No more 'bonking' – my nutrition for ultras

One area I tackled, in my recent Edinburgh talk, was my struggle with nutritional issues during long ultras, over many years. I explained that vomiting issues in 2004 got so bad that, at times, I wondered if I would ever solve my own nutritional puzzle.

I summarised the issues with some slides showing what I consider I had been doing wrong and what I am  now, which has resulted in such huge improvements.

What had I been doing wrong?

Too heavily influenced by high carb research
Too much fluid & drinks too strong ie carb % too high – more than 6%
OR not enough = acid stomach
Eating/drinking to a timed schedule too much
Not listening to my body – didn’t have the confidence to take in less energy
Didn’t have the confidence to trust my fat-burning ability
Trying to be too clever

Day-to-Day Nutrition
1990s: Very high carb 70% +
2000s: Reduction in refined carbs; virtual elimination of refined carbs (sugar, flour etc)
2012: Moved to a well-formulated Low Carb: High Fat diet
Carbs typically 40-80g a day
Very comfortable with this

My current successful In-Race Nutrition
(I need ‘something’ to prevent acid-stomach but not much)

Every 2 hours: 50g of melted ice cream (approx 140kcals)
(arrived at from trial & error at Training Camps)
Every hour: 100ml fluid (water, electrolyte water, alcohol-free beer, soup etc)
Mouth Rinses with water for dry mouth
Then drink more if I feel thirsty.
When stomach rumbles (usually after 50+ hours!) I’ll feel confident enough to eat more ice cream and/or other things: more soup, bacon & eggs etc
Palatability – Digestibility – Availability

A final quote:

“It’s not how many calories you can consume during an event, it’s how few you can consume without slowing yourself down.
What you want is something small, something that puts just the right amount of calories back in and does not waste your body’s energy trying to digest more than you can actually use.”
Bill Nicolai, American triathlete