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Eating on the run: Food and drink for Ultra running

Updated: Jan 26, 2022

Top Tips:

1. Eat the good stuff in training and refine your race day nutrition strategy

2. During the run, eat and drink every 20mins or so. Do this from the start!

3. When you finish, help the body to recovery with the best version of whatever you crave.

If you have entered an ultra, then getting your food and drink intake right is as important as your training, but while training our legs and lungs seems obvious and simple, many runners fail to train their digestive system and mind for the job of taking on energy. Whatever the distance, here’s what you need to know about eating and drinking, before, during and after an Ultra!

Before the event?

There are at least three phases here we need to think about.

1. While you prepare for your run, your general diet needs to support your training. Every meal and snack should be based around unprocessed foods and have a blend of carbs, protein and fats as well as vitamins and minerals. Eat as naturally as possible.

2. During your long runs you need to be trying and testing the nutrition you will use on the day. This should be well practised by the time you get to the start line.

3. Eating more carbohydrate before an event is a good way to maximise the body preferred source of fuel for exercise, but there isn’t any need to go crazy. Your body can store carbs ready to use for 3-5days, so rather than eating loads the day before (which will risk tummy trouble), eat a bit more carbohydrate 2 and 3 days before the event. With a much lighter intake the day before.

During the Ultra:

At rest, the body can digest all the foods, we normally eat, but while working at high intensity it can only process the simplest of sugars (hence the use of sports drinks and gels). The good news about ultra-running is that becsue the intensity is down the lower end of the scale there are more options for what to eat then during faster races. The two key elements for all runners to remember, is that you should start to take on board energy early and keep eating and drinking every 20mins. The following are all used by Ultra runners as a way to take on carbs (as well as sodium and fluid in some cases):

· Salted Pretzels/peanuts

· Sweet potato wedges (in sandwich bag with salt)

· CLIF Bar

· Rice Cakes

· Gels/Bloks

· Baby food pouches (you can buy refillable ones of these online)

· Sport/energy drinks


Your body will heal in time, but the kinder you are to it, the quicker it will heal. The best thing you can do it to remember to replace what you lost during the run; carbs, protein, fluid, salt and even fat all took a hit, plus the body needs micronutrients from fruits and vegetables to fix the micro damage done through ultra-running. Therefore, eat well balanced meals every 4 hrs or so for the 3-5 days after the race. Following an Ultra, your body will be in such energy deficit that it will utilise most of what you eat to repair and refuel. Therefore, also avoid junk food, if you fancy food that is less healthy, then fine, but get the best, least processed version of it that you can.

The ideas and suggestions written below are the opinions of Joel Enoch, an award winning triathlon coach for the Hartree JETS, 9-time GB Age-group triathlete, 2 x Great Swim/Run winner and CLIF Bar’s paid nutritional ambassador in the UK.  This article is provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or care. The contents of this article are not intended to make health or nutrition claims about Clif Bar & Company products. Always seek the advice of a Doctor or other qualified health provider before beginning any physical fitness or health and nutrition related activity.  @ClifBar #feedyouradventure @joel_enoch (twitter) @tricoachjoel (Instagram) @HartreeJetsTri

You can also view videos about nutrition featuring Joel here

ULTRA NORTH will take place on Saturday 16 July 2022 and features a choice of the 55km ULTRA distance, or a shorter 25km TRAIL route. Runners and walkers are invited to sign up.

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