What to Eat During an Ultra

I own a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Fueling it is expensive, but doesn't take a whole lot of thought. I see my gas light sparkle to life, and quickly find a gas station so I can fill 'er up.

I choose one of three gas options, and stand around for 5 minutes while my Jeep chugs the liquid. Fifty dollars later, I'm back on the road. If only fueling myself during an ultra was that easy. 

Eating might seem like a pretty easy task, but when you factor in running 50 miles though the mountains, things tend to get a little more complicated.

This is how a race usually goes: You eat a lot the night before, like tomorrow will never arrive. Morning comes and you eat breakfast. You've already filled your pack and drop bag with some delicious goodies.

Now comes the running. The first few hours things are just fine, but  then you find yourself at an aid station surrounded by M&Ms, chips, pop tarts, gels, but nothing seems appetizing.

In fact, when you do force something down, you want it to come back up. You aren't hungry.  But how can that be? You've run 25 miles. Surely you want something to eat.

So you grab a cookie for the road and head out, only to nibble on the cookie once before tossing it. You're probably thinking that you'd never pass on a cookie or a tortilla filled with a sweet chocolatey spread, but halfway into an ultra, I bet you a bag of gummy bears that you would. 

More: 10 Natural Race Food Alternatives

During an ultra, your stomach tends to turn against you. You lose your appetite despite the copious amount of calories you are burning—a bad combo that can cause an untimely bonk.

Preparing your stomach to eat during an ultra is just as important as preparing your legs. Below I've outlined a few pointers that have helped me stay on top of my nutrition during a long run.

More: 6 Nutrition Tips to Avoid Race Day Stomach Upset

Don't eat something new. If you haven't eaten a gel in your life, 27 miles into a race is not the appropriate time to try your first one. Your body might process the sugar (which is all gels really are) poorly, leading to miserable bathroom breaks.

Set a timer. It is easy to lose track of time and when you ate something last, which will ultimately lead to a bonk—a big dip in blood-sugar and energy that can leave you exhausted, hungry and angry (aka,  "hangry").

More: Fueling for Peak Marathon Performance

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