This exploratory research project aims to identify novel biomarkers of health and performance among elite cross-country skiers.

Blodprov, stick i fingret, vid Nationellt vintersportcentrum.


Successful athletic performance requires the careful management of an athlete’s training load and recovery process to stimulate metabolic adaptations that improve athletic performance. However, athletes who undertake high training loads combined with suboptimal recovery may be at risk of maladaptation to a training stimulus, which may ultimately compromise their athletic performance. Longitudinal monitoring of biomarkers in biological fluids such as blood and urine may reveal early warning signs of several dysregulated physiological processes associated with maladaptation. However, at present no single biomarker has been deemed to have potential to detect early signs of non-functional overreaching or overtraining. Current recommendations point towards a resource-intensive monitoring approach, incorporating multiple biological, training and lifestyle factors.

Metabolomics analytical techniques enable detection of hundreds to thousands of biologically active small molecules (metabolites) within a small biofluid sample. This multivariate approach offers a comprehensive method to identify patterns of metabolites associated with optimal or suboptimal adaptation to training. Relatively few studies have applied metabolomics techniques to assess responses to exercise and training in elite athletes, in part because of the time-consuming and expensive nature of the analysis at present, and in part because point-of-care sampling methods have not been validated. Developing a minimally invasive method for the multivariate analysis of metabolic biomarkers would permit frequent sampling during exercise in the field, which could improve understanding of athletes’ metabolic response to exercise in sporting situations. 

Project aims and approach

In a preliminary pilot study, conducted in 2018, we aimed to validate the use of fresh and dry fingerprick blood samples for analysing metabolomic responses to exercise in a recreationally active participant group.

In a follow-up study, conducted 2019-20, we have collected fingerprick blood samples from national team cross-country skiers during their laboratory-based physiological tests at the Swedish Winter Sports Research Centre. Once metabolites have been identified in the samples using metabolomics, the aim is to identify biomarkers associated with performance and health-related outcomes in elite winter endurance athletes.

Project leader

Helen Hanstock

Universitetslektor|Senior Lecturer


Project members

Elin Chorell

Elin Chorell