If you are a distance runner you have been asked this question repeatedly. “Do you eat while you run? What do you eat? That doesn't even sound good!” But for us experienced ultra-runners, we look forward to squirting baby food type gels in our mouths or having a peanut butter and pickle sandwich. Am I right?
We got together with Team Injinji runner and Coach Meghan Canfield on all things nutrition while training and racing during an ultra-marathon.
Meghan joined our team in 2010 during the World’s Waldo 100k in Oregon. She ran road marathons for years and loved running far but wanted more adventure and to be pushed to the next level. Her first ultra-experience wasn’t the best (too many hills), but she continued to run as she liked the smaller subculture of the trails, the races were never sold out and were easy to get into, and she just simply loved the community. Today Meghan has 12 Western States finishes that are under 24 hours. In ten of twelve of these races, she was in the top 10, with one year finishing in 2nd place.
Below are Meghan’s top tips for what works for her through her many years of experience participating in this endurance sport.
Race Week Nutrition
- A few days before race day cut out all cruciferous veggies.
- Eat more plain complex carbs such as whole wheat bread, sweet potatoes, or potato chips.
The day before a race Meghan usually eats a nice burger with fries for lunch. This gives her plenty of protein from the red meat and is eaten in the middle of the day so that there is plenty of time to digest.
The night before a race is a meal that includes salmon and mashed potatoes which is a good combination of protein, carbs and healthy fats.
Stick to the same thing you eat every morning! Which in Meghan’s case is white rice, eggs and avocado. She consumes this two hours before the race. About a couple minutes before the start, she takes a GU brand gel. During the race, it is important to be strategic with your nutrition. 10 minutes BEFORE you get to the aid station, plan on what you are going to grab to eat. Meghan’s go-to are bananas, fig bars (or other fruit bars), a little Coke, and soup during long races when the temperature goes down. Between aid stations she keeps her energy up by continuing to take GU gels or GU waffles; about 2-3 every hour. Other nutrition necessities include salt pills, electrolytes and of course, water.
The Finish Line
Believe it or not, most ultra-runners are not able to eat right away when they cross the finish line.
After a race, it is good to drink a ton of water, even though one may not feel dehydrated.
If it is hot, Meghan does look forward to watermelon and cold beverages, but usually consumes her big meal the morning after a race.
Follow Coach Meghan on social media (@runningmegleg) for more tips on coaching and nutrition that works for her as she trains for the Jed Smith 50k, TDS (Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie), the Volvic Volcanic Experience 110k in France, and Western States (2022).