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Nutrition: My Strategy For Ultra-Endurance Races

Embarking on an ultra-endurance event demands not just physical readiness but a meticulous nutrition strategy that keeps you energised without overburdening your digestive system. Here’s how to optimise:

Basic Principles ✅

  • Aim for an intake of 200-300 calories per hour

  • Avoid eating large amounts at once

  • Instead, eat smaller portions consistently

  • Set a 30 minutes reminder to ensure consistent fueling

What Your Food Should Be Made Off 🤔

  1. Carbs: Carbohydrates serve as the primary energy source. However, not all carbs are equal.

    1. Complex carbohydrates should dominate your intake. They digest slowly, maintaining a steady insulin level, which in turn stabilizes your blood sugar and energy levels.

    2. Simple carbohydrates while quick to digest and offer a rapid energy boost, lead to spikes in blood sugar. This is followed by a swift insulin response, a hyperglycemia, rapidly extracting sugars from the blood causing a rebound hypoglycemia, the infamous mid-race slump. My tactic revolves around maximising my intake of complex, high-calorie carbohydrates (such as pasta, rice balls, and bread) and saving simple carbohydrates (like fruit paste and jam) for moments when I need an instant energy boost. This strategy has been a race-saver for me on multiple occasions.

  2. Proteins: Given the significant muscle damage that occurs over long distances, protein is essential for ultra-endurance races. It aids in repairing and rebuilding muscle fibers during the effort. Limiting or avoiding animal-derived products during the race is wise, given that proteins from these sources are more difficult to digest. Focusing on plant-based options ensures that your energy goes towards running, not digesting.

  3. Fats: In an ultra-endurance event, where the intensity is relatively low, the body can better manage fat digestion so it's totally fine to have some. They serve as a support to carbs and protein, but they produce less energy per gram, and their conversion into fuel takes longer. But hey, given you'll be out there for quite a bit, it's not a problem. Personally, I enjoy having a mid-race avocado sandwich.

The Backup Plan: Carb Drinks 💧

When solid food becomes unappealing or digestion issues arise, carbohydrate drinks can save the day (you can also have smoothies although more complicated in terms of logistics). Liquid nutrition is pre-digested, easing the absorption process and sparing your body the energy expenditure required for digestion. This allows the saved energy to be redirected to more critical functions like sustaining your brain and muscles during the race.

Diversity Is Key 😋

Variety in your nutrition plan is crucial. Over the course of an ultra, it's common to grow weary of certain tastes or textures. I personally have around ten different options, including sandwiches (both savory and sweet), cakes, bars, crisps, pasta, and rice.


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