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Mountain marathons are 2-d, self-supported adventure races, during which competitors must carry all nutritional requirements to sustain athletic effort. This requires a compromise between the energy required to perform and the weight penalty of carrying it. We have undertaken a nutritional survey of event competitors in the UK using a questionnaire-based approach and have monitored dehydration during the event. We found that competitors in longer-distance classes (> 50 km) carry significantly less mass of food, which is more energy dense, but that the calorific value is lower than that of competitors in shorter classes. Carbohydrate and protein consumption both positively associated with performance. Competitors became progressively dehydrated throughout the event. Counterintuitively, the better-performing subjects became the most dehydrated. Competitors at all distances should make more effort to rehydrate during breaks in the event. Competitors at shorter distances could choose more energy-dense foods to reduce weight penalty.
The authors are with the Human Nutrition Unit, Division of Clinical Sciences North, University of Sheffield, Northern General Hospital, Herries Road, Sheffield, S5 7AU England.