Recently I ran the Cactus Rose 50 Mile Ultramarathon (also my first Ultra). The entire race was fueled on mostly raw foods, mainly Bearded Brothers bars. The Cactus Rose is known for being a nasty, rugged course in the Texas Hill Country, near Bandera. The race is entirely self-supported, which means you place your own food at the aid stations rather than the race providing the food. This is ideal because most races of this nature usually fill the aid station table full of processed foods such as M&M’s, Coke, Gatorade, and Gummy Bears.
Ultramarathons are vastly different than marathons, in that you need more fuel over a longer period of time. Most ultras are run on trails, thus decreasing your typical marathon pace and increasing the time it takes you to finish. This means you need the best source of fuel possible, and lots of calories over an extended period of time. Depending on the course it may take you twice as long to run the same distance as it would on roads.
While running an ultra marathon you will burn up to 600 calories an hour, and will need to consume at least 280 calories per hour. This is said to be the most the body can process in an hour, so you essentially run at a deficit (your body will begin to burn stored fat as a source of fuel). So it’s important to eat natural foods high in calories; that is why the Bearded Brothers bars come in handy, each bar is nearly 300 calories. The resalable pouch is also nice for putting half eaten bars back into your pocket or hydration pack.
The race took just over 13 hours to complete, not a record by any stretch, but Along with the bars, I drank a homemade sports drink, which was a mixture of water, coconut water, and lemon juice. The coconut water and lemon juice served as electrolyte replenishment, which is essential for any endurance sport. The temps were fairly cool on race day so no salt was added to the mixture, which is usually necessary on hot summer days. I did consume salt capsules, just to be on the safe side. Salt also helps the body absorb the water you drink properly.
Another reason why Bearded Brothers bars are great for fueling all day activity is the high amounts of simple carbs. Since the bars are date based (and the first ingredient) you get a load of simple carbohydrates, which convert quickly to fuel. The bars also contain nuts, which are great for complex carbs and long lasting energy.
When running an ultra marathon, or partaking in any other all day activity, such as hiking, cycling or rock climbing it’s important to remember to eat every hour to ensure you don’t bonk. It would be quite possible to fuel your entire ultra on Bearded Brothers bars alone. During my run I consumed nine bars, I took along all four flavors so I didn’t grow tired of any one. I also consumed more Ginger Peach bars than I typically eat to help combat inflammation (ginger is a great anti-inflammatory, along with walnuts).
Along with good nutrition it’s important to have a strong head. It has been said that anybody can finish an Ultramarathon. It’s all about constantly telling yourself you can do it. Really it’s 100% mental. The longest training run is typically 25-30 miles. So, it’s important to tell yourself not to quit. As long as you can move one foot in front of another you can finish; and you WILL be able to do that as long as you eat enough food, drink enough water and put in the training miles. For my training I only ran 3 days a week. The most miles I put in during a week was 40 (maybe not even that many).
With good nutrition, a modest amount of training and a solid mind, YOU can complete an ultramarathon.
Other great raw foods for fueling your endurance sports (many of which were consumed during my first ultra marathon)
- Bananas, contain about 90 calories each
- Almonds Butter
- Crystalized ginger (to help ease potential stomach discomfort and for taste)
- Trail mix, with sunflower seeds (a salted mix is definitely a good choice)
- Raisins (I often add salt to mine)
- Avocados (if you can keep them fresh)
- Fresh Dates
- Dried Mangos (very portable)
- Other fruits
- Coconut Water with Lemon and/or Lime Juice (salt optional)