Ultra Marathon: Nutrition for Endurance

Ultra Marathon: Nutrition for Endurance

July is ultra month on the Running Bug. Here are some top tips on what to eat when you’re opting to run longer than 26.2 miles.



Nutrition for enduranceCarb Up: Eat carbohydrate-based meals and snacks on a regular schedule,” suggests nutritionist and regular Running Bug contributor, Nancy Clark.

Low GI: Eat slow release carbs (wholegrains, and usually brown) little and often you'll have steady energy all day, without lags.

Water: We can live weeks without food but just days without water. And when you push your body to the limits, you’ll discover more than ever how important staying hydrated is. In hot weather you’ll need to make sure you replace electrolytes by taking on board tablets or drink mixes, try Shotz Electroylte Tablets, or Nuun Tablets, not just when you’re training but through the day.

Balanced Diet: Eat plenty of protein (lean chicken, fish etc) to build muscle and help repair damage plus follow the usual healthy eating guidelines with a good balance of fruit and vegetables.

Training Diet: “Constantly fuel-up before workouts,” advises Nancy Clark. “Develop an eating strategy that fits your training schedule.” If you train early morning, take in a carb drink before training and have a snack to go when you finish, for example a peanut butter sandwich. If you dash to the office, plan to eat a mid morning and an afternoon snack (fruit, oatcakes, protein) and if you’re training at night opt for your main meal (lean meat and carbs, fruit) at lunch.

Practise Eating for Event: Nutrition for extreme events is an art as much as a science and vary dependent on the individual and the length and conditions of the event, and like your training, practicing eating right will help you get the get the best out of your endurance event.



Wee and Water: Check your wee is clear and of adequate quantity. Take on board 120 to 250 ml of fluid every 15 minutes, or one to 2 litres of fluid per hour.

Solids: Unlike marathon running you’ll be likely to eat solid food when you’re running more than 26.2 miles. So you need to experiment and find food that you know you can absorb quickly.

Fibre: Avoid the obvious, like too much fibre, or food you may have an intolerance too.

Variety: “Consider the ‘tastebud burn-out’ factor,” says Nancy Clark. “How many gels per hour can you endure? Will you get "sugared-out" on sports drink? Will powdered eggs for breakfast get boring on a multi-stage event?”

Make a Plan: “Not only should you know your fluid targets, but also your calorie targets. By working with a sports nutritionist you can calculate your calorie demands per hour,” suggests Nancy Clark. As a general rule, you should aim to take in 1 to 1.5 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per hour. For most runners this will be between 280 to 420 calories for a 70kg runner per hour.

Keep an Open Mind: “Be flexible,” says Nancy Clark. “Tastes may change during 18 hours of exercise! A plan to consume wholesome fruits, juices and energy bars may deteriorate into, sweets, biscuits and crisps. Remember, sugar during exercise does a fine job of delaying fatigue. Listen to your body's requests.”

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Anonymous Anonymous


Good point Jon, I always try to have food to hand as well. Not just stuck away in a pack where it's too easy to ignore. Stuff food into every pocket you have, buy small pouches to zip tie (or sew) to your running pack if they aren't already where you want them.



One further thing to add to the article - eat early, even as early as 20 minutes into your event, and then eat little and often. Taking this approach stops the stomach from 'shutting down'.


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