If the words "nutrition strategy" for trail running is as foreign to you as another language, we are here to help. Simply speaking, a nutrition strategy is a plan you put in place to keep your body adequately fuelled and hydrated throughout your race.
Ideally, you would practice this strategy beforehand to repeatedly test it out. If you just want guidelines to get started, here are 4 simple steps you can follow to create your own race day nutrition strategy.
STEP 1 - TOTAL CALORIE INTAKEAiming for around 100-200kcal per hour is a great place to start; if you can hit this every hour, you are on the right track. Here is an example of what that would look like:
- 0.5 – 1.0 L of sports drink
- 0.5 – 1 energy bar or package of chews
- 1-2 energy gel packets
STEP 2 - WHAT TYPE OF CALORIES
Simple carbohydrates (sports drinks, bars and gels) provide quick bursts of energy. Use these for shorter, higher intensity trail running races (30 - 120 minutes).
Starchy carbohydrates and fats (nuts, whole foods) provide a slower release of energy. Incorporate these into trail running races longer than 120 minutes.
You can use a mixture for ultra trail running races strategically throughout the race. If your race has a long climb that will increase your intensity, choose to take simple carbohydrates right before.
STEP 3 - HYDRATION & ELECTROLYTE
Aim to "drink your sweat." Let me explain, we sweat a mixture of water and sodium. You want to take back in what you are sweating out to keep your body performing during your race. Here is an example of what that would look like:
- 0.5L of water per hour
- 300mmg of sodium per 0.5L of water
STEP 4 - REFUELLING
It's likely not possible to consume all the calories you burned during your trail running race. Post-exercise fuelling is crucial to getting back on your feet after a tough race day. Your body also switches to repair mode, so consuming protein is critical. Your refuelling strategy should include three elements:
- Carbohydrates (200-400 calories – sports drink, energy bar, etc…)
- Protein (15 grams – PB&J sandwich, yogurt cup, chocolate milk, etc…)
- Fluids (1-1.5 L water with electrolytes or sports drink)
So now you have a race day nutrition strategy planned; hopefully, you have a place to store all your goodies to eat and drink during your race. If not, a great pace to start is with a trail running vest.
Trail running vests can allow you to;
- hold a hydration bladder
- keep you mobile close
- store emergency equipment
- store plenty of food
- save time not stopping at aid stations