It is sometimes said that ultramarathons are really just eating competitions. If you are going to be on the move for 5, 10 or even 20 hours, you need to fuel your body and doing that effectively will be the difference between finishing and a DNF.
The right sort of calories are definitely important but, at the end of the day, as long as you are eating and drinking regularly then you are going to be moving in the right direction, towards the finish line. The most important thing, however, is to listen to your body - it will clearly tell you what in needs through cravings between feed stations.
When you are going on a long run, and especially during a race, have a good selection of different foods is very important to keep spirits high and motivation going.
The secret to eating on the move is having easily accessible food in small, bite-sized chunks for easy consumption. Practice during your training runs will help master the art of on the go snacking; some gels have awkward packaging to open, your favourite biscuits might get crushed while running and turn into crumbs. Don’t lose hope though, you will find your perfect trail snack!
Popular on the move snacks are gels, dried fruit and nuts - though don’t forget Jelly Babies!
Coming into a feed station can feel like arriving at the gates of heaven - almost everything and anything that you could want will be there from fresh fruit and nuts to sandwiches, chocolate, and cakes. Some races you even stumble across pizza and pasta!
What you eat at the feed station is going to be all about what your body is craving at that moment. If you’re hankering for fresh fruit then dig in, maybe you have a sweet craving and want a sugar kick from a chocolate bar, then go for it. Do be careful as moderation is key, overeating here can haunt you for the the next leg!
Your cravings are likely to change during a race - and they definitely will if you’re going for the longer distance races - but do be careful about changing up your nutrition on the day. Picking a food that, on a normal day you love, could have a negative reaction when you are 40km in with another 40 to go.
The only way to know what works and what doesn’t is to practice on your training runs. Even shorter runs that you might not normally eat on can be good to practice eating on the go; learning how much you can eat without getting bloated or too full, even the size of bites you take to most effectively get the food in you!
What do you eat while on your long runs?
You can join The North Face® Strava Running Club and share your training and nutrition tips with the community: www.strava.com/clubs/thenorthfaceeurope