Olympic Champion 50 Km free style, Sochi-2014, Alexander Legkov gives his nutrition recommendations for long distance marathon skiing.
Marathon nutrition is very important. It is important to constantly eat during a race, practically from the start. After first 5 km, even if you don’t want to drink, it is still important to do so. I would recommend sport drinks with high percentage of carbohydrates. You can get additional energy from them right from the get go.
– How often do you drink during a race?
Nowadays loops are shorter, maximum two different fives, and usually between them you still cross the stadium. So it is important to try to drink every five km. Often a racer has a misleading feeling that he/she still has a lot of energy, but as a rule, the energy runs out quickly and unexpectedly. To avoid that, it is important to fill yourself up with carbohydrates.
– What exactly do you drink during a race? Do you use anything else besides drinks?
I drink a standard carbs drink, almost every sport nutrition company has it. Every racer can pick his/her favorite. Also energy drinks that contain necessary salts and minerals are very useful. They replace what is lost during sweating. I would like to point out that you need to figure out the right consistency of your drink beforehand, so it is not too runny, and not too thick, so you would not feel the need to flush it down with something else after. Before 40 km I drink a carbohydrate beverage, and closer to the end of a race I drink fizz free coco-cola mixed with a pretty strong coffee. That mixture opens my eyes, gives me an energy boost and this is exactly what I need before the finish. Sometimes during races I also use energy gels. Gels need to be eaten right before the food station, so you can follow with something liquid.
– What are the servings of drinks and what temperature should they be?
Ideally all the drinks need to be warm: not too hot, and not too cold, so they would go in pleasantly and easy. There are many things to consider when we talk about quantity. It all depends on how you feel, how the race is going. As a rule, I ask to pour a little too much then needed, I take one-two sips, and if anything is left, I just throw a bottle away. It is also important to have the right containers – no cups. The most comfortable ones are the small plastic bottles from a drinkable yogurt for example. Optimal neck width – the same as on Swix belt containers.
– It is not a secret, that marathon nutrition is not only food during a race, but a diet before the start…
In professional sport, as far as I know, no one follows any special diet. I am not an exception, and before the marathon start I eat the same as before other races. The matter of fact, 50-km distance became so fast nowadays, that it is not much different from other shorter distances. Two-three days before the marathon I would recommend to eat food containing lots of carbs, for example pasta.
– This spring you are planning to ski super marathons, like 90-km Vasaloppet.This distance is quite a bit longer, then those two hours that you usually spend on 50-km. How are you going to eat there?
My advice would have been more valuable if I had done the race and had the experience. Right now I can not imagine what it even is and what is waiting for me there. As for now, I have the same idea in my head: drink carbohydrate drinks as much and as often as possible, not to allow the body to become depleted.
– What do you usually eat for breakfast before the race?
First of all, it is cereal! It is possible to have it anywhere. I try to get a very large serving, and finish it too, because it digests very quickly and it is not in the way during a race. Ideally, cereal is best made with water, not milk. Also, if possible, it is very good to eat some bread with red caviar. Even now, it is not a huge luxury, but it is very nutritional. Muesli, cottage cheese, honey are also good, anything that gives you energy.
– What would you NOT recommend doing before or during a race?
I would not recommend eating lots of spicy or fatty foods before the race, so the liver does not get stressed out. The rest does not need to be limited in my opinion.