In this article we summarize the specific characteristics of the ultradistance diet. Since these athletes have high energy and nutrient requirements.
The diet for ultra-distance should take into account that they are one-day or staged tests. lasting longer than 4-6 hours in a walking race or 12 hours by bicycle. Examples are Ironman triathlon, ultra marathons or ultratrails.
The ultra-distance diet has to strengthen the strength and power of the athlete, while helping to reduce body fat. The feeding of the triathlete must be varied and based on fresh and seasonal foods. The 5 meals should be adjusted to the level of training of the athlete.
Ultradistance diet: They are tests of medium intensity; the triathletes with more experience can reach 55-65% of the VO2max, maximum volume of oxygen that the organism can transport in a minute.
To maximize performance and avoid fatigue, muscle and liver glycogen must be conserved and aerobic resistance activated with diet and training. It is necessary to prepare the body so that it can obtain energy from fats and not only from muscle glycogen.
As the tests are so long, there is a negative energy balance, so hydration with sports drinks is even more important than in the diet of standard triathletes.
Energy demands in ultradistance
The ultradistance diet for sports nutritionists plan two completely different phases. If you need to lose weight and fat, you have to make adjustments and follow a slightly hypocaloric diet without your resistance and potency being resented.
In times of intense preparation, the diet with more calories is adjusted in the form of low glycemic carbohydrates and unsaturated fats (nuts, virgin olive oil, and avocado, olives …). Increasing aerobic resistance you have to avoid possible injuries or gastrointestinal discomfort.
As carbohydrates are the main fuel of the body, you should consume them in sufficient quantities, very well distributed. Preferably those with lower glycemic index (pasta, bread, rice -better whole-, new potatoes, quinoa, vegetables, fruit, …) Remember that you should eat them in an adequate proportion with respect to the rest of the nutrients: 40% hydrates-30% proteins- 30% fats.
You must eat 7-10 g HC / Kg / day. Increase to 9-12 g / Kg / day in times that you train more than 2 hours a day or that double training. Try to train tolerance to carbohydrates to reach the gram per minute test and thus maximize your performance.
It is very important to meet the energy requirements with the correct dose of carbohydrates. Avoiding use of proteins as fuel. In addition, carbohydrates at the correct dose reduce the possibility of injury and activate defenses.
Proteins are essential to repair muscle damage and improve potency. You must eat 1.2-1.4 g / Kg / day of legumes, fish, eggs, poultry, meat, dairy, To guarantee at least 6 grams of essential amino acids each day.
You should include monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocado) and polyunsaturated fats (blue fish, nuts, seeds) at each meal and snack, to avoid the tendency to accumulate Kcal in the form of fat and improve aerobic resistance, by burning or oxidizing with more efficiency fats and thus be able to conserve muscle glycogen more time.
Increase the consumption of foods rich in antioxidants such as olive oil, red pepper and grated carrot in salads, fruits (especially red and purple fruits) and fresh and seasonal vegetables. To avoid oxidative stress or damage caused by radicals free that generates this type of intense efforts.
Hydration in ultradistance
You must acquire the habit of drinking every 10-15 minutes even if you do not feel thirsty. When you feel thirsty, it will be too late to prevent fatigue.
Take into account the environment in which your training and / or your competitions take place. The higher the temperature and humidity, the greater the loss of water and electrolytes. Therefore you should increase your fluid intake, to avoid possible dehydration states, which would decrease your performance.
In general, 6-8 ml / kg / hour of exercise or 150-200 ml of fluid is recommended every 15-20 min. Before and after the swimming test, drink a glass of water. Try not to swallow salt water during the trip, because being hypertonic, dehydrates you and can generate intestinal discomfort.
To check your losses, you can weigh yourself before and after the training or competition to better adjust the fluid intake. Avoid possible dehydration states, which would reduce your resistance. Ideally, the variation in weight is less than 1% after the exercise, losses greater than 2% imply a much lower performance. At the end of the test, at the most you must have lost between 1 and 1.5 kg. For every half Kg of lost weight you should ingest 750 ml of sports drink. If you have gained weight you should drink less fluid in your next training or competition.
Select sports drinks with sodium, to replenish electrolytes and retain hydration more effectively. Suitable isotonic drinks with 6-8% carbohydrates and 20-50 mmol of sodium (0.460-1.150 g / L). Take 2-3 glasses before the start ( 5-7 ml / kg of weight about 4 hours before the start). And another glass, an hour and a half before the test.
The nutritional planning is very important. So important is what you eat as when you eat it. When you spend many hours training you should plan very well enough breaks to eat during the day. It is about ensuring sufficient supply of energy, nutrients and liquids. More if possible when your competition includes many trips.
