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Optimise Your Ultra-Marathon Nutrition Strategy

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Thousands of runners are gearing up to take on the iconic Old Mutual Two Oceans 56km ultra marathon.

A key element to competing in and completing an utra marathon, apart from the training, of course, is your race-day nutritional strategy. Food is, after all, the fuel that’ll power your body over the finish line.

Pre-race

Optimal race-day nutrition is highly individual. Some people can seemingly eat whatever they like, while others can find themselves running for porta-loo before the start regardless of what they eat.

It’s therefore important to use the run up to the race to figure out what works for you. Try a diverse range of breakfasts before long training runs or trial races. Smoothies, made in a proper smoothie maker are a convenient way to pack in a nutritient-dense meal in an easy-to-digest form. Just keep the ingredients natural and healthy, and avoid any tummy issue triggers.

Your training runs are also the best time to figure out whether your body responds best to energy gels, a bars, or energy gums.

Race day

Race day is the time to play it safe. Ensure you have a solid breakfast more than an hour before the start. Given that you’ll probably be waiting at the start for a long time, it’s probably not the worst idea to prepare your breakfast the night before. Don’t try anything new – stick with what you’ve used during your training/

Speaking of preparation, you should also have the gels, bars, or gums you plan to eat on the day packed the night before. You probably don’t want them bouncing up and down in your pockets, so a running belt is a good purchase. You can also use it to stash your phone and keys.

If you’ve got a favourite form of liquid nutrition fuel you might also want to look at a hydration pack to carry it in. As a bonus, you won’t need to use the plastic sachets given out at the water tables, contributing to the overall cleanliness of the race.

Finally, while it’s usually best to play it safe on race day, you should build in a degree of flexibility. If, for instance, you find yourself craving the salty potatoes being handed out by spectators, go ahead and grab one.

Post-race

Once you cross the finish line it’s important to replace the energy that was lost as quickly as possible.

A scientifically formulated recovery drink or protein bar is a quick and convenient way to get in the important macronutrients that aid recovery.

In the days following the race, stick to nutrient dense and wholesome meals, like salads loaded with whole grain like quinoa. By getting your post-race nutrition right, you’ll be back up and running much quicker than you would otherwise have been.

Finally, a few days after the race is done, take a little time to figure out what worked before, during, and after the race and what could be improved. Doing so means you’ll be that much better off in your next athletic adventure.

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