Ultra Runners


Fueling strategies for 50M / 100M 24 hours etc. (Read 415 times)

old woman w/hobby

    In depth descriptions would be appreciated.



    Just run.


      There is no one size fits all. In the process for training for longer races you go on long runs. You figure out what works for you on those runs.


      My strategy is alternate between a cliff bar every hour and a gel every 45 mins until I can't stomach the cliff bars anymore (usually around mile 60-70) then a gel every 45 mins. I generally don't do aid station food except for watermelon, which is awesome at any point in the race!


      One tip on gels, open it, take a swallow of water and squeeze the whole gel into the mouthful of water and swallow then down with a few big swigs. 


      Also, the Nuun tabs are meant to go in liquid, don't try to eat them straightJoking

        Eat as much as you can without getting sick, as often as possible, without getting sick.


        That's about as in-depth as I can get, even for me.  It totally varies with each race... 

          For any ultra distance race, I eat a pack of Sport Beans or a gel every half hour by my stopwatch.  This usually equates to 200 calories per hour.   I usually increase the calorie amount to 300-400 by eating a handful of candy, fruit, or potatoes from an aid station or drinking a sport drink from an aid station. 


          For Pinhoti 100, I had the Sport Beans or an Accel Gel every half hour, but I also ate small handfuls from a bag of Gummi Bears and marshmallows that I carried along in one pocket or a ginger chew ever so often.  Probably close to 400 calories per hour. 


          Ever so often, I like to have some protein in the form of canned chicken or something of the sort, so I put this in my drop bag for once every 20 miles or so. 


          For hydration in ideal conditions, I take a sip of water when I put food in my mouth.  This works for me pretty well and keeps me from overshooting the hydration balance, but I have a propensity to start hydrating more when the weather heats up. 


          My above strategy is far from an exact science, but I've found that the quick sugar foods (Sport Beans, etc.) help me out a lot during a race since I am on the Paleo Diet on normal days and am, therefore, hypersensitive to the quick sugar on race days.  Sport Beans and Gatorade are like rocket fuel to me a lot of the time after I've been eating Paleo style for several weeks without any processed sugar. 


          For some odd reason, Sport Beans or Gummi Bears tend to work a lot better for me than gels do.  Sometimes, gels seem to have little or no effect on me at all, but I feel some energy from Sport Beans or Gummi Bears.  Maybe it's psychological, or maybe it's from the higher count of sugar grams. 


          Since I do so well on Paleo Diet on normal non-race days, though, I might toy with the idea of glycogen depletion runs of longer distances in 2013.  I can run well on no food or water at all for anything 15 miles or less, but have always wanted to try to run longer.  I have a few non-goal-race loop events in the near future where I can experiment without consequence. 

            Unfortunately even when you find out a strategy that works for you, you can find yourself in a race where your tried & true foods no longer taste good and/or sit well with you.  I've run several ultras where I'll start off with gels every 30-45 minutes for the first 25+ miles, then I'll start taking in real food (I'll often carry and turkey, avocado & havarti tortilla wrap.  But during the Waldo 100K I got sick of sweet about 15 miles in, then I was having trouble getting the wrap down.  It wasn't making me sick, it just took a while to swallow each bite (I think it took almost 5 hours just to get the damn thing down!)  Who knows what caused it; perhaps the elevation (although we weren't really high up -- most of the course is run at about 6,000-6,500 feet).

            Upcoming races: 1/9 Bridle Trails 50K, 1/30 Lake Youngs Nuts Run 50K, 2/14 My Better Half, 3/5 Dupont Trail Marathon, 4/2 Umstead 100

              As a general rule that should apply in every type of race situation...


              My best races have been the ones where I was a little bit behind on my nutrition and/or hydration most of the time. 


              I've found that, if I fall behind on nutrition and hydration, I can usually catch up with little or no trouble.

              If, however, I get ahead on my nutrition or hydration, my race is usually over. 


              For me, the consequences of falling behind (dehydration, low energy) can pale in comparison to the consequences of being ahead (hyponatremia, stomach sickness, bloated weight). 


              I would be interested to know if others here have had similar experiences with this general rule during ultramarathons. 

              Uh oh... now what?

                Experiments along the way...


                1)  Eggs, hash browns, toast coffee for breakfast.  Out the door on the 11-mile loop.

                Complete loop 1.  Stop at house for a bowl of tuna and noodles and large cup of

                waterish stuff.  Walk the half mile up the hill to the flat where I start running.

                Complete loop 2.  Stop at house for a PB&J, glass of milk, banana, and a large

                cup of waterish stuff.  Walk the half mile up the hill to the flat where I start running.

                Complete loop 3.  Stop at house for a bowl of chili and half a grilled cheese

                sandwich and a glass of .... 


                It all went down okay.  I knew I could use the half mile climb (about 200' up) to

                walk and let the food settle in.  The walk was part of the experiment.


                A 100k with a midnight start.  Starting at about seven a.m. I was nibbling on baked

                Yukon Gold potatoes and some whole wheat rolls I had made.  I nibbled all day long,

                finishing the last of the five-pounds of potat's about eight that evening.  During the

                100k I took in no solid food.  I drank a 10-ounce Ensure at 4-mile intervals (35ish

                minutes) all through the night (midnight start).  Ran a 9:13ish, is good.


