When planning your in-race nutrition, the goal for food is high calorie, light weight and just flavourful enough that it’s appealing to eat but won’t be too hard on your stomach.
I recently completed a 7 Day Stage Race, the Grand to Grand Ultra, so I thought I’d share my in-race nutrition with you and explain how it got me through the race.
The G2G Ultra is a self-supported stage race, so this meant that I had to carry absolutely everything I needed for the seven days. All of my gear, including sleeping bag and pad, along with all of the food I would need for the seven days was on my back at all times during the race. The only assistance we received was at camp where we were provided with hot water, morning and evening along with drinking water at each check point throughout the course.
Many stage races implement a minimum requirement of 2000 calories each day. For the G2G Ultra, here is a breakdown of my food list that ensured I would reach 2000 calories.
Quick breakdown of my food list:
- Raman Noodles (with powdered sauce of either Teriyaki, Peanut and/or Alfredo)
- Betty Crocker’s Mashed Potatoes (I use a third of package per day)
- Garden of Life Protein Powder / Dr. Mercola’s Greens and Reds / L-Glutamine
- Oatmeal (apple and cinnamon, peaches and cream, brown sugar and raisin)
- Variety of Protein Bars (1-2 daily)
- Fruit 3 E-Beet Bars – Xact Nutrition (1 per day)
- Adapt Bar (1 per day)
- BBQ Peanuts
- Ginger Chew
- TailWind / Carbo Pro / Nuun Tablets
And that’s about it! On average, my daily calorie count was 2500 calories and about 3100 calories during the long stage (85 km).
I have been incredible blessed to have Ray Zahab as my coach for a number of years, and so much of what I have learned about training and nutrition has been through his influence and guidance! This list has been adapted with trial and error but I’ve learned that these items work best for me. Additionally, I’ve learned that I prefer salty/fattier treats over sugary ones. So cashews, almonds, peanuts etc. work for me. I have used BBQ chips in the past, which are amazing and weigh less than other snacks, however, this time I opted for peanuts. I have also discovered that I do not like to eat while running. I do force myself to try and eat at least one nutrition bar during the day but this can be extremely forced. Snacks are generally easier to get down. Tailwind and Carbo Pro are 100 Cal per serving, so I’m able to add 800/900 Calories during my run by adding the extra calories to my water.
I wanted to add more fat to my daily diet during the race as I no longer eat meat. I have used the Adapt Bars in training and brought one for each day of the race. Even though I had no issues in the heat while training during the race they melted almost completely and would get hard again during the night. I ended up throwing them away by the third day as I couldn’t eat them.
The Xact Nutrition Bars were actually the only sweeter item on my list and I did look forward to it mid-afternoon for the final 10K or so of each days run.
Here was my routine:
- Breakfast: Oatmeal (variety was key so I would eat, cheap and easy)
- Mid-morning: Nutrition Bar (the goal was to eat one before noon, small bites starting around 9:30/10am)
- Snacks: whenever I started to get hungry (my BBQ Peanuts were 300Cal for 1/3 cup)
- Post-Run Recovery Shake: as soon as I crossed the finished line for the day the goal was to mix my Chocolate Protein Powder, Greens/Reds and L-Glutamine, within the first 30min.
- Dinner: Raman Noodles with choice of sauce mix.
- Post-Dinner/Pre-Bedtime: Mashed Potatoes (little salt packet added)
The Ginger Chew was saved for whenever I wanted it…it is fresh and a little sweet and basically like a treat but it is also amazing if your stomach is a tad queazy.
I know the menu is relatively boring but it works well for me. I have seen countless people bringing some of the most amazing sounding freeze dried packaged meals and by Day 2 or Day 3 they can barely get food down. Their stomach doesn’t want anything rich or too saucy.
One of my biggest insights from racing is if you cannot eat, you cannot fuel your body or recovery properly.
I know many people will train with their intended fuel prior to the race and this is recommended. It’s so very important, however, even in training you are not under the same conditions as you are during a stage race. Training allows you the time on your feet and if you are training properly, hopefully you have incorporated the triple back to back runs. These back to back training days will help your body learn to run while tired. However, add in sleep deprivation along with pushing your body to extremes and likely environmental extremes, you’re now outside what you’ve physically trained for. Your mental strength has to take over. I have found that under these conditions, slightly more bland foods, where you can add your own flavour, add salt, etc. allows you to eat even when you do not feel like it.
During the G2G Ultra, I had one tent-mate who could no longer eat any of his freeze-dried meals he bought so I offered up my mashed potatoes and he absolutely devoured it. I was able to offer another mashed potato helping and he saved it for breakfast. He was able to get this down no problem.
Do you crave salt or sweet? What kind of food has worked well for you under extreme conditions?