Nutrition for Ultra Runners

Everyone who participates in a sport understands how important the role of nutrition plays in your training. In the simplest of explanations, food is fuel. If you don’t have good fuel, you’re not going to have good output. That right combination of calories looks very different for each person. Ultra running is no different.

Unlike short distance road races that generally offer either water or sports drink at aid stations and a celebratory banana at the finish line, ultra distances require much more. The average person burns an average of 100 calories per mile. Of course there are many variables that affect that number, like weight, effort, speed and the course itself – if it is flat or hilly.

The average runner may successful intake 200-300 calories or more per hour. Finding that perfect combination of nutrients varies greatly based on personal preference. The typical ultra race aid station table is stocked with sandwiches, fresh fruit, peanuts, crackers, chips, candy, cookies, energy gels and sometimes something special like a warm soup or home baked sweets. Because the diets of ultra runners vary so much, many runners will bring a drop bags to the race to put their special nutrition in. It’s comforting as well to always know you will have your favorite food to optimize performance with you if it is not already offered it at the aid station table. Sports drinks are important too and need to be added into your calorie intake and consideration. Taking in enough fluids (and the right fluids) is a necessity in preventing dehydration and electrolyte loss.

All runners need to experiment during their training periods and try different foods and sports drinks to determine what works best for them. When you have your nutrition down to a science, you can relax and focus on that finish line. No one type of food or sports drink will work for everyone. For more information on planning your running nutrition and macro/microcycles of training, click the link below to check out our Running Fitness Instruction Certification. Happy running!

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