With long-distance and ultra-races getting more and more popular, many runners are having some issues with nutrition and fueling during long-distance races. Finding the proper fueling for an ultra-marathon can avoid many consequences that can cause stomach issues or lack of energy. Not eating enough, eating too much, eating the wrong foods at the wrong time can increase the risks of wrecking our body. Many factors can affect our fueling during a long-distance race. It’s not only choosing the right food, but the conditions affect our body as well. Depending on the heat, altitude, incline, it all affects the level of intensity you’re dealing with, which increases your heart rate, sweat rate and sodium levels. The higher your heart rate the more carbohydrates your body has to use as a main fuel source, so the need to refuel with carbs increases. The more you sweat, the more hydration, electrolytes and sodium plays a role in how you feel physically and how it affects your stomach. Once our muscles and organs start to get tired, our body has to look after and focus on the main organs, our heart, lungs, liver, and muscles. The body sends all the visceral blood flow towards these organs to save them, the GI system becomes one of the least important, so the blood circulation to the GI system becomes minimal. That’s what causes our digestive system to shut down, and some issues are nausea, food just sitting in your stomach not processing, which makes it hard to fuel. The importance of nutrition training and testing is as crucial as our physical and fitness training, it should be included in our training plan. Testing different types of fueling, figure out which type of foods, electrolytes and fueling our body likes is essential.
Tips for Ultra Nutrition
Daily Nutrition: As an ultra-runner, eating consistently well and healthy on a daily basis is just as important as healthy eating just before a race. It’s what you eat during your training that will help you keep optimum form, aid recovery, prevent injury, maintain a strong immune system and promote good sleep. Get your energy from a wide variety of natural, unprocessed foods rich in all three macronutrients carbohydrates, protein, healthy fat, and keep up your intake of micronutrients, that’s vitamins and minerals.
Eat early and eat well: The longer the race the more pressure our body has to deal with, the harder it can get to eat. So, eating enough during the first half of the race will refuel your body properly so it doesn’t get depleted and your energy levels stay up.
Eat small amounts and often: Feeding your stomach with smaller and regular amounts of food will help reduce the risk of digestive issues. It also helps to keep the blood sugar levels more stable and reduce the risk of constant sugar spikes.
Drink some energy: Find some energy drinks that your body is happy with, it is a good backup for refuelling, easier for our stomach to absorb and process.
Eat more natural foods: Natural foods can be much easier to digest and causes less GI issues for most people than foods or energy fuel with additives, chemicals, preservatives and artificial flavours.
Eat before you start feeling hungry: If you wait until you feel your energy levels decreasing, then it will be more challenging to refuel and digest the food or fuelling. Make sure you refuel and hydrate regularly to maintain your endurance and energy level.
Natural Foods Alternatives for Races
Small percentage of runners can sustain long-distance races using only gels and sports drinks. Most runners can only handle taking a few gels during a long race. Our body can only process a certain amount of carbohydrates, and most bodies can only tolerate a certain amount of additives, chemicals, preservatives and artificial sugars. Natural foods for long-distance races are getting more popular, as runners see a huge difference in the all the benefits. We now have access to more natural race nutrition options.
Homemade energy bars
Nut butter sachets (combine with banana)
Potatoes, sweet potatoes
Natural Carbohydrate Food Sources 1. Dried Fruits: Dates, figs, apricots, raisins, fruit rolls
2. Fruit Puree (baby food)
3. Fresh Fruits:
Bananas- Vitamin C, potassium
Oranges- Vitamin C, potassium, hydration
Watermelon- Water sugar, vitamins and minerals (adding some salt to watermelon makes it one of the best rehydration fruit)
Grapes- Vitamin C, vitamin K, hydration
Pineapple- Vitamin C, manganese, digestive enzymes, hydration
4. Natural Gels: Gels with all natural ingredients and superfoods are getting popular. The common ingredients are Chia seeds, coconut sugar, Himalayan salt, superfoods, natural flavour.
5. Guava Paste Squares: Superfruit, vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants.
Find the right food your body will enjoy, to keep you going feeling strong and happy!
EAT WELL, TRAIN WELL, FEEL GREAT!