As Visma Ski Classics Legend Petter Eliassen once said, Vasaloppet is a one-of-a-kind race with its unique course and atmosphere. There are skiers, both from the elite and recreational level, that train to specialize in this event. To perform well, it is necessary to train the body to work efficiently over a long distance, and one of the critical strategies for it is to know how to fuel oneself.
According to a review published at Research in Sports Medicine, anywhere from 60 to 96 percent of endurance athletes experience gastrointestinal symptoms in races lasting four or more hours, just like Vasaloppet. This happens because, during exercise, the blood flows to the working muscles, thus resulting in low blood flow to the gut.
Completing Vasaloppet requires many hours of effort that can last from 4 to 8 hours or even more. The racecourse is made of many short uphills that require managing energy levels over a long duration. And finally, atmospheric conditions such as temperature, snow, and humidity can determine nutrition needs.
The wrong nutrition strategy can seriously impact a skier’s performance at Vasaloppet. But there are some methods to keep your body working efficiently. How you eat during the race and in the days leading up to it is the most crucial factor in calming your gastrointestinal tract down during long-distance events.
What to eat the day before Vasaloppet
Each skier differs in their preferred method for carbs and fluids intake, but most of them choose one method called “carbo-loading,” which is very useful for Vasaloppet. It involves increasing carbohydrate intake during the day or days before the race.
During the two days before the race, exercise should be kept to a minimum, and carbohydrate intake should increase to 10-12 grams for a kilogram of bodyweight. According to American College of Sports Medicine guidelines, this amount of carbs has shown the best results.
So, the best thing you can do Friday and Saturday is to enjoy a substantial intake of carbs to prepare your body’s energy levels for Sunday’s adventure. Pasta, cakes, bread with jam, oatmeal, energy bars, and other carb-rich products should be your choice.
Don’t forget to hydrate at least every 30 minutes, and ideally, you should have a carb-rich breakfast 2 hours before the race.
What to eat during the race
Carbs are the primary fuel for the body during intense exercises, like Vasaloppet. But long-distance skiers should pay attention to the quantity and quality of the carbs. Research has found that the right amount of carbs intake during exercise is around 1 gram per kilogram of body weight per hour.
And about the quality of carbs, liquid carbohydrate sources should be enough for elite athletes that finish the race in less than 5 hours. But recreational skiers who take more time need to think about real food. Five hours of only liquid carbohydrates intake might make you nauseous.
There is no secret recipe. During the training leading to the race, the key is to understand what type of food works best for each individual.
And fortunately, there are many food stations all over the course.
Jan Helgerud, NTNU researcher who made interval block training famous, recommends that athletes consume carbs every 15-20 minutes during the race, using gels and drinks that are easy to digest.
How to eat after Vasaloppet
After completing the 90 kilometers course, your nutrition plan must ensure a successful recovery.
Some people might feel a strong desire for eating, while others may feel nauseous about it. It depends on individual characteristics. But no matter what, be sure to have at least a recovery drink within 30 minutes after finishing the race.
Hydrating and eating a good meal right after the race will help your body recover and feel less pain in the following days.
It would be best to focus on fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Some athletes feel compelled to load up on more protein than usual, but this isn’t necessary. A balanced approach with 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day is enough.
So, take care of your nutrition to get your best performance at Vasaloppet next Sunday.