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Nutrition tips for ultra distance runners

février 02, 2017

Nutrition tips for ultra distance runners

Giuliano Pugolotti, Photo: Alberto Narduzzi

Rebecca Dent, a high performance dietitian, tells us about how to fuel for an ultra event.

When it comes to fueling for an ultra no one person will have the same nutrition plan. It is about choosing from a selection of appropriate carbohydrate based foods and fluids to provide the major supply of energy and practicing race nutrition strategies to find out what suits you. It is a process of trial and error until you find out what works for you, testing your stomach with real food, gels, sports bars and sports drinks and practice eating whilst running, so you get the stomach used to eating on the go.
There is not a set prescription to fueling a race, some runners prefer to get their energy from mostly liquids with some solids, others will use real food and occasionally gels/sports bars for that energy hit in the last few miles before the end of the stage or race.
What is key, is that you try to drip feed energy into your body through out the race providing it primarily with a source of carbohydrate and perhaps for the one day plus races adding some fat and protein containing foods to provide additional sources of fuel and protein to help muscle breakdown and for that much need change in flavour.
The key to the start of any race is a good breakfast 2-3hrs before you set off. A LYO Coconut Porridge can be used and also added to a drop bag in a longer/ multi day event as part of a good breakfast.
If you have fueled well before a race then you wont need to start eating anything until around 60minutes into the race. Aim for around 200-300calories per hour which is around 30-60g of carbohydrate per hour. You will find most, if not all sports bars, sports drinks, cereal bars, gels, and flapjacks will contain this amount.
For long races or multi day/stage events that are self supported and require drop bags then LYOFOOD freeze dried foods are an ideal option as they contain only natural ingredients and taste like a real meal which both make them more palatable and easier on the stomach. Suitable options include Beef Stroganoff, Penne Bolognaise, Chicken and Rice or Farfalle (pasta) with Gorgonzola and Spinach. For the extra energy and fluid you can include the new range of soups goulash, mushroom, tomato and paprika. For those that struggle with poor appetite and trying to eat, perhaps a hot liquid meal such as these range of soups may be easier to take on board.


Kilian Jornet is a leading ski mountaineer and ultra runner. He is winner of several world cup ski mountaineering races, 4 times winner of Pierra Menta, 6 times Skyrunning World Cup Champion and has won some of the most prestigious ultramarathons, including the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, Grand Raid, the Western States Endurance Run and the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run.

When I'm traveling on remote areas is hard to find food with good energy and all the nutriments, normally in trips we can carry light weight food that contains high carbs but not proteins, vitamins... so that is the great think on LYOFOOD. And normally dry food tastes really chemical with all the conservatives and additives but the first time I tried LYOFOOD I was really surprised by the natural flavor, it really tastes as it is, just normal cooled food dried, without any additives. Also I'm a big fan of LYO powders, during long races or trips it is great to take a smoothie to have energy and mostly a lot of vitamins.

william sichel

William Sichel is an international ultra distance runner from Scotland and he's a multiple world record holder. William was the first British athlete and the oldest person ever to complete the World’s Longest Certified Footrace – the Self Transcendence 3100 Mile Race in New York – August 2014 – setting multiple ultra distance running records in the process. He completed the race in 50 days, 15 hours, 6 minutes, 4 seconds. Since 1994 William has competed in 101 ultra-marathon events – winning 18 of them. Here's what he has to say about his experience with nutrition and ultra running:

I have been traveling for my ultra distance running races since 1994.  Last year I notched up my 100th ultra and visited 21 countries in the process. I specialize in road and running track ultras, not the trail and mountain races that have become so popular now.
The locations aren’t so spectacular as some of your other bloggers but the experiences can be just as deep and meaningful.
I try to make mistakes only once and I have made mistakes with food when traveling and I know how much it can spoil your performance, after having put so much into your preparations.  Not a good experience. It was because of this that I realized that using freeze-dried foods might be the answer. Then I discovered that all freeze-dried foods are not the same. 
Palatability and ingredients were some of the key considerations that made a big difference to the success of the various meals. When the meals were poor I tended to avoid eating them which rather defeated the reason for having them!
Then my nutrition adviser recommended LYO meals. I tried some and they were different – tasted great, mixed well, great ingredients and so on. I was hooked!
I use my LYO meals when:
  1. Traveling to races and not wanting to risk hotel or local food especially before competitions
  2. During my multi day races when tastes and digestion can be compromised
  3. During my ‘Training Camps’ when I want quick, easy but nutritious meals in locations where I may not have access to a kitchen – just a hotel or hostel room
The main reasons I choose LYO:
  1. Taste. Having experienced the sawdust-like taste of many rival products I really appreciate the excellent flavors of the LYO meals and soups.
  2. Food quality. Being able to have home-grown, organic ingredients in my dried meals is a real bonus and much appreciated and enjoyed. Many alternative dried meal companies use a lot of cheap ingredients like dried vegetable oil and glucose powder. 
  1. Safety. When traveling and competing, especially overseas, I and my crew have invested a lot of time, money and effort in order that I can produce my best possible performance during my race.  I don’t want it all ruined by a bad meal leading to a GI upset that could spoil the whole trip.  I have often seen it happen to others and I experienced it once myself, after which I changed to dried meals as a precaution.
 I make myself completely independent of the food provided at the event, even though I have paid for it in the entry fee! It’s all about being as professional as possible. 
  1. Convenience. When traveling before and after events we often don’t want to be wandering around strange towns looking for somewhere suitable to eat.  This is where LYO meals once again come to the rescue – we don’t even need to leave our rooms.  I remember after one race in Germany we sat up in bed, exhausted, eating a LYO meal before crashing out.  There was no need to out late and hunt around for somewhere to eat. 
  1. Lightweight. Being freeze-dried they are obviously as light as possible which helps with space in the luggage and has little impact on airline baggage fees making them very cost effective to travel with you.
Extra Tip for creating High Calorie Meals
The best way to convert any LYO Meal or LYO Soup into a higher calorie one is to simply add Full Fat Milk Powder, eg NIDO is 503kcals per 100g of powder. The milk powder is obviously dried, lightweight, stores well and mixes in easily. By doing this you can convert a 134kcal LYO soup into a 434 kcal meal by simply adding 4 x 15g heaped desert spoonful’s of NIDO and stirring in.
Similarly, you could boost a meal up to a 1000kcals if you wanted – it’s up to you. In this way, you get the LYO quality ingredients and super flavor plus some more calories.  Flavors are slightly diluted with the milk powder but still come through strongly in my experience. Thank you LYO!

Piotr Hercog is a leading Polish ultra runner. Piotr is practicing ultra running since 2008 and has held leading positions in races such as: UTMB, Ultra Trail Majorca, Transvulcania, Gore-Tex Transalpine, TransGranCanaria, Ultra Ttrail Mount Fiji.

Always before my most important runs I solely rely on proven and tasty products. In addition to essential nutrients, preparation time is very important. All of that I found in Lyofood meals.

Anna Figura

Anna Figura is a young and talented Polish skier and ultra runner. She is a world and european champion in ski mountaineering. Anna was a champion of the Bieg Ultra Granią Tatr 2015 in Poland and Sudtirol Ultra Skyrace 2014 in Italy. In 2015 she set a new woman speed record in extreme running during the Elbrus Race.

I thought, that food „in powder” is only for expeditions and extreme conditions, at home you should cook traditional meals. LYOFOOD changed my way of thinking, from now even when I'm home, I use LYO products with pleasure :-D

For more info, check out:

Piotr Hercog

Kilian Jornet

Anna Figura

Rebecca Dent

William Sichel



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