Ultra Nutrition - What to eat and drink?

D-Day is getting closer and I am now in the tapering phase with 17 days to go. I've still got a 26Km and 16Km to do this weekend but that is the last biggish weekend. Funny how 26Km seems not much these days!

During my weekend runs I have been practising what I am going to eat and drink. Ultra nutrition has been one of the hardest things for me to work out as there are no set guidelines as everyone is different. 

Being on the smaller side, I need less calories than others but then how many calories? How much should I drink too and what should I drink? Then there is the fear of sugar overload, nausea and vomiting (apparently one of the main causes for not finishing an ultra marathon), bonking and so on. 

Believe me it has been stressful trying to work it all out. However I finally feel that I now have a sensible and doable nutrition plan

I have based my ultra nutrition on the following:

  1. Drink about 250ml fluid per hour and being careful not to over drink. Here's why. I am not a great sweater and I'll be running slowly.
  2. Eat around 200 kcal per hour. Although I will be burning more calories than that, our body can only cope with absorbing around 200-300 kcal per hour during the race. Eating more than that and you risk vomiting.
  3. Take in around 10gm protein per hour (for muscle repair).
  4. Eat as much natural food as possible.
  5. Go easy on the sugar. That is a great cause of nausea.
  6. Take in electrolytes to replace what is lost through sweat.
  7. Have a bag of treats for when I am having a meltdown.

What I am going to eat and drink during the Ultra Marathon

During each of my weekend long runs, I have been practising and seeing what works and doesn't work. To be honest I have liked all of  my "picnic" food tests and nothing has caused an upset stomach. The biggest issue I have had is how to carry it all and where to store it in my back pack for easy access.

Before the race start:
We start at 12h00 so I plan to have a breakfast of eggs and bacon with a piece of toast. Then 30 minutes before the start I am going to have UCAN.

I discovered this fantastic energy fuel a year ago and have been trying it out in longish races and now for the ultra. It is pretty globby and thick but the taste is OK.

The main selling point for me is the energy it provides. It just seems to leak this constant energy into your body without any feeling of nausea or overload. UCAN say you can take it during the race too but I think I'd get into a right mess making it up so I am just going to have 2 scoops beforehand mixed with water. This will provide me with enough energy for the first 2 hours.

During the race:
There will be aid stations so there will be snacks and fluids but I don't want to rely on them but use them as back up if necessary. In fact during the first 55km there is only one aid station with food so I need to bring my own calories. Below is my planned picnic (UCAN is for before the start):

I know it doesn't look much but that was just for training. I'll adjust quantities on the day.

So what am I eating?
  • Peanut butter sandwich with brown bread
  • Marmite sandwich with butter and brown bread
  • Dried apricots
  • Slices of Serrano ham
  • Homemade energy date balls (made with dates, oats, almonds, cocoa, peanut butter.....)
  • Salty crackers - for when I am bored
  • Haribo dragibus sweets - for when I need some TLC
And as for drinking:
My go-to drink is going to be TAILWIND. I can't say enough good things about Tailwind. It is easy to mix, easy to drink and provides electrolytes and calories. Plus it has solved my cramp issues. 

Initially I was worried that it would be sickly to drink for hours on end but it really is surprisingly easy to sip down. There are lots of flavors but for me the Naked flavor is my favourite. It has a slight taste but nothing overpowering.

So I hope that I have got my nutrition correct. Being my first ultra this has been a huge learning experience. I will be reporting back afterwards so watch this space.