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ULTRA RUNNING | 2.07.2020 | Elisabeth Forte & Lukas Naegele

From nutritional science and training teachings, we know that balanced nutrition accelerates recovery. Indeed, not only during training is the correct nutritional intake essential, but also during races themselves can it determine success or failure. What the body needs during ultras and what the stomach during such intense physical exertion can handle must be tried out during pre-race training But how do you approach this? It is precisely the newbies in the ultra world who are totally bombarded with nutritional information. So we asked a few folks who know what to do – ultra athletes and sports scientists.

Paleo: Hannes Namberger (Dynafit athlete)

Paleo principle – In general, Hannes relies on predominately on meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds for nutrition. Processed foods such as wheat, sugar and dairy products belong to “stone age nutrition” and were never on the menu for hunters and gatherers. This method of nutrition seems to do him well because his achievements in ultrarunning speak for themselves. Hannes also lets us in on a few other musts:


• Drink, drink, drink! In races, he plans on three-quarters of a liter per hour.

• Tolerance needs to be tried out in training: When it comes to eating or drinking on race day, nothing goes into Hannes’ pack that hasn’t already been tried in training.

• First low carb, then carbo loading: Starting seven days and up to three days prior to a race, Hannes eats very few carbohyrates, but instead relies on fish and vegetables. Three days prior to race day, he then starts eating primarily carbohydrates in the form of potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, vegetables and coconut milk.


Nutrition during the race

o   Shorter distances (30-50k): isotonic sports electrolyte drinks, gels and possibly 1-2 energy bars.

o   Longer distances (50k and up): In addition, to the above, Hannes adds to his nutritional intake dates, bananas and potatoes. Now and again, he has a cola, but then only shortly before the finish.


Balanced: Malene Blikken Haukøy (DYNAFIT athlete)

For Malene, the most important thing is to consume balanced nutrition and, in particular, varied foods.  Indeed, she has experimented a lot when it comes to what her body can and cannot handle during intense exertion. She now knows that too much sugar during a race tends to upset her stomach more than it delivers energy. Her key to success is to drink regularly during activity, as well as in between workouts and on recovery days:


• Sparkling water: For many, fluids with carbonation is a no-go during intense physical exercise, but Malene loves it.

• Non-alcoholic beer: What for many athletes counts as a reward is what Malene also drinks during training and also in races. In drinking beer sans alcohol, she not only is staying hydrating, but also replacing entire meals.

• On the morning of races, she consumes easily digestible foods. White bread and traditional oatmeal are then also on the menu.

Organic and regional: Klaus Gösweiner (DYNAFIT athlete)

Klaus an ultrarunner through and through. He prepares and trains meticulously for his projects, and thus meals are a solid part of his training plan just as is proper nutrition. Meals for him means consuming fresh and regionally sources organic products. He has also been paying particularly careful attention for a number of years to integrating an increased amount of high-quality protein into his diet. He treats himself to small snacks and nibbles in between, but not all so often:


• Nutrition is simple! For Klaus there are very few rules when it comes to energy intake during ultrarunning: Eating and drinking sufficiently of what the body can best digest. “Everybody has to find their own system – proof is in the trying!”

• No gels: He tries not to consumer energy gels because they can drive blood glucose levels up. And your energy is sapped then just as quickly. Every up as well as every down is counterproductive and stresses the body. Preferably a banana that provides long-chain sugars.

• No fiber before the race: In the last days prior to a race, Klaus avoids fiber-rich foods and therefore limits his consumption of fruit and vegetables nearlyl entirely. That’s because roughabe can stress your digestion on race day. Protein and carbohydrates are high on his plan in this phase.


Nutritional tips from Dr. Verena Menz (sports scientist)

Verena is a PhD in sports science with her degree from the University of Innsbruck, plus she runs a business setting up and guiding training plans. From her own experience, she knows that a balanced nutritional intake is really the key to success.


• Carbohydrates and electrolyte beverages: No surprise, carbohydrate-rich foods such as potatoes, pasta and rice are indispensable for athletes. To that add sodium-rich fluids to keep your body’s electrolyte system in balance.

• Classic muesli cereal: Verena swears by muesli cereal with bananas in particular prior to workouts. It is easy to digest, offers long-acting energy, and tastes great.


Johanna Hiemer, née Erhart (Dynafit athlete)

As a performance athlete and mother, Johanna knows what is needed for a balanced nutritional intake. For her, it’s a given to eat healthy foods. But for Johanna her view is not so narrow when it comes to sweets. Because “You can’t shortchange the enjoyment factor,” she says.


• Eating is an enjoyment not an obligation: Johanna follows no specific diet plan but eats what she feels like eating. Since she also likes to cooks, mostly fresh ingredients are tossed into the mix.

• Coconut water in the hydration reservoir: During races, Johanna swears by coconut water. That not only tastes good but is also super healthy.

• Snickers candy bars, cola and salty crackers: These are her secret recipe during races.

• Antacids: When running, Johanna always battles with heartburn. She gets a solid handle on that, however, with common antacids found in stores.


Bottom line: nutrition for ultrarunners

Eating and drinking has become a common topic in society and is always vital for athletes. Especially during extreme exertion, such as ultrarunning, the correct fuel both in training and in races is a decisive factor. To that end, there is not one set rule that all top athletes follow. More so, every athlete must find their own recipe. With healthy, balanced nutrition and good hydration, every ultrarunner is well equipped for coming challenges. It is essential to test fuels for races in advance during training so no unhappy surprises await you on the big day. Apart from that, every body works a little differently.

The proper nutrition for ultrarunning - the logic and illogic of pasta parties

The basics: Why is nutrition so essential for endurance athletes?

Lukas Naegele, sport scientist and sports marketing manager at DYNAFIT, is himself a successful trail runner. He knows why it’s so important for trail running athletes and ultrarunners to eat well – even when the topic of nutrition is such an extremely varied and complex one. as he says. 

For general training, it is normally all about improving metabolism by means of training stimulus. Using various intensities, we control the use of energy and produce adaptations that make us able to perform better. A lot of people think training is all about energy output, but energy intake, also known as “nutrition” is just as important.


When it comes to the topic of nutrition, it is critical to differentiate between races and training. Our body’s carbohydrate stores are limited and should never be completely empty. If you don’t refuel during a race, you may experience what runners call, “a crash.” Otherwise, you may hit the dreaded wall. Thus, during races and in particular when ultrarunning, it’s key to ensure a regular intake of carbohydrates. Be mindful, however, studies show that the human organism is only able to take up a maximum of 90 g per hour of carbohydrates, and then only in a ratio of glucose to fructose of about 2:1 (i.e. 60 g glucose to 30 g fructose. Of course, the intake is quite dependent on the body’s constitution. A good individual guideline is 1g/kg of body weight per hour. In the process, it’s enormously critical to practice the consumption of carbohydrates in training before races. In that way, you can test how well you can tolerate the different products (gels, bars, etc.). Ultimately, tolerance and preference are extremely particular to the individual, so be sure you test out all of the different products out there before choosing what is best for you.


While a regular and plentiful consumption of carbohydrates must be consumed directly before and during a race, one can forgo carbohydrates during workouts to train their metabolism. It is essential that you keep your training to a lower intensity, and it is key after each training session that you directly consume carbohydrates (short chain are good). By doing so, this enables the largest possible training stimulus and then triggers the subsequent recovery.