Ultramarathon running events and participation numbers have increased progressively over the past three decades. Besides the exertion of prolonged running with or without a loaded pack, such events are often associated with challenging topography, environmental conditions, acute transient lifestyle discomforts, and/or event-related health complications. These factors create a scenario for greater nutritional needs, while predisposing ultramarathon runners to multiple nutritional intake barriers. The current review aims to explore the physiological and nutritional demands of ultramarathon running and provide general guidance on nutritional requirements for ultramarathon training and competition, including aspects of race nutrition logistics. Research outcomes suggest that daily dietary carbohydrates (up to 12 g·kg−1·day−1) and multiple-transportable carbohydrate intake (∼90 g·hr−1 for running distances ≥3 hr) during exercise support endurance training adaptations and enhance real-time endurance performance. Whether these intake rates are tolerable during ultramarathon competition is questionable from a practical and gastrointestinal perspective. Dietary protocols, such as glycogen manipulation or low-carbohydrate high-fat diets, are currently popular among ultramarathon runners. Despite the latter dietary manipulation showing increased total fat oxidation rates during submaximal exercise, the role in enhancing ultramarathon running performance is currently not supported. Ultramarathon runners may develop varying degrees of both hypohydration and hyperhydration (with accompanying exercise-associated hyponatremia), dependent on event duration, and environmental conditions. To avoid these two extremes, euhydration can generally be maintained through “drinking to thirst.” A well practiced and individualized nutrition strategy is required to optimize training and competition performance in ultramarathon running events, whether they are single stage or multistage.
Ricardo J.S. Costa, Beat Knechtle, Mark Tarnopolsky, and Martin D. Hoffman
Louise M. Burke, Linda M. Castell, Douglas J. Casa, Graeme L. Close, Ricardo J. S. Costa, Ben Desbrow, Shona L. Halson, Dana M. Lis, Anna K. Melin, Peter Peeling, Philo U. Saunders, Gary J. Slater, Jennifer Sygo, Oliver C. Witard, Stéphane Bermon, and Trent Stellingwerff
The International Association of Athletics Federations recognizes the importance of nutritional practices in optimizing an Athlete’s well-being and performance. Although Athletics encompasses a diverse range of track-and-field events with different performance determinants, there are common goals around nutritional support for adaptation to training, optimal performance for key events, and reducing the risk of injury and illness. Periodized guidelines can be provided for the appropriate type, amount, and timing of intake of food and fluids to promote optimal health and performance across different scenarios of training and competition. Some Athletes are at risk of relative energy deficiency in sport arising from a mismatch between energy intake and exercise energy expenditure. Competition nutrition strategies may involve pre-event, within-event, and between-event eating to address requirements for carbohydrate and fluid replacement. Although a “food first” policy should underpin an Athlete’s nutrition plan, there may be occasions for the judicious use of medical supplements to address nutrient deficiencies or sports foods that help the athlete to meet nutritional goals when it is impractical to eat food. Evidence-based supplements include caffeine, bicarbonate, beta-alanine, nitrate, and creatine; however, their value is specific to the characteristics of the event. Special considerations are needed for travel, challenging environments (e.g., heat and altitude); special populations (e.g., females, young and masters athletes); and restricted dietary choice (e.g., vegetarian). Ideally, each Athlete should develop a personalized, periodized, and practical nutrition plan via collaboration with their coach and accredited sports nutrition experts, to optimize their performance.
Alan J. McCubbin, Bethanie A. Allanson, Joanne N. Caldwell Odgers, Michelle M. Cort, Ricardo J.S. Costa, Gregory R. Cox, Siobhan T. Crawshay, Ben Desbrow, Eliza G. Freney, Stephanie K. Gaskell, David Hughes, Chris Irwin, Ollie Jay, Benita J. Lalor, Megan L.R. Ross, Gregory Shaw, Julien D. Périard, and Louise M. Burke
It is the position of Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA) that exercise in hot and/or humid environments, or with significant clothing and/or equipment that prevents body heat loss (i.e., exertional heat stress), provides significant challenges to an athlete’s nutritional status, health, and performance. Exertional heat stress, especially when prolonged, can perturb thermoregulatory, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal systems. Heat acclimation or acclimatization provides beneficial adaptations and should be undertaken where possible. Athletes should aim to begin exercise euhydrated. Furthermore, preexercise hyperhydration may be desirable in some scenarios and can be achieved through acute sodium or glycerol loading protocols. The assessment of fluid balance during exercise, together with gastrointestinal tolerance to fluid intake, and the appropriateness of thirst responses provide valuable information to inform fluid replacement strategies that should be integrated with event fuel requirements. Such strategies should also consider fluid availability and opportunities to drink, to prevent significant under- or overconsumption during exercise. Postexercise beverage choices can be influenced by the required timeframe for return to euhydration and co-ingestion of meals and snacks. Ingested beverage temperature can influence core temperature, with cold/icy beverages of potential use before and during exertional heat stress, while use of menthol can alter thermal sensation. Practical challenges in supporting athletes in teams and traveling for competition require careful planning. Finally, specific athletic population groups have unique nutritional needs in the context of exertional heat stress (i.e., youth, endurance/ultra-endurance athletes, and para-sport athletes), and specific adjustments to nutrition strategies should be made for these population groups.