Friday, September 17, 2010

Race Nutrition

A race of this duration requires very careful planning with the nutrition as this is what provides the fuel and hydration to keep going and prevent running out of energy.  Proper planning starts in the weeks and months before the event when you start to increase your carbohydrate intake and train the muscles to store as much fuel as possible.  Eating the right foods and at the right time means you should be arriving at the start line with a full tank.
During an ultra distance race I tend to avoid eating real foods as the calorie dense processed foods mean you get a lot more in a smaller portion and with a sports drink or bar you get a balanced product that helps keep a check on energy intake.  As much as possible I'll try to drink my calories / energy as this also helps with staying hydrated and I'll aim for 500Ml per hour which will more than likely change based on the heat and time of day.  If more fluids are required I'll supplement with Nuun electrolytes as this means I won't be doubling up on calorie intake and I'll aim to consume approx 60gr of Carbohydrate per hour consisting of a carbohydrate drink and bar or maybe a gel.
Almost all of my food during the race will be Powerbar products with the addition of Nuun electrolytes, Fig Rolls and Percy Pigs as required.  Flat Coca Cola will also be available but I won't even consider drinking this until after the sun rises on Saturday Morning because once you start taking it you need to stay on it.  In reserve I'll also have some fruit loaf which I'll bring with me and I'll source some Peanut butter or Nutella locally and maybe some pancakes.  My drinks and bars although the same product will be in a variety of flavours to prevent 'flavour fatigue' or simply getting fed up with the same taste.  I discovered this problem during my first 24-hr race after using the same drink for over 12-hrs and it was easily rectified by adding some cordial to change it's taste and create something new.
A starting time of 7am means a very early breakfast which is something you can't afford to miss and this is where the fruit loaf comes in handy as I can be self sufficient and have breakfast in bed rather than rely on what the hotel has to offer which usualy includes a long queue.  When the race starts I plan on running light carrying very little for the first hour except maybe a 200ml water bottle and an empty hydration belt that will hold 2 * 500ml water bottles.  I will have a drop bag sent out to all of the checkpoints between what I estimate as the 1hr checkpoint and 70K checkpoint so I'll always have access to my own supplies.  This leaves me with 10K before arriving at the first major checkpoint with a cut off time of 9hrs30 and this is also the point at which we have first access to our support crew.  In my head I'll use the first 80K to warm up and concentrate on getting to what I will consider the start line fit enough to start my race.  After joining up with Jarlath he will then decide and dictate what happens and once again all I'll do is put one foot in front of the other.
In the days before the race I will supplement my diet with a Powerbar Protein bar to ensure I'm getting enough Protein in my diet as I tend to avoid meat in the days before a race when in unfamiliar surroundings.  The further you travel from home the more important it becomes to pay extra attention to your health and hygiene. 


  1. Excellent post. I am just learning about ultras and hope to do one. Your information is very interesting to know. Thanks. And good luck! Cheers!

  2. Interesting info, John. I'm familiar with most of it, but I'm surprised about the increase in carbs for weeks and even months.

    All the best in Greece!

  3. Good luck John. Exceptionally professional preparation and planning.