Ultras and nutrition seem to be a match made in caloric heaven. Just eat as much as you can possibly stand so that you CAN keep standing, right?
Not quite *that* simple, but for some folks, close.
The key is judging your own effort level first, and your familiarity with digestion on the run second. A 48 hour grind with 90% hiking is a different beast to appease than a 6 hour zippy race. This topic is ripe for detailed digging (and I will, I promise), but here’s an overview for starters. Keep in mind that the golden running rule always applies: YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. (No, the golden rule is not, “What Would Anton Do?“)
Here are the types of foods that will help for different effort levels, for a 50 mile distance:
- Hard/fast and lots of running: fuel like a marathon with some additional easy-digesting quasi-real food. This would include: gels, sports drinks, water, and other quick foods such as candies, pretzels, m&ms, or even boiled potatoes.
- Easy and long effort – lots of hiking over varied terrain, some running: whatever tastes good, no matter what it is. Gels, sports drinks, cookies, sandwiches, soup, burritos, coffee, you name it. If it tastes good and you’re power-hiking tons, down the hatch!
- Medium effort – hard uphills but hiking, some good and hard downhills: this one is trickiest. It will depend a little bit on the placement of aid stations and how much food you are willing to carry. The short answer is to eat what tastes good but not stuff yourself, and try to eat/digest when you know you will be walking (usually uphills). Really jarring downhills can mess with any food’s processing, so keeping digestibility high is still a good strategy. This means opt for a jelly sandwich instead of a spoonful of peanut butter.
That’s a really basic primer. More will surely come.
Here’s one bonus tip: candied ginger is the “new” Gu Chew / Shot Bloks. That stuff is amazing on touchy stomachs.