Nutrition for Ultramarathon Running: Trail, Track, and Road Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Ultramarathon running events and participation numbers have increased progressively over the past three decades. Besides the exertion of prolonged running with or without a loaded pack, such events are often associated with challenging topography, environmental conditions, acute transient lifestyle discomforts, and/or event-related health complications. These factors create a scenario for greater nutritional needs, while predisposing ultramarathon runners to multiple nutritional intake barriers. The current review aims to explore the physiological and nutritional demands of ultramarathon running and provide general guidance on nutritional requirements for ultramarathon training and competition, including aspects of race nutrition logistics. Research outcomes suggest that daily dietary carbohydrates (up to 12 g·kg−1·day−1) and multiple-transportable carbohydrate intake (∼90 g·hr−1 for running distances ≥3 hr) during exercise support endurance training adaptations and enhance real-time endurance performance. Whether these intake rates are tolerable during ultramarathon competition is questionable from a practical and gastrointestinal perspective. Dietary protocols, such as glycogen manipulation or low-carbohydrate high-fat diets, are currently popular among ultramarathon runners. Despite the latter dietary manipulation showing increased total fat oxidation rates during submaximal exercise, the role in enhancing ultramarathon running performance is currently not supported. Ultramarathon runners may develop varying degrees of both hypohydration and hyperhydration (with accompanying exercise-associated hyponatremia), dependent on event duration, and environmental conditions. To avoid these two extremes, euhydration can generally be maintained through “drinking to thirst.” A well practiced and individualized nutrition strategy is required to optimize training and competition performance in ultramarathon running events, whether they are single stage or multistage.

publication date

  • March 1, 2019