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“Rest” During Training? What Does That Even Mean?

Introduction

As some of you may know I attempted my first hundred miler during the month of March. While the event had an unfavorable ending due to a fall my training taught me a great deal about how important rest is. During that time I was researching and having discussions with my coach as to what this entails. The one thing he said that stood out was that rest was possibly far more important than the training itself.

How the pros train has mostly been a secret. If they do divulge on their training methods it has been in a book or training programs you need to purchase. Even in this instance, it has not been down to the exact detail of how they did it.

Jim Walmsley has blasted the door wide open with showing each of his runs on Strava.
Jim is one of the Coconino Cowboys, more commonly referred to as “The Cowboys” in ultra trail running. His story is definitely one to read up on.
What makes his training exceptional is that he runs in the range of 120-170km a week. To add to the mystery even further, is that these runs are often done at high intensity. The first question that came to mind for me was how does he achieve this without getting injured!? The theory, as mentioned above, tells us that rest is just as if not more important than the actual training. This sparked a few weeks of frantic research on the concept of muscle recovery and “rest”. Clearly, Jim is incorporating rest in a different manner as to the traditional rest day.

What does rest mean?

To my amazement, I discovered that “rest days”don’t actually mean you sit and do nothing. In fact athletes and patients that have muscle and or tendon injuries that are stagnant in fact recover slower from injuries than those that don’t. The only reason this was a starting point… was that when searching for rest after exercise the majority of hits were more about injury recovery. Right, so during injury recovery you should not be completely immobile. Why though, surely lying down, sleeping and eating would be optimal? Just on this point, one could submit an article to the medical journals of the science why movement assists in injury recovery. Research further reveals that slight stretching should be incorporated daily combined with foam rolling. Here however they hammer on that the muscles be warm before doing so, and that the intensity is very light. This can be achieved with a warm shower or bath, and or warm packs before doing stretches and foam rolling.

I was able to deduce that injury recovery entails movement of some sort if you wanted to heal faster. This still doesn’t answer what to do for recovery between exercises. However, it does bring us closer to understanding “rest”. Clearly, if injury rest and recovery process entails movement then it would be correct to assume that muscles recovery or in short “rest” needs to include muscle movement.

When is this “rest” period though? For most of us, we think of it as the “off days” or rather the days where we don’t run. Some incorporate cross training on days they don’t run to train other muscle groups around the ones they use for running. The point is we associate the rest time with the days we don’t run. How does that relate to Jim or Ryan Sandes, South African 100 mile champion and red bull runner, who doesn’t take many if any rest days? The truth is… “rest” period for them starts as soon as the exercise comes to an end.

Maximising Rest Period

When your running activity comes to an end, the gap between the end of your current activity and the start of the next activity is essentially a rest period. What the professionals do is they maximize this period by aiding the recovery period. Thus making the hours between activities be as effective as doing nothing for a day or two. This became very apparent when filtering through articles that have been written on effective training and the average day of a pro runner.

Let’s have a look at the summarised “routine” of a pro or a semi-pro athlete:

  • Wake up and consume water with supplements;
  • Eat breakfast;
  • Hot Shower;
  • Stretch and foam roll while muscles are warm;
  • Warm up and exercise for the day;
  • Warm down;
  • Post-exercise drink recovery drink that is pre-made;
  • Stretch and foam roll;
  • Eat;
  • Ice bath or Ocean bath;
  • Nap 3h;
  • Eat;
  • Walk;
  • Hot Epson salt bath;
  • Stretch and foam roll;
  • Drink Supplements;
  • Sleep 8h.

This has been the rough design that I have come up with after combining some of the articles I have read. This excludes Lyno and massage therapists days.

From the above, we can clearly see that “rest” starts as soon as the activity ends. This is also extremely time-consuming for a non-professional athlete. It would almost be impossible to incorporate a normal working day into this. I say almost but I can’t see myself being able to do all of that effectively and work a full days work. Does this mean we should throw in the towel because what’s the point then? Absolutely NOT, what it does give us though is the insight into the concept of the loosely used term “rest”. From this, we might be able to shorten the number of days we “take off” or, more importantly for me, can make the long run days post-exercise feel more comfortable. Not to mention, make the Monday post a hard training weekend feel a little less blue.

