Effects of supplementing with an 18% carbohydrate-hydrogel drink versus a placebo during whole-body exercise in -5 °C with elite cross-country ski athletes: a crossover study

J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2019 Oct 26;16(1):46. doi: 10.1186/s12970-019-0317-4.


Background: Whilst the ergogenic effects of carbohydrate intake during prolonged exercise are well-documented, few investigations have studied the effects of carbohydrate ingestion during cross-country skiing, a mode of exercise that presents unique metabolic demands on athletes due to the combined use of large upper- and lower-body muscle masses. Moreover, no previous studies have investigated exogenous carbohydrate oxidation rates during cross-country skiing. The current study investigated the effects of a 13C-enriched 18% multiple-transportable carbohydrate solution (1:0.8 maltodextrin:fructose) with additional gelling polysaccharides (CHO-HG) on substrate utilization and gastrointestinal symptoms during prolonged cross-country skiing exercise in the cold, and subsequent double-poling time-trial performance in ~ 20 °C.

Methods: Twelve elite cross-country ski athletes (6 females, 6 males) performed 120-min of submaximal roller-skiing (69.3 ± 2.9% of [Formula: see text]O2peak) in -5 °C while receiving either 2.2 g CHO-HG·min- 1 or a non-caloric placebo administered in a double-blind, randomized manner. Whole-body substrate utilization and exogenous carbohydrate oxidation was calculated for the last 60 min of the submaximal exercise. The maximal time-trial (2000 m for females, 2400 m for males) immediately followed the 120-min submaximal bout. Repeated-measures ANOVAs with univariate follow-ups were conducted, as well as independent and paired t-tests, and significance was set at P < 0.05. Data are presented as mean ± SD.

Results: Exogenous carbohydrate oxidation contributed 27.6 ± 6.6% to the total energy yield with CHO-HG and the peak exogenous carbohydrate oxidation rate reached 1.33 ± 0.27 g·min- 1. Compared to placebo, fat oxidation decreased by 9.5 ± 4.8% with CHO-HG, total carbohydrate oxidation increased by 9.5 ± 4.8% and endogenous carbohydrate utilization decreased by 18.1 ± 6.4% (all P < 0.05). No severe gastrointestinal symptoms were reported in either trial and euhydration was maintained in both trials. Time-trial performance (8.4 ± 0.4 min) was not improved following CHO-HG compared to placebo (- 0.8 ± 3.5 s; 95% confidence interval - 3.0 to 1.5 s; P = 0.46). No sex differences were identified in substrate utilization or relative performance.

Conclusions: Ingestion of an 18% multiple-transportable carbohydrate solution with gelling polysaccharides was found to be well-tolerated during 120 min of submaximal whole-body exercise, but did not improve subsequent maximal double-poling performance.

Keywords: Biathlete; Cold; Double-poling; Endurance; Roller-skiing; Sex differences; Stabile isotopes; Substrate utilization; World-class.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletes
  • Beverages
  • Blood Glucose
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrogels
  • Lactic Acid / blood
  • Male
  • Skiing / physiology*
  • Sports Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Young Adult


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Hydrogels
  • Lactic Acid