Ul­tra diet for the Ul­tra ath­lete

Har­riet Miles ex­plains why op­ti­mal nu­tri­tion is cru­cial

Trail Running (UK) - - Fast Food -

Op­ti­mal nu­tri­tion is im­por­tant for sus­tain­ing per­for­mance, in­creas­ing re­cov­ery be­tween stages and avoid­ing in­jury. Re­search sug­gests that race nu­tri­tion goes fur­ther than the ba­sic knowl­edge of carb load­ing and glu­cose gels. It’s a more com­plex equa­tion, de­ter­mined by fac­tors unique to each event.

Car­bo­hy­drate or fat?

Fat is a more con­cen­trated en­ergy source than car­bo­hy­drate with ap­prox­i­mately twice as many calo­ries per gram. Dur­ing an ul­tra­ma­rathon the pro­por­tion of car­bo­hy­drate to fat used by the body for en­ergy won’t be con­stant. This is be­cause of the vari­a­tion in du­ra­tion, ter­rain and gra­di­ent. Dur­ing pe­ri­ods of mod­er­ate ex­er­cise, it has been found that fat ox­i­da­tion pro­vides the great­est per­cent­age of en­ergy used. This is com­monly seen dur­ing up­hill sec­tions where ath­letes will of­ten walk to con­serve en­ergy, sug­gest­ing it’s not as sim­ple as claim­ing that car­bo­hy­drate su­per­sedes fat or vice versa.


Sodium sup­ple­ments have been ex­plored as a way of in­creas­ing hy­dra­tion and re­plac­ing sodium loss due to sweat or over-hy­dra­tion. How­ever, de­spite 96% of ul­tra­en­durance run­ners ad­mit­ting to us­ing sodium sup­ple­ments, re­cent stud­ies have shown no ben­e­fit.

Foot care mat­ters

Blis­ters have been proved to make it harder for ath­letes to achieve ad­e­quate en­ergy in­take dur­ing multi-stage ul­tra­ma­rathons, as well as hav­ing a neg­a­tive im­pact on peak per­for­mance. Re­cov­er­ing from these skin in­juries, self-man­age­ment, and await­ing and re­ceiv­ing med­i­cal at­ten­tion all de­tract time and en­ergy from in-race food in­take. Blis­ters have also been as­so­ci­ated with slower race times, due to more en­ergy used, a greater chance of ad­di­tional in­jury, and a greater need for op­ti­mal nutri­tional in­take.

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