't hesitate to take cereal bars with you in case you feel a bit peckish and want to get some energy. 

You can even prepare your own cereal bars at home, which are easy to make and delicious. 
You can let your imagination run wild and make energy bars to your taste. The principle is to combine a cereal, one or more dried fruits, seeds, and to treat yourself with a little treat like chocolate.

Recovery after a session

The recovery stage is important especially if your session was intense, or if you are skiing again the next day. 
Proper nutrition and hydration will help you to limit soreness, avoid cramps and promote the elimination of toxins.
Even if you have been hydrating your body by drinking regularly, the losses are usually greater than the intake. 
So continue to hydrate well, with a bottle of water always at hand, preferably low mineral content water such as spring water. 
There are also recovery drinks that recharge the body with glycogen, but these are only recommended for intense, long-term exercise.
Carbonated water such as Salveta or St. Yorre will provide you with mineral salts to help you recover from your session.  

As far as food is concerned, a good complete and balanced meal will be sufficient, no need to add supplements or to eat more than you are used to. You can recharge your body with carbohydrates (pasta, rice, bread, legumes, fruit, etc.), but also with proteins to help with muscle repair (egg, yoghurt, etc.). 
An intake of Omega 3 (fatty acids) reduces fatigue and helps the muscles, heart and brain to function properly. You will find these Omega 3s in fatty fish (herring, sardines, tuna, salmon), rapeseed or linseed oil and dried fruit.


Don't put pressure on yourself, eating after sport is a matter of balance, just like the one you adopt as part of a healthy lifestyle. Don't feel guilty if you overdo it, in the end the après-ski, just like the outing itself, should be a moment of pleasure and sharing.

Good eating habits are recommended for good health, but when practising a sport, especially an endurance sport like cross-country skiing, nutrition and hydration can play an important role in the preparation, fitness and recovery of athletes. But it is up to each individual to adapt it according to his or her possibilities, the main thing being to adopt habits that suit his or her lifestyle, body and sport. Even if you don't ski cross-country at a competitive level, proper nutrition and hydration will help you make the most of your day.