Saturday, July 9, 2011

7/9/11: My New Ultrarunning Nutrition Plan

Nutrition issues have plagued my running for several years. In most races since Vermont 2008, my stomach acted up to some degree, often resulting in a DNF. It's ridiculous to have the legs and lungs to run 100 miles but have my stomach hold me back!

Along the way I figured out that the first problem was I wasn't drinking the right amount based on conditions. Mainly I was drinking too much early on in races, particularly when it wasn't hot.

I've learned much more about how much I need to hydrate in various conditions. My fluid intake needs vary from 5-10 ounces per hour during cold weather all the way up to about 30 ounces per hour during the warmest weather. 30 ounces per hour is also right at the max of what you can process in an hour, so I typically would not be hitting that level for many hours in a row. I also always hold off on drinking anything for at least 5 miles in cold weather and 3 miles in warm weather. This helps me not fill up on water from the start makes it easier for me to start taking in calories early on. This is completely counter to the "drink early" theory, but hey, it works for me.

I was still having problems though even after dialing in the hydration. Then Greg Zaruba to the rescue! Greg had been recommending Hammer Nutrition to me for a while, and I finally decided to give it a shot.

I can say it has completely changed my running experience. I have had no real stomach problems since starting to use it about two months ago, which has included some long, tough 40 mile runs and lots of running in very hot weather.

First off, they make a gel that far surpasses any I have tried. With all other gels, after about 3 of them, I absolutely cannot stomach any more. Hammer gels are much less sweet tasting and go down very easily. I have had no problems with taking 7-8 gels during a run, and I could happily have more if I needed to. Having a fuel source that I can continue using throughout very long runs is incredibly helpful.

They also make an electrolyte drink mix called HEED that I use up through about 3-4 hours of running. Aside from the electrolytes, HEED is also a great way to get about 200 additional calories per bottle. I often go with part HEED mix and part plain water in the first several hours of long runs.

Perpetuem is a drink mix they design specifically for endurance fueling beyond 3-4 hours. A bottle mixed with Perpetuem has about 400 calories, and it has some protein in addition to carbohydrates.

Here is what I love about this. Later on in long runs, I sip on Perpetuem while still using water as my main hydration source. Even if it take me two hours to finish the Perpetuem, the 400 calories I get is close to all that I need. You can't absorb more than 250-300 calories an hour anyway, so all I have to do is take 1-2 gels over that same time. Even if my stomach isn't 100%, it has never been at all difficult to drink a bottle of Perpetuem over a few hours.

Finally, they make a bar that has about 250 calories. It is still good to have some solid food from time to time, so it is a good addition to the gels and powder mixes. This bar has worked better for me than any other solid bar I've had before (such as Clif bars). I think it is because it is a bit softer and seems to break down more easily to make it easier to digest.

I have been able to very easily get through an 8 hour run with 5-6 gels, a bottle of HEED, 1-2 bottles of Perpetuem, and a Hammer bar. My runs have been a whole lot more fun, and I can't tell you how nice it is not to have my stomach feeling terrible during long runs!

I know I sound like a spokeperson for Hammer, but these products have helped me out immensely, and I hope this ends up helping someone else out as well!

Oh, and note to self, always listen to Greg on all things!

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