It's never too soon to create and implement your ideal race day nutrition plan, in fact the more time you have to practice this in training the less likely you are to hit road blocks come race day. Training also offers a great variation of intensity, distance and environmental conditions to fine tune your fuel intake.
Here are some tips to get started with your ultra marathon & endurance training nutrition. If you can work on these principles over the coming months you will be set up to lock in solid and achievable race day nutrition plan (more on that to come closer to race day).
First things first, off-road ultra marathons & endurance events like the Kepler Challenge is a step up from your traditional marathon length event. This means for most of you there will be changes in your approach to fuelling for this event. The simple fact this race lasts up to 12 hours (just over half of entrants take between 7 and 9 hours) so you’re not only exercising for a long time but also skipping meal times.
Remember that there is no "one size fits all" nutrition plan and every one of you is different and will have varying requirements to suit training and race day. Now may be the ideal time to look at getting a personalised nutrition plan to help you achieve your race day goals.
It's important to familiarise yourself with the foods and fluids you plan to use on race day. Check the event website to see what food and drink (if any) are available on course. If it's not listed, ask the event organiser as this is really important information for your planning.
If the event is sponsored by PURE Sports Nutrition, you will find the PURE Electrolyte Hydration drink at the aid stations.
Some events are entirely non-supported, meaning you are responsible for taking everything you'll need for your race with you. Typically, however, aid station provisions may provide bananas, oranges and lollies. Generally for endurance events such as ultra marathons, the aid stations are to provide a back-up for your nutrition requirements rather than instead of you taking your own nutrition.
If you get injured or are just slowing up, you don't want to be waiting for the next aid station to get your much needed energy and hydration. Planning to be self-sufficient is important, both for your performance and for health & safety in remote locations.
When training for durations of 1.5 hours and upwards an electrolyte and carbohydrate containing sports drink should be top of your list. Why not water? The carbohydrate and electrolyte content actually helps hydrate you i.e. pull water from your stomach to your cells. Not to mention carbohydrate helps fuel muscles and electrolytes help muscle function (all pretty essential for these events!).
How much you require depends on many factors such as size, gender, fitness level, intensity etc however as a starting guide aim for 500-750ml per hour. Aim to spread your hourly intake evenly over the hour so you get a consistent fluid delivery. If you are unable to reach your goal intake practice sipping at regular intervals and over time your body should adjust to tolerate larger intakes (so start practising this for race day now).
Regardless of weather, aim for a minimum of 500ml per hour. Note: it is particularly important to ensure you use hydration containing carbohydrates for energy but also electrolytes. You will be losing vital electrolytes in sweat and if these aren’t replaced (or you're drinking a truckload of plain water) you may be at risk of a very dangerous condition called Hyponatremia. Symptoms include confusion, nausea, headaches and even loss of consciousness, so be sure to replace electrolytes.
To ensure you adequately replace mineral salts lost from sweating during your run, we recommend you include PURE Electrolyte Replacement Capsules to your nutrition plan in addition to an electrolyte sports drink (particularly in the second half of the race) and your body will thank you for it!
Carbohydrates are like petrol to your muscles, so when training or racing over 3 hours aim for 60-90g per hour.
Start by working out how many carbohydrates you get from your fluid intake (remember you actually need to drink the amount you have set in order to get the carbs) then subtract that amount from your hourly aim. For example, if you are aiming for 90g of carbohydrate per hour 500ml of PURE Electrolyte Hydration contains 26.8g of carbs, around a third of your hourly requirements. The rest can come from a mixture of supplements (PURE Fluid Energy Gels, chews, lollies etc) and real food (bars, sandwiches, scones, muffins etc). Mix up your training foods so you can find what works best for you and also ensure you are training on a variation. You just never know what your taste buds accept or reject come race day!
Related article: The Lowdown on Gels
Fat and Protein
Incorporate protein into your nutrition, particularly when training for periods of two hours or over. This will help support muscle function and repair during and after extended periods of exercise. The inclusion of fat can be helpful for long runs where meals are skipped or you're faced with hunger. Fat slows down the speed of digestion so start with small volumes and spread it out over your training run.
For those looking for a way to incorporate protein into training PURE Endurance Formula is specifically formulated for use during sustained strenuous exercise of 2 hours and over to provide carbohydrates, mineral salts and NZ Whey Protein Isolate.
General Race Day Tips
Related article: Sports Nutrition for Post-Race Recovery
Get a personalised nutrition plan
Need more information? Nutrition for training and race day is very personalised depending on many factors. One size does not fit all, but getting it right is incredibly important to your success on race day. Consider investing in a Nutrition Consultation with one of our qualified sports & exercise nutritionists and receive a written, personalised plan to suit your training, race day or lifestyle nutrition needs and goals.
Marewa Sutherland is a qualified Sports & Exercise Nutritionist (BAppSc, University of Otago) and co-founder of PURE Sports Nutrition. Marewa is available for personalised Nutrition consultations in person or via Skype.
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