July 08, 2022 4 min read

You spend months preparing your body physically and mentally for a race. All the tempos. All the long runs. Climb all the mountains and lift all the heavy things. Then race day comes and it all falls apart. Not because you didn’t prepare your body- but because you didn’t fuel it properly on race day. We’ve all been there and nothing is more frustrating!

We both have been racing for over 20 years and Natalie has a background in Nutrition and we’re just understanding the many complexities that come with fueling the body while racing. It’s a very loose science, and we’ve decided more of an art. Mark diving head first into Ultra Endurance racing this past year, really helped broaden our understanding of fueling the body while racing. He has done three ultras and successfully executed a solid nutrition strategy each time, with only minor insufficiencies on his second ultra race- where we both learned a ton!

In this article, we’re going to share with you the four keys to understanding race day nutrition, so you can develop a successful race nutrition strategy for your next big event.

4 Keys to Maximizing Race Day Nutrition:

  • Understanding your body
  • Practicing during training
  • Understanding your event
  • Getting the right gear

Understanding Your Body and Practicing During Training

Not everybody is the same.Many variables come into play when determiningMark Batres Spartan Race VJ Shoes caloric needs such as size, stature, energy consumption habits, efficiency in running economy, etc. Clearly, there is no one size fits all when it comes to how much and when to incorporate fueling- there is a component of getting to know your own body and knowing how and when to listen to it during an event. That being said, what we’ve done for Mark and recommend you do, is put it in practice and gather feedback. For Mark, we planned several extended long runs with varied intervals of nutrition use.

What that looked like:

Long run 20-30 miles; 7-8k elevation gain; race effort

Test 1

  • Gel at every 50 min
  • 1x 20 oz drink bottle: Electrolytes + 240 calories

Test 2

  • Gel at every 45
  • 2x 20 oz drink bottles: Electrolytes + 240 calories
  • 1x Protein 245 calories/10g protein/ 39g carbohydrate

Test 3

  • Gel at every 35
  • 2x 20 oz drink bottles: Electrolytes + 240 calories
  • 1x Protein 245 calories/10g protein/ 39g carbohydrate

What he found out about his body during these efforts:

  • In the first effort, after the first 90 minutes, he reported fatiguing quickly and almost feeling desperate to take his next gels. He realized he needed more hydration/electrolytes as cramping set in later in the effort.

  • The second effort was much more productive with the addition of the second hydration bottle and the extra calories from the protein shake. However, he still reported fatiguing after the 120 minute mark.

  • On the third effort, we jumped the gel interval up another 10 minutes to every 35 minutes- which initially seemed excessive to both of us and he feared it would cause GI distress. He reported energy levels were great throughout. He didn’t experience any GI distress. However, we feel it should be noted he has a strong stomach for non-solid food. He managed to hold a solid effort the entire run and really felt strong.

  • Through all of these efforts, he not only learned what worked best for him, but conditioned his body for taking in nutrition while running at a race effort. He also learned what gear most effectively carried the nutrition supplements that he would want to quickly and easily access during a race.

How to Fuel Event Specific:

Event < 3 Hours

  • 1x Gel before start
  • Gel every 30-45 minutes
  • Every 30 minutes for races with intense climbing and for long races at a high end aerobic effort
  • Hydration pack or bottles with electrolytes and calories for races > 2 hours 20 oz drink mix every hour
  • We suggest a hydration supplement with electrolytes and 200-300 calories per 20oz fluid

Event > 3 Hours

  • 1x Gel before start
  • Gel every 45 minutes (slower pace)
  • 20 oz Hydration with calories (200-300) every 60-75 minutes
  • At 2-3 hour mark, start supplementing protein shakes
  • We mix one serving (10g protein/39g carbohydrate/ 240 calories) with 12oz of water
  • Protein every 3-4 hours
  • In a race > 4 hours, it is necessary to consume solid food in addition to your gels, hydration, and protein drink. It’s easier to take in and digest solid food in small amounts, so consider taking solid food earlier, so you don’t have to load up later.
  • Mark tries to take in food in small amounts (100-250 calories) every 60-75 minutes

Gear

Depending on your race, you’ll want to invest in gear to carry all your necessary nutrition.

Things to consider when shopping for your nutrition gear:

  • Weight and Feel
    You basically want your gear to weigh the least amount possible and beMark Batres race gear VJ Shoes equipped to carry all of your nutrition needs. It is paramount to consider the fabric and fit of your gear to ensure you limit any occurrence of chafing.

  • Storage and Ease of Access
    You will want to easily and efficiently access your drinking bottles/tube and your energy gels. The harder it is to access, the more time you will sacrifice supplementing rather than racing.

  • Multiple Storage Belts/Vests
    In an Ultra Endurance race, you’ll often have the opportunity to “pit” and at these times, you can increase efficiency by switching out belts or vests pre-loaded with all your nutrition needs for the next segment.

If you make the effort, plan, prepare, and execute to fuel your body properly on race day, you will maximize your potential for success.

By Mark Batres @mgbracing and Natalie Miano @nataliemiano_ocr