Athletes competing in ultra-endurance events are advised to meet energy requirements, to supply appropriate amounts of carbohydrates (CHO), and to be adequately hydrated before and during exercise. In practice, these recommendations may not be followed because of satiety, gastrointestinal discomfort, and fatigue. The purpose of the study was to assess energy balance, macronutrient intake and hydration status before and during a 1,230-km bike marathon. A group of 14 well-trained participants (VO2max: 63.2 ± 3.3 ml/kg/min) completed the marathon after 42:47 hr. Ad libitum food and fluid intake were monitored throughout the event. Energy expenditure (EE) was derived from power output and urine and blood markers were collected before the start, after 310, 618, and 921 km, after the finish, and 12 hr after the finish. Energy intake (EI; 19,749 ± 4,502 kcal) was lower than EE (25,303 ± 2,436 kcal) in 12 of 14 athletes. EI and CHO intake (average: 57.1 ± 17.7 g/hr) decreased significantly after km 618 (p < .05). Participants ingested on average 392 ± 85 ml/hr of fluid, but fluid intake decreased after km 618 (p < .05). Hydration appeared suboptimal before the start (urine specific gravity: 1.022 ± 0.010 g/ml) but did not change significantly throughout the event. The results show that participants failed to maintain in energy balance and that CHO and fluid intake dropped below recommended values during the second half of the bike marathon. Individual strategies to overcome satiety and fatigue may be necessary to improve eating and drinking behavior during prolonged ultra-endurance exercise.
Geesmann and Koehler are with the Institute of Biochemistry, and Mester the Institute of Training Science and Sport Informatics, German Sport University, Cologne, Germany.