Gary's new website

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

What to eat and drink when competing in an ultra endurance event like the Oxfam Trailwalker

"I am training for 100 k trailwalker here in hongkong. at present i can only do 3 hrs of continous training w/out feeling any 2-3 hrs of training i'd begin to feel very tired and hungry. i need something to give me energy to endure long distance walk/hike. it is very hot and humid here. at the moment i am suffering from nasty cold and taking anti-biotics. the longest that i've raced is 25k (2 hrs 45)- also trailwalking. ive done a coulple of 1/2 marathon races(1hr 50). i run about 35k a week. i perspire a lot during training, i also feel a bit cold when training for a long time. help..."
Gary Moller comments:
Whether you are hiking the Heaphy Track or doing the Oxfam 24 hour or 100km run/walk, the needs are the same:
  • Fluid balance - not too much and not too little
  • Salt balance
  • Replenishment of energy as you go
  • Other nutrients, including vitamins and amino acids
As dehydration and energy depletion set in, body heat production may decline to the point that hypothermia may set in - even in warm climates. Another possibility with dehydration and exhaustion setting in is body temperature may gradually climb, causing a mild case of hyperthermia and this may be felt as chills and shivering. In either case, it is your body telling you to stop and get a good rest and replenish and it is best you oblige. Colds and flus are always signs that you are getting run down and also lacking nutrients, so back off the training a while, rest up and eat only the most nutritious food.

As an aside, colds are caused by the Rhinovirus. If the infection you refer to is a "cold" then antibiotics are of no use. If you have a bacterial infection, then antibiotics may work. In most cases, antibiotics are never necessary. The best treatment for most respiratory tract infections is rest and good nutrition, beginning with regular cups of chicken bone broth. However, be guided by your doctor.

You do not really need to do huge mileages in training to even train for a 24 hour run. In fact, I can't see the physiologic benefit of running longer than about 3-4 hours in training or hiking more than about 4-5 hours without a break. All that happens is you exhaust the body to excess. If you can run 3 hours, it is better to concentrate on speed development since an increase in speed makes jogging slowly feel so much easier.

From about 3-4 hours on, being able to keep running (Given that you have done months of training running 3-4 hours once a week and several shorter runs per week as well) is more to do with supplying the body with fluid and nutrients and running at a slow enough pace that prevents the fuel tank from hitting empty. There is simply no need to try to run 24 hours in training to prepare for a 24 hour race. 3-4 hour runs will do.

The best way to determine your fluid needs is to weight yourself periodically and adjust water intake accordingly. 1kg = 1 liter. Each person's needs vary enormously, so ensure that water intake is adjusted to the person. With practice you will not need to weigh yourself: You will become expert at listening to your body - thirst!

Salt intake is pretty much hit or miss; but very safe to do if using tissue salts that are naturally found within the body (Active Elements No: 3.1). Please read the advice here.

When it comes to replenishing energy over a prolonged period of exercise, much depends on the intensity of the exercise and the amount of jostling of the gut. So, anything other than very slow running and little can be digested with comfort; whereas a cyclist can consume a turkey dinner while still riding at a brisk pace!

If the event was a marathon or less, then I would have you concentrate on water, a little tissue salts and a modest intake of a liquid carbohydrate (glucose dissolved in water). As the duration increases then I would go for a liquid meal that contains a mix of carbohydrate, fats, proteins and various other nutrients.

This is the kind of sustenance first used by runners in the early 1970's who ran from Auckland to Wellington almost non-stop. The winner, Max Telford, consumed up to 14,000 Cals per day. That's about equivalent to 10-14 meals! Once your basic fitness is in place, ultra-endurance performance is all about energy and fluid replenishment.

Energy in = Performance Out

Here is the modern recipe for ultra-marathon sustenance:
  • One or two scoops whey protein
  • Two scoops of glucose
  • Two scoops whole milk powder
  • One spoon flax oil
  • One ripe banana
If you want to get really serious then add the following:
  • One level tsp creatine
  • 1/3 tsp beta alanine
  • 1/3 tsp HMB
  • 1 capsule L-Carnitine (break open the capsule and pour in the contents)
These extra ingredients will boost energy levels, ability to use fats, to tolerate lactate and reduce muscle fatigue and breakdown.

Add water to taste and blend and down the hatch!

It should be possible to consume this on the run; but it is recommended that you power walk for about 15 minutes after drinking it then resume your running. You may try to take a cup or two of this liquid meal every hour and more during actual rest breaks. During these longer breaks you could include ripe bananas and dates in the mix, cookies and even the occasional candy bar for an energy boost. A refreshing cup of tea, coffee or hot soup, fruit juices or lemon flavoured water may be welcome. Variety is important; but practice with all of these in training.

If you have to make the liquid meal for yourself while hiking along, then leave out the flax oil and the banana. Have the powder ready mixed as sachets and mix with water in a plastic or metal decanter as you hike along and drink it as you go.

If you are going to do this, please practice and practice in training and experiment with the ingredients to find if anything does not settle well. We are all different in tolerances while exercising, so please practice and experiment in training well before the competition. With regards to sports drinks, you can take or leave them. I do not recommend corn syrup gels which are over-priced and totally lacking any nutritional merits - over the years I have seen far too many cases of digestive upset, including diarrhoea from over-indulging in these.

Note: All of the special ingredients that you need are found on this website and can be delivered anywhere worldwide.

Do you have a question?
Email Gary: gary at (Replace the "at" with @ and remove spaces). Please include any relevant background information to your question.

No comments: