The physiological effects of endurance exercise have been a primary area of research in exercise science for many years. This research has led not only to a greater understanding of human physiology but also the limits of human performance. This is especially true regarding the effects of endurance exercise on energy metabolism and nutrition. However, as science has attempted to understand the physiological and nutritional demands of endurance exercise lasting 1 to 3 hours, an increasing number of athletes have begun participating in ultraendurance events lasting 4 to 24 hours. Consequently some research groups are now investigating the physiological responses to ultraendurance training and performance. This paper reviews the literature on ultraendurance performance and discusses nutritional factors that may affect bioenergetic, thermoregulatory, endocrinological, and hematological responses to ultraendurance performance.
Richard B. Kreider is with the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, Human Performance Lab, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA 23529–0196.