Ultramarathon Nutrition

photo credit: Ron Heerkens Jr.

photo credit: Ron Heerkens Jr.

One of the things that went really well on race day was my nutrition plan. Everyone says that you need to eat “real food” when you run an ultra and they are right – well, at least to an extent.

Going into the race, I knew the course was split into two identical loops. For each loop, I prepared the following:

– a bottle with 2 scoops of Generation UCan (160 calories)
– one additional scoop of Generation UCan that I carried in an old Nuun container (80 calories)
– one Picky Bar (200 calories)
– five VFuel gels (500 calories)

Therefore, I was carrying nearly 1000 calories per loop or 2000 calories total. That means I needed to get several thousand more calories at the aid stations. Fortunately, there were 11 aid stations spread throughout the course. This means that I needed to take in about 150 to 200 calories per aid station.

Since I was eating Picky Bars and drinking Generation UCan, my stomach was pretty calm. I never had any issues with it throughout the race. Therefore, I felt comfortable eating/drinking anything/everything at the aid stations, although I primarily stuck with GU Brew, watermelon and oranges.

I never bonked due to lack of energy, and looking back, I think I did quite well with nutrition. I did run out of fluids one time – it was between Aid Station 9 and Aid Station 10, near the 34 mile mark. I was moving a bit slower at that point and it was really heating up outside. I actually filled up my bottle (three times) in a river and I’ve lived to tell the tale of it.

What is your favorite food/drink to have during races? Do you think it’s effective?

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12 Responses to Ultramarathon Nutrition

  1. emmelineruns says:

    It’s always interesting for me to read fueling posts because I really struggle with taking anything in on the run. I can do gels and drinks but spread out but I have zero idea how you put down a picky bar on the run, I cannot chew while moving at any kind of reasonable pace.

    • Jason says:

      Keep in mind that I did fall five times while running this race 🙂 However, I can’t blame any of those on eating! My approach (which I had practiced) was to take very small bites. It’s not fun. It’s not pretty. It definitely feels forced. However, with small bites, I can manage to get down a bar over the course of about half a mile.

  2. Whoa river water. I guess the ramifications of that would probably not occur until after the race…

  3. sounds like you planned well and congrats on completing the ultra – and no stomach issues! (though I’m assuming the river water may have affected you later)

  4. Chris P says:

    This post answered all the questions I was going to ask you about how you fueled yourself during this ultra-run. Great job! Like many others, I have similar problems keeping real food or even energy bars down during 20+ mile runs. This is one of the biggest obstacles preventing me from going over 30 miles. I can drink with few issues luckily. I’m thinking probiotics might help, and besides this I should use gels sometimes. Again, congratulations!

    • Jason says:

      That’s actually a really good point that I didn’t mention – thanks for reminding me! I do take a probiotic every day and I actually started doubling up the week before the race. I don’t have anything concrete to prove it, but I think it really helps!

      • Chris P says:

        That’s funny! I was going to ask you about probiotics, but then I got distracted by the phone, then just mentioned it in passing. I think probiotics have helped me too. My stomach doesn’t bother me as much during 20 mile runs now that I take probiotics, mostly from kimchi or probiotic drinks though, not supplements. Will try a 30+ mi run soon to see how it goes(last time, when I was “deficient” in probiotics, I threw up). The science is sound, but still mostly preliminary when it comes to probiotics based on what I’ve read.

        I hope your recovery is coming along smoothly!

  5. This is really interesting, thank you for sharing. I always wondered what ultra marathoners and marathoners eat when they are going on long runs, etc. I couldn’t imagine eating just gels or GUs for 50 milers.

  6. Congratulations!!! It’s really useful to see how you fuel yourself as I am trying to figure out what I’m gonna do for the Spartan Beast. Thank you! xoxo

  7. Very interesting. Have you estimated how many calories you ate throughout the race? Did the number work for you?
    I’ve never run a long race so I have no experience with race nutrition except for the occasional GU.

    • Jason says:

      Great question! I’m guessing it was about 5,000 or so and it did work for me! I was trying to keep better track during the race but I got distracted 🙂

  8. Pingback: Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest 2.0 | Must Love Jogs

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