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Ultra Nutrition – Pre , During and Post Event

Ultra Nutrition – Pre , During and Post Event

Going to compete in your first Ultra? or your first Stage race? Then we have some good advice for you.


When training hard, it is important to get sufficient nutritious food. . Obviously, the training will mean that you will need an increased calorie intake. This is the good bit where within reason you can eat whatever you want without feeling guilty ( Or  at least I can hehe).
After exercising it is important for recovery to intake some carbohydrate so that your body can proceed with its refueling. When stressing your body, you may want to slightly increase the amount of protein you have, but the average diet will have quite sufficient protein for your needs even when training. Be careful to also drink plenty of fluids, especially in hot weather, since the body needs plenty of fluids as part of its recovery process.

Supplementation is needed of course but make sure that you have a healthy nutritional plan that you follow. I generally use a good multivitamin and Magnesium product daily, just to give me that edge. Vitamin supplements like I mentioned can be considered if you are in doubt but the normal healthy diet should have sufficient vitamins and minerals for your body’s needs. I will list my recommended supplementation at the bottom of this post! Lets move on :)

Another recommendation is that breakfasts should be the major meal of the day with lunch being the next biggest and dinner the smallest meal of the day. This helps to ensure that your body has plenty of fuel throughout the day for training and dinner then becomes more of a recovery meal rather than a major meal of itself.

What not to eat

At the end of the day eating is a matter of individual preference as a guide what not to eat prior to a run would include, overeating, extreme fatty foods an milk, for some people apples and anything that you have not run tested before. I can not stress enough how important it is to test out any food, supplement or magical product before using it in a race.

Pre event

In the week before an event, you should be particularly careful to intake plenty of carbohydrates and fluids. Your nutrition requirements are just the same as when competing in a marathon distance trail run ( 30-40km +). The idea is to maximize the amount of glycogen stored in the muscles. A previous theory of carbohydrate loading recommended long duration training about a week before your event to deplete the muscle glycogen, then to have 2 days of low carbohydrate, high protein diet to continue to starve the muscles of glycogen, followed by 3-4 days of a high carbohydrate diet.
The aim was to have the body overcompensate for the glycogen starvation and store extra amounts of glycogen for the race day. Due to uncertainty of the effect of this procedure, current recommendations are just to continue with a high carbohydrate diet all week. To maximize storage of glycogen, regular meals should be eaten as well as snacks between meals. Also, plenty of fluids need to be drunk. However, there is no need to have a very big carbohydrate meal one or two nights before the event. It is better to ensure that reasonable quantities of carbohydrate are being eaten at regular intervals in the preceding day or two before.

In the morning of an event, it is best to have a large carbohydrate breakfast two to three hours before the event. The pace you will be running at will be much slower than your normal race pace ( For us Rookies), so this has the benefit that it will be less stressful on your stomach. Thus, it is possible to have a larger breakfast than you normally would before events. Any food that you eat beforehand will be sitting in the tank available for the body to use and also help to extend the muscle glycogen supplies.


During an event, carbohydrate foods are required as well as regular fluid intake. In longer events and especially in hot weather, it may be beneficial to have electrolyte supplements ( e.g. Gu Brew), but normal body stores of electrolytes should last for many hours, particularly when supplemented by foods. Foods to have are often dictated by personal choice and can vary from commercial products to homemade bars and sandwiches to fruit and nuts.  They should also withstand hot temperatures well and be sufficiently wrapped to not ruin in wet conditions. If carrying food for many hours, then lightweight dried foods are a major advantage in reducing weight.  Food should be packed so that it is easy to get at, but also needs to packed in a way that carries well. I generally use cooked baby potatoes and biltong ( beef jerky for you Americans), that I eat at regular intervals, especially important to keep eating in stage racing.

tips images

TIP: Eating high GI foods, such as jelly beans, you will need to be careful to keep eating frequently so that glycogen can continue to be supplied to the muscles. This is why if you are using Gels you will need one every 40 to 60 min during the race.

TIP: You should plan your nutrition during the race just like you plan your race with the route profile. Know what you will need during the event and how many hours you will be out there. Take enough to last you the entire race but don’t take to much, this will come with experience.

TIP: I know it can be easy just to rather take something off the aid station table but beware! Do not take anything you have not tested! Your stomach has less blood and is under stress during the race, anything new could end your race right there.

Post event

After an event, it is quite ok to eat whatever appeals to you. Many people find that fatty and salty foods are especially good. As when training, it is good to have some food as soon as possible after finishing to replenish glycogen stores and allow the body to recover. Fluids are especially important – if you have been racing hard, it is generally hard to drink sufficient fluids and the sooner your fluid levels are restored the quicker you will recover. You may also find that your appetite is increased for the next day or two as your body recovers.

TIP: In stage racing remember that you need to fuel properly until the event is over. Don’t get reckless :)



  • Multivitamin
  • TruMag
  • L-Glutamine (Post Run)
  • Whey Protien (Post Run)

Now you will need to develop your own Nutritional Plan but I hope we have given you some guidelines to get you up and running in your first Ultra. Happy Trails!!!


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Pieter Steyn

Founder at Ultrarunner_ZA
Big Dreamer...Loving Husband to a beautiful wife :) Runner and Wannabee UltraRunner! Takes life too seriously.
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About The Author

Big Dreamer...Loving Husband to a beautiful wife :) Runner and Wannabee UltraRunner! Takes life too seriously.


  1. Hi,
    It would very interesting to see what the winners typically eat before a big race.
    Also, what are your thoughts on someone who is banting? Would you suggest ditching banting the whole week or just the day before to loadup on carbs?


    • Phil

      I think if your body is use to the High Fat and High protein and that is what you do your training on then don’t change it. With that said fat and protein can only take you so far. You need to find out what works for you and keep testing to find the magical combination. I would suggest you load up on carbs but in a good way like sweet potato’s for example. During the race I use baby potatoes that are salted, with macadamia nuts.

      • Thanks. I have tried a few combos but have still yet to figure out the magic ratio for for me. One thing is for sure is that I can’t run on fat alone, maybe for 2-3 hours but after that I definitely hit a wall.


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