                A 50-miler with a 42ish-miler the weekend before, wife and I running together.  We

                had a big breakfast (eggs, hash browns, toast, couple of pancakes...).  No gels

                back then.  Had orange slices in the fanny packs, two bottles.  Ate chips, bananas,

                baked potato pieces at the aid stations. No drop bags.  Always left the aid stations

                with a bunch of snackie stuff in a plastic bag, nibbled our way along... always pieces

                of baked potatoes dipped in salt (margarita salt is best) at the aid stations, always

                empty the bottles between aid stations, drink one cup at the station, shuffle out with

                food in hand.... I think we ran about 9:40, maybe 9:45ish on a decent course in the

                Coast Hills range of Oregon


                I am just trying to show the variety of stuff I have done (without telling the chili dog

                story) along the way to finding what works.  But, as EDRW says, some days it will

                not work.  At Le Grizz this year I could not get anything down, got through the day

                on fig newtons, defizzed Coca Cola, and Heed... energy was draining all day long.

                I could recognize it enough to experiment and find the newtons would work, Oh

                yeah!  The magic mushrooms.  I wanted something tart, salty... something I did

                not need to chew... there was a jar of marinated garlic something mushrooms.  I

                had a couple of helpings of them three times.  You just never know what will work

                on a particular day.  I got enough in me to finish, no cramping, just felt the energy

                draining away all day.


                As said before, play with the fuel/drinks during the long runs in training to find

                out what works (means what will stay down).




                John M.

                old woman w/hobby

                  Thanks very much one and all!

                  I was hoping to hear lots about any thing but Gu or Gu like substances!


                  I have been practicing with various foods but also lots of gels

                  and find that I can only take the supper sweet gels for so long.





                  Just run.

                    Thanks very much one and all!

                    I was hoping to hear lots about any thing but Gu or Gu like substances!


                    I have been practicing with various foods but also lots of gels

                    and find that I can only take the supper sweet gels for so long.




                    I don't eat on a set schedule, though I probably should. I suspect that I eat too much (basically each time I pass the aid station, I would grab something).


                    I ate lots of cookies, candy, chips, moon pies , George's fudge (yum), watermelon, soup, hotdog, sandwich. I drank water, Gatorade, Heed, cranberry juice, Mountain Dew, coffee, broth. I also practiced eating all sorts of foods right before running.


                    I use gels just in marathons, mostly for the quick carbs. Basically, try different things and see what works for you.

                    Uh oh... now what?

                      TeaOlive... it might be interesting if you posted something like


                      "What are the trade mark aid station menus?"


                      Potato soup, brownies, pulled pork sandwiches, various noodle

                      soups, quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches... and their locations


                      You could almost tailor your run decision around their offerings.



                        BTW, we were serving bacon & chocolate chip pancakes at the No Name aid station (mile 81) at Cascade Crest.  A couple of runners questioned our decision to combine the two ingredients, but once they tasted them they were hooked!  

                        Upcoming races: 1/9 Bridle Trails 50K, 1/30 Lake Youngs Nuts Run 50K, 2/14 My Better Half, 3/5 Dupont Trail Marathon, 4/2 Umstead 100

                        Bacon Party!

                          Running at that level of intensity (low!) for that duration (long!), I've been going with *about* 80 calories / hour - primarily carbs, but also some fat and a smidgen of protein. If I know that I've got a big climb or some harder effort coming, I might take an extra hit about 10-15 minutes in advance.


                          For a 50-mile race, I might up my intake because I'd be pushing harder - but, I haven't done a 50-mile race for awhile. For 50-mile training runs and longer race distances, the above seems to work for me.


                          I actually do the math and figure my projected requirements prior to the event. And then, of course, there's more math in planning drop bags. All part of the fun! Big grin


                          pace sera, sera

                          Refurbished Hip

                            Right or wrong, I don't eat or drink on a set schedule either.  I drink when I am thirsty, and just start eating from the get-go and just don't stop.  I like eating real food when I am running, but I do take gels as well, mostly for the electrolytes but I suppose the added calories don't hurt either.  I use Crank E-gels which have 150 calories each and a lot of sodium and potassium.  During my 50 miler in April, I ended up eating about 12 gels along with real food.  In my 100K in June, I didn't take in nearly as many gels, but did pop a few S! Caps because it was a warm day in June.  I tend to gravitate toward fruit, plus things like potatoes, grilled cheese, quesadillas, bean burritos, sandwiches, etc.  I had pieces of bagels filled with hummus at an aid station once that really hit the spot.  I usually pass over the cookies and sweet things.  Soup is awesome in the middle of the night.


                            Sue, I also wonder if I eat too much.  I know most people tend to have the opposite problem, but I really can down just about anything at any time.  (Except for coffee...learned that the hard way.  Coffee during an ultra = GI problems for me.)

                            Trail Monster

                              I ate a quarter of a PB&J at every aid station at my last 50M. I also would fill up a baggie with whatever looked good: chips, pretzels, candy, etc and munch it in between AS. I drank only water between AS and drank a cup of Coke or Gatorade as I needed/wanted at AS. Worked like a charm and finished strong with a big PR.

                              2013 races:

                              3/17 Shamrock Marathon

                              4/20 North Coast 24 Hour

                              7/27 Burning RIver 100M

                              8/24 Baker 50M

                              10/5 Oil Creek (distance to be determined)


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                              Altra Zero Drop

                              old woman w/hobby

                                Thanks once again.


                                So, what I'm getting from this is that most people in the above posts aren't using

                                that much gu or fake food type products?


                                During my one and only 50M (very slow) last summer I used gels in-between the two

                                aid stations (13 1/2M a part) and it didn't take many hours before even thinking

                                about gels was yuk.


                                Though, I have got some Vi fuel gels now and they don't seem quite as sweet tasting as the gu

                                but still won't want too many I think.


                                I'll try more real food less fake stuff.



                                Just run.