Never exercise on an empty stomach; it includes carbohydrates of low glycemic load in all your meals, since it is the main fuel of your sports discipline.
As you can see in our post about types of sports disciplines, the most frequent problems that you can face in ultradistance are: excess training, injury due to overload and poor dietary planning. All of them can be minimized with small variations in your diet.
Your sports nutritionist can also help you plan of the ultradistance diet. If you have any allergies, intolerance, complicated work schedules or if you have to travel for a competition or vacation.
Diet two days before the test
The days before you must take care of muscle glycogen levels, lowering the intensity of the training and ingesting 7-9 g / Kg / day of carbohydrates.
It is very important to ensure a good night’s sleep in order to be able to perform on the day of the race to the maximum.
Ultradistance Diet of the day
Do not try any new food, avoid fried, spicy, salty foods or very fatty or high fiber preparations. Because at higher intensity of exercise, you are more likely to feel bad (diarrhea or gastrointestinal discomfort).
Breakfast 2 or 3 hours before the race to replenish glycogen reserves, around 3-4 g of HC / Kg, always accompanied by protein (turkey, ham, tuna, egg, fresh cheese, hummus …). For a triathlete of 65 Kg it would be about 195 g of carbohydrates (whole grains, bread, fruit …):
- skimmed yogurt with cereals (100 g) and honey (20g).
- white bread (120 g) with fresh cheese (70 g) and quince (25 g).
- an Apple.
Another option is to ingest 3 g HC / kg 3 hours before starting the test and 1 g HC / kg or a gel that provides 30 g HC, always accompanied by water to facilitate digestibility, 1 hour before starting the test. Stop drinking or eating one hour before starting the test.
What to eat and drink during the ultra-distance diet
If the ultra-distance test is by bike, try to drink every 15-20 minutes and take a gel or a small bar every 10 km. Other alternatives are: fruits and dried fruits (bananas, raisins, dried apricots …), lean meats or dark chocolate sandwiches. When sitting, the stomach is not subject to as much stress as in the races on foot, keep in mind that if you take a lot of solid food can delay gastric emptying, slowing the release of energy and absorption of fluids. Check in this link the guideline of an elite athlete.
If it is an ultradistance diet race, plan the refreshments to be able to make a correct intake of liquids and hydrates. The intake of small amounts of glucose fructose or maltodextrin, or rinsing the mouth with isotonic drink can delay fatigue and improve performance, is believed to stimulate brain receptors and has nothing to do with muscle performance.
During the test drink 600-800 ml of water or isotonic drink, the recommendation is to drink 150-200 ml every 15-20 minutes. Sodium prevents hyponatremia (a blood sodium concentration less than normal -140 mmol / L-) and muscle cramps.
Every 10 km you could take a gel with caffeine (always accompanied by water) since caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and decreases the perception of effort. Its maximum effect is at 60 minutes after its intake and the recommended dose is 1 to 6 mg / kg of weight.
At the end of the race, the consumption of carbohydrates should be reduced to 40 g / h to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort, although experienced athletes can tolerate up to 60 g per hour.
Food at the end
At the end of the test you should hydrate yourself with a recovery drink and take carbohydrates easily assimilated as fruit, and protein easily digested as dairy. With the following meals you must replenish muscle glycogen levels.
Triathlete’s diet when traveling
Normally in hotels there is usually enough offers, but to ensure snacks and breakfast on the day of the test you can bring fruit, nuts and lean meats.
Ultradistance diet supplements
Never try any supplement on the day of the test. Sports drinks, gels, bars or shakes are almost always necessary in a diet for ultradistance. The recommended carbohydrate intake during the test is 60 g / hour. Better mixtures of glucose and fructose 2 to 1 with a higher oxidation rate.
Take an Energy max ampoule before leaving (leave it in the mouth 2-3 minutes before swallowing), another at Km 10 and another at Km 30, to combat pre-competition stress and prevent fatigue (if your wall is at Km 30, take the vial at km 20).
During the test you can take an energy bar or an Etixx gel to maintain the level of resistance and avoid fatigue.
Use a recovery drink with a contribution of sodium, carbohydrates and hydrolysed protein in a 4: 1 ratio (1 g HC / kg and 0.2 g protein / kg). At the end of the test your ultradistance diet should provide easily assimilated hydrates and proteins to regenerate muscle glycogen and muscle micro-tears. In addition, seasonal vegetables and nuts recover tissue acidosis very well.
For muscle development and recovery it is very important to increase the consumption of branched amino acids, including 1 scoop of whey protein enriched in BCA (Leucine, isoleucine and valine) after your workouts.
If you have any pathology, allergy or intolerance, put yourself in the hands of our Sports Nutritionists to customize your ultra-long-term diet.