Nutrition Planning For A Multi-Stage Ultramarathon

Written By Sam Heward

Sam is one of the Ultra X Co-Founders. If he's not actually out running, chances are he's busy writing about it (or plotting Ultra X strategy!)

17 March 2019

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Last week, we looked at how to plan and execute a hydration strategy. This Sunday, we will focus on race nutrition. The two are highly interlinked.

Getting your nutrition right during a multi-stage is probably THE most important thing to get right if you want to perform well. The training is done, the kit is packed and the start line awaits. It’s time to fuel right.

For the vast majority of multi-stage events, dehydrated or freeze dried foods are the most suitable for your main meals. Some of the most commonly seen brands are LYO FOOD, Expedition Foods, Mountain House, TentMeals, and Back Country Cuisine, but there are many more. We would recommend you to try a variety and work out which one suits you best.

Outside of main meals there are two key aspects of any nutrition plan: 1) Fuelling during the race, and 2) Fuelling after the event, where the priority is recovery. This article focuses on 1, and next week we will be offering some advice on how to approach recovery during a multi-stage ultra.

Developing a nutrition strategy

Working out a fuelling strategy that is right for you is vital but can get a bit complicated as the intensity of the event will impact on the fuelling approach. If you are planning on moving more slowly (essentially hiking) you might want to think about consuming more fat as race fuel. This is because fat is the hardest source of food to digest for your body but it provides the most energy per gram. Good sources come from foods such as nuts and pepperoni and these foods are much easier to eat when walking. They also satisfy salt cravings.

Carbohydrates are easier for your body to digest and convert into energy faster than fats. As such, when working at a higher intensity, people verge towards carbs. This is why we rarely see people consuming anything but gels or similar during marathons.

However, gels can disagree with runners’ stomachs so be sure to test them out in a simulated environment before you plan your nutrition strategy.

Unlike other multi-stage events, during an Ultra X you do not have to carry all of your food and equipment for the week. This means that you can you move faster as you don’t have to carry the extra weight on your back. Another benefit is you can eat as much as you like which will help reduce the inevitable calorie deficit.

Race tip: Before the event, calculate what you will eat each day and then separate your food accordingly into separate sandwich bags. Each day’s distance is different and as such your fuel consumption will vary, so make sure to number your food bags correspondingly.

This is a short piece aimed at getting you thinking about what sort of fuels you are consuming during the race. To read in greater detail about race nutrition, check out this comprehensive review from the very experienced elite multi-stage athlete, Elisabet Barnes.

Man Running at Ultra X 50 England

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