Five Top Tips for Multisport and Ultra-endurance events

What do you eat and drink for an ultra event?

In one week is New Zealands 'Coast to Coast' multisport event. It runs from the west coast to the east coast of the South Island in New Zealand.  It features running, cycling and kayaking elements over a total of 243 km.  The event is either individual or in teams, run over 1 or 2 days. We have a fantastic course by 3 time winner of the longest day event, Emily Miazga, and even with only one week to go, it’s worth watching to pick up those last minute nutrition and hydration tips and tricks from Emily who is a Dietitian, foodie (Owner of Em’s Power Cookies) and CTC champ.

TOP TIP # 1 - Carbs                               

As many of you are aware there are some athletes opting for Low Carbohydrate, Healthy/ High Fat (LCHF) diets for ultra-endurance events, who are finding they perform perfectly fine.  However, following an LCHF diet requires that the body has time to fat adapt and train in a carb depleted state.  The majority of multi-sport and ultra-athletes will be carb adapted, and run very efficiently on carbs, otherwise know as "carb ninjas".   Carbohydrates are the main fuel for the exercising muscles and they provide energy for training and recovery.  The amount of carbs you need as an athlete will depend on the training time, duration, intensity, time between training sessions, individual tolerance and practice with consuming carbs before during and after events.  The recommendations are to have about 8 – 10 g carbs per kg body weight for training and recovery for multi sport and ultra events. 

TOP TIP # 2 - Hydration                            

The body runs efficiently when well hydrated.  As little as 2% reduction in total body weight can lead to poor performance, reduced concentration and faster times to exhaustion (1).  How much fluid you require does depend on you’re a few factors.  It is a good idea to work out your sweat rate to determine how much to drink during training.  General, guidelines are to consume about 400 – 800 mL per hour of continuous exercise (2), however if the heat and humidity are high this can be a lot more, and some athletes sweat a lot and can require 2L of fluid hourly.  Carrying these volumes can be difficult so hydration systems such as 'Camelbaks', and regular fluid stops during training, can help prevent dehydration.

TOP TIP # 3 - Carb Load                  

Before events it’s a good idea to carbo load a few days out of the competition, have a pasta party.  Carb requirements can increase to 10 – 12 g per kg bodyweight for 2 - 3 days prior to the event.  In Emily’s presentation she explains how to implement this into your training programme and has a few great stories about how you feel as an athlete when you carbo load, and the benefits of doing so, she mentions that she feels ‘like a loaded spring on the start line’.

TOP TIP # 4 - Nothing New

Don’t try anything new the week out from an event.  You may hear about trying new foods or new hydration techniques, but only stick with what you know works for you and have tried several times during training.  Avoid restaurants and eating out a few days before in case you get food poisoning as this would be disastrous prior to an event.

TOP TIP # 5 - Fibre                 

After exercise the immune system is low, mainly due to the stress the body has been under during the long duration events.  The body takes several hours to recover from ultra events and one of the tips is to avoid large crowds so you don’t get sick (from viruses and bacteria).  This can be difficult if you are at a crowded event with many people coughing and breathing over you, but do your best.  Try to have plenty of fruits and vegetables with antioxidants to prevent getting sick, but use good hand-washing, and hygiene practices to stay on the top of your game.  

1 Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Medicine and science in sports and exercise48(3), 543-568.

2  Casa, D. J., Armstrong, L. E., Hillman, S. K., Montain, S. J., Reiff, R. V., Rich, B. S., ... & Stone, J. A. (2000). National Athletic Trainers' Association position statement: fluid replacement for athletes. Journal of athletic training35(2), 212.

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