Carbohydrate intake in young female cross-country skiers is lower than recommended and affects competition performance

Front Sports Act Living. 2023 Jul 17:5:1196659. doi: 10.3389/fspor.2023.1196659. eCollection 2023.


Purpose: (1) To evaluate if energy availability (EA), macronutrient intake and body composition change over four training periods in young, highly trained, female cross-country skiers, and (2) to clarify if EA, macronutrient intake, body composition, and competition performance are associated with each other in this cohort.

Methods: During a one-year observational study, 25 female skiers completed 3-day food and training logs during four training periods: preparation, specific preparation, competition, and transition periods. A body composition measurement (bioimpedance analyzer) was performed at the end of the preparation, specific preparation, and competition periods. Competition performance was determined by International Ski Federation (FIS) points gathered from youth national championships.

Results: EA (36-40 kcal·kg FFM-1·d-1) and carbohydrate (CHO) intake (4.4-5.1 g·kg-1·d-1) remained similar, and at a suboptimal level, between training periods despite a decrease in exercise energy expenditure (p = 0.002) in the transition period. Higher EA (r = -0.47, p = 0.035) and CHO intake (r = -0.65, p = 0.002) as well as lower FM (r = 0.60, p = 0.006) and F% (r = 0.57, p = 0.011) were associated with lower (better) FIS-points. CHO intake was the best predictor of distance competition performance (R2 = 0.46, p = 0.004).

Conclusions: Young female cross-country skiers had similar EA and CHO intake over four training periods. Both EA and CHO intake were at suboptimal levels for performance and recovery. CHO intake and body composition are important factors influencing competition performance in young female cross-country skiers.

Keywords: FIS points; body composition; endurance sport; energy availability; female athlete; macronutrient; nutrition; periodization.

Grants and funding

This study was funded by Kainuu regional fund under Grants 20201404 and 20211638; Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland under Grant OKM/10/626/2021; and Sports Institute Foundation under Grant 20220322.