Nutrition Guide - Ultra
The ultra nutrition guide needs to be viewed as a very high level resource to base your nutrition planning on. With an ultra being any distance from 26.2 upwards your nutrition requirements will vary depending on distance, terrain and a number of other factors. However we have produced the guide to show you which products can provide the fuel required to take on these epic challenges.
SINGLE DAY ULTRA.
The single day ultra normally covers a distance of 35 miles to 100 miles and everything in between but also covers timed racing such as 12 hour and 24 hour events.
MULTI DAY ULTRA.
The key with multi-day running is fuelling to run and to recover, enabling you to be ready to go again day after day. There can also be added constraints where you might need to carry all your fuel for the event so weight becomes very critical.
Diet planning and eating to recover and fuel for multi day events will be something you need to practice and you will understand your body's requirements over time. Getting your diet right will have massive impact on your performance and recovery.
Ultras can start anytime during the day or night so ensuring you are well fuelled with your meal-planning in build-up to your run is key.
When we tackle the pre-race nutrition options (in this guide it is the last meal pre-race), we want to ensure the body is ready and fuelled and that we have a plan to maintain that energy level throughout the event. The main goal is to try to keep your body's energy level as constant as possible with minimal peaks and dips but this can be difficult during ultra runs.
If you are travelling to your event, a great way to start you pre-race fuelling is to use Morning Fuel, even though the name suggest morning this product can be utilised as a pre-event meal at any time of the day! It has been designed to provide nutritional balance, be light on the stomach and be quickly absorbed. Depending on your event you could add seeds, fresh/dried fruit and even a small handful of oats if that takes your fancy. However, bear in mind that you want to start your event primed and ready to go and not with your stomach still working overtime breaking down those extras.
Morning Fuel is quick and easy to prepare (taking just 15 seconds to make). It is nutritionally loaded and balanced and can be mixed hot or cold with your choice of water or milk.
However, most of you will have your preferred routine and favourite pre-race meal and it will be something you have practised over time. Remember, getting your diet right will have massive impact on your performance.
Also, pre-race hydration is vital so use an energy drink to hydrate and keep your fuelling constant, especially when travelling or when early race briefings are in place.
Ideally, start your drinking up to four hours but no shorter than one hour in advance of your race. Start sipping, swilling and swallowing your energy drink to get the maximum benefit - by drinking earlier and slower the more time the body has to absorb it and maximise performance. Plus you want to empty your bladder pre-race so stopping the intake 1 hour before will let your body process the fluid.
Hydration can be more complicated if you are restricted to a daily quota, but normally this is not the case and keeping hydrated and ensuring you are taking on electrolytes is key to your race and recovery preparation for the next day's racing. Using a energy drink to keep you hydrated and your fuelling constant, start up to four hours pre-event but no shorter than one hour in advance of your race, the maximum benefit is obtained from drinking consistently, as you sip-feed your fuel the body has longer to absorb it and maximise performance.
For ultra running, you are normally kitted out to carry your fuel, or you can leave supplies with your crew or at manned aid stations on the route. This allows greater options especially when carrying a pack with soft-flasks or a bladder with the bonus extra pockets for storage whilst still being cautious to avoid having to carry excess weight.
While fuelling your hydration and electrolyte intake are important factors, having a nutrition plan that will give you the best chance to complete your race is key! Your fuel needs to be easy to take and provide a guaranteed energy source. A high percentage of ultra runners are now obtaining their base fuel intake via an energy drink, the main benefit being the ease of consuming, sipping throughout the event rather than having to chew and eat solid food, something that can become increasingly difficult during the later stages of the event. Therefore, for those of us who currently suffer from gut/stomach issues when using gels or solids this could be mean a breakthrough in performance.
There are a number of really good brands and energy drinks on the market for base fuelling providing both carbohydrate and electrolyte sources. These drink mixes contain everything you need in a single fuelling source. The leading brands Mountain Fuel, Maurten, Tailwind, GU Energy and Active Root. All with single serve sachets that mix into a 500ml flask, easy at aid stations and will fuel you for up to 1 hour with a single serving.
Multi-Stage - During
In multi-stage races, you are normally kitted out to carry your fuel, this allows greater options especially when carrying a pack with soft-flasks or a bladder with the bonus extra pockets for storage whilst still being cautious to avoid having to carry excess weight.
Again a drink based fuelling strategy allows you to maintain a constant energy source containing your fuel needs plus covering your hydration and electrolyte intake. Your fuel needs to be easy to take and provide a guaranteed energy source, if you struggle to keep your fuel down or become dehydrated this can have the worst possible outcomes to your race.
A high percentage of ultra runners are now obtaining their base fuel intake via an energy drink, the main benefit being the ease to consume, and to carry. Taking on solids can become increasingly difficult during the later stages and can also affect you the next day, therefore for those of us who currently suffer from gut/stomach issues when using gels or solids this could mean a breakthrough in performance.
All are designed to be total fuelling systems, meaning you can race all day without any other source of fuel. However, many runners like to add solid fuel into their regime with chews and bars. Or even taking the odd gels to give that much needed boost.
The main thing with ultra racing is to be prepared for the unexpected, anything can happen on race day. Try products to find what works for you and plan for the race. BUT be ready to be flexible during the race as it could be the difference between a FINISH or a DNF.
It is crucial that you refuel as soon as possible after running such a demanding event, a combination of recovery drink within 20 minutes of finishing your event and some solid food.
More than ever this is a key point in your nutrition, not only to recover from the stage you have just completed but to support your recovery and preparation for the next day. It is crucial that you refuel as soon as possible after running a marathon, a combination of recovery drink within 20 minutes of finishing your event and some solid food.
However no matter how good your recovery drink tastes to get the maximum benefit DO NOT drink it too quickly, savour the drink and your body will have more time to absorb it.
As this is post event your solid food can be anything and normally something you are craving, but if you know you will have to wait to get your finishing banquet make sure you have a recovery snack easily accessible to get food into your body. Try a recovery bar or energy bar, they are perfect for this and can be left ready in your post race kit bag.
If you are still not sure what products you should use, why not send us a message using our 'Ask the Team' service and we will respond to your request within 24 hours.