Planning Your Recovery For A Multi-Stage Ultra: Nutrition

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!)

25 March 2019

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Over the last few weeks we have been writing about hydration and nutrition strategies for a multi-stage race. In this article, we look at how to tailor your nutrition to encourage recovery.

Multi-stage racing requires you to push hard for a day and then do it
again and again. The focus needs to be providing your muscles with the right things to repair and re-synthesise glycogen stores. Whilst the timing chips will stop as soon as you cross each day’s finish line, recovering faster than other competitors by getting your post-race strategy right will give you an edge. In short: recovery is as important as running!

There are two important timing windows which competitors need to be aware of, a short and a longer one:

The short recovery phase

The short phase occurs within the first 30 minutes post-exercise and is the most important period for recovery and feeling good the next day. Carbohydrates should make up the bulk of your immediate recovery nutrition and also a good hit of protein (a 4:1 ration is recommended). Carbohydrates, not protein, are responsible for replenishing glycogen stores. However, you will need the protein to repair any muscle damage. This crucial phase comes just after the finish line and so you might not feel like doing anything other than lying down, yet it is vital that you use this window to take on board some calories.

As you might not have the appetite nor the stomach for a full meal, it is best to have a snack or recovery shake ready to mix when you finish. This should be a competitor’s priority upon crossing the finish line. Some example products which competitors have used in our events are: SIS Rego, TRIBE Recovery Shake, or For Goodness Shakes.

The long recovery phase

The second window to be aware of lasts longer. This subsequent recovery phase of fuelling lasts until you creep into your sleeping bag. Whilst the focus of the first window should be kicking off the recovery process, this second window is a time to top up the tank.

Similar to the initial post-race phase, consuming some protein with carbohydrate can lead to higher muscle glycogen synthesis, and it is recommended to aim for 1-1.2 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight for each hour over the rest of the day. This can be done in one meal or over several meals. This means that competitors will need to consider how long they expect to be out on course (and subsequently how much time they will be spending in the campsite at the end of each day) to work this out.

Getting your post-race nutrition right and prioritising it as part of your race strategy will make day’s two to five of an Ultra X significantly easier. For Ultra X races you have the luxury of food not being limited by weight restrictions so hopefully you will be able to top up that tank as much as possible!

Runner Recovering at Ultra X Jordan

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