Nutrition Tips from Scott Jurek, Elite Ultra-runner
When you run for longer than 90 minutes at one time, eating and drinking during the run becomes imperative for optimum performance and sustained health. There are a multitude of areas to consider when planning what, when, and how to eat and drink on the run. The following are some key points that Scott feels are of utmost importance. These are general guidelines only. Seek assistance from a qualified professional for your personalized nutritional needs.
If running 90 minutes or longer, consume 40-60 grams of carbohydrate for every hour of exercise. This range is provided due to differences in body size and individual needs.
The carbohydrate consumed can be in the form of an energy drink, gels, energy bars, fruit, or any other solid foods that are carbohydrate dense.
Consume 16-40 ounces of water every hour for runs that are 90 minutes or longer. This large range is provided due to varying conditions, temperatures, intensity, and individual requirements. The water consumed during exercise may be in the form of a sports drink. However, if you are consuming calories in solid form in addition to your sports drink, be aware your overall ratio of carbohydrate to water intake. If you have a high carbohydrate intake, you want to include some plain water to keep the concentration of carbohydrate to water at 7-9 This concentration allows for optimal digestion rate. If using gels or foods for your carbohydrate intake, be sure to consume water, a minimum 6-8 ounces, following the carbohydrate source.
During runs longer than two hours, include electrolyte supplements to balance sodium and electrolyte losses. Include an electrolyte supplement that supplies 200-300 mg of sodium per hour. Increase this amount if running in a hot and/or humid environment.
New foods and drinks
Always familiarize yourself with a new food or drink during training. Many runners have experienced stomach distress when they have tried a new nutritional product in a race situation for the first time. If an event is going to have a certain food or drink on the course and you will not have your own available, use it in training and be very familiar with it before race day.
When and how to eat and drink
When possible, use downhills or times of decreased levels of exertion to eat and drink. If downhills are technical, use flats or uphills that require less concentration. Additionally, practice eating and drinking at different intensity levels, especially at race pace if competing. Take gulps instead of sips of fluids. This allows for a constant fluid volume in your stomach, increasing your digestion rate. Practice different methods of eating and drinking that minimize interruption of your breathing pattern. Try eating and drinking in between your normal inhalation and exhalation. Try nasal breathing while taking in fluid, chewing, and eating. Set the timer on your watch to remind you when it is time to eat or drink. In addition, you may use landmarks, mile markers or course markings to remind you to eat or drink.
If possible, use carrying accessories that are in view or easy to access, such as handheld water bottles. This will help to serve as a constant reminder to drink and eat, as well keeping your nutrients easily accessible. During training, practice using water bottles, gel flasks, and other accessories used to dispense your fluids and food. Do not wait for a race to get familiar with your accessories. This is also important to allow for adjustments in technique to move efficiently with your accessories.
To determine how much fluid you are consuming when using a hydration bladder try measuring a typical gulp or several sips with a measuring cup. This way you can monitor how much fluid you are taking in per each hour throughout your training run or race. Don’t always rely on gel stops or aid stations during races. Carry some fluids and carbohydrate sources with you, as many aid stations may be far apart, or in the case of marathons be minimally stocked. Do not wait until the 20-mile energy stop that has become popular in marathons. Many times this is too late to refuel.