Framework

While the above gives a high-level framework it doesn’t go into detail as to what exact stretches, foam roll exercises, length of ice-bath, the amount of Epson salts per liter of hot water nor the exact supplements or diet. What a framework like this does do though is help with incorporating routine and discipline.
I am personally in the process of implementing a framework like this for myself, only been toying around with the exact structure for the last week after weeks of research. Below will be the “work in progress” framework for myself, a non-professional ultra trail runner, to give you an idea as to how you might like to incorporate some type of “rest” framework for yourself.

Weekday structure:

  • Wake up and consume water with supplements – 5 min;
  • Prep and Eat breakfast – 20 min;
  • Hot Shower – Depending on water restrictions, if none then 5 min;
  • Stretch and foam roll after a shower – 15 min;
  • Warm up and Exercise for the day – 1h to 1h 30min;
  • Post-exercise recovery drink and quick shower – 5 min;
  • Stretch and foam roll – 15min;

Therefore 2h 5min or 2h 35min before my workday starts;

  • Eat Lunch – 30min;
  • Walk – 30min;
  • Sneak in another meal at the desk;
  • Dinner;
  • Hot Bath, dependant on water restrictions, otherwise a  short shower;
  • Stretch and foam roll – 15min;
  • Sleep 8h.

Weekend structure:

  • Wake up and consume water and supplements – 5 min;
  • Prep and Eat breakfast – 20min;
  • Hot Shower – 5 min (dependant on water restrictions);
  • Stretch and foam roll after shower 15min;
  • Warm up and Exercise for the day – Anything from 1h to 4h;
  • Post-exercise recovery drink and shower – 5min;
  • Stretch and foam roll;
  • Ice bath – 20 min (normally eat during the long run exercises so can wait);
  • Eat a large meal;
  • Nap 3h;
  • Eat;
  • Walk;
  • Hot Epson salt bath 20min (water restriction dependant);
  • Stretch and foam roll – 15min;
  • Drink Supplements;
  • Sleep 8h.

As to the details of the supplements, diet, stretching and rolling exercises, and the training I won’t be sharing on that. Purely because it is going to be different for each person based on the type of running and training they are doing.
I hope that this has been an insightful and fun post to read and would like to hear what you have tried and found to work or just simply your thoughts even if you haven’t tried this before.

One thing is for sure, “rest” does take up a whole lot more time than the actual training. Makes sense why it is just as important as physical training.

Happy running, until next time!!!

Two Oceans Ultra – A Few Ideas and Reminders

Having a few pre-race jitters already? Thinking about how am I going to manage 56km within the required time or at my target pace? How can I improve from last years’ time? Have I really trained enough?
These are a few questions that will be running through more than just one individual’s mind that will be running the Two Oceans Ultra. So yes, you are not alone.

Whether it is a 100 Miler Trail attempt or a 56km Road Ultra attempt there are a few key things I like to keep in mind. I hope that these will come in handy and thus create a memorable experience for your Two Oceans Ultra. Let’s look at a few steps to achieving this.

Step 1: Things you can control.

Finalize things you can control pre-race.
Here I’m referring to registration, on the day transport, arranging seconds, gear check.

Race Registration

Being in Cape Town I would suggest going on Wednesday, or the first day of registration, to collect your race number and Racetec chip. If it’s not your first time, remember to take your old chip with and get them to check it is in good working order.
DO NOT linger around wasting time at registration especially if you are unable to go on the first day. You do not need to add extra time on legs for any reason. If you happen to be going with a group of people that do want to spend time at the expo then arrange to meet them at a coffee shop after.
That being said to make sure that you leave the expo with all the required items you will need for race day such as, race numbers and Racetec chip.

Transportation to the race

Here I would strongly suggest using the Bus provided by the club. It is going to be an absolute nightmare to get to the start in your own transport. It will also be very difficult for anyone to drop you off close to the start. There is simply no need to add-on extra stress or kilometers for the day.
This year however there is no transportation back from the event, therefore organise with someone to collect you, however, I do recommend factoring in some time to enjoy the post-race West Coast Vibe.
For those doing Puffer, this is also a great opportunity to put on your trail shoes and go for a trail run after. This will allow you to get a feeling for what awaits in August, hitting the mountain on tired legs is not something to shrug off.

Seconds

The race is rather well organised and West Coast does have the traditional marathon mark support section. There really shouldn’t be a need for a second in this race. However, if it will make you comfortable having seconds along the route then keep in mind it will be hard for them to move from point to point. I would suggest for multiple seconding points to arrange with different people for each point.

Gear Check

Make sure that you have all your required gear to complete the race prepped and ready two days before. It is not a pleasant experience realising that you don’t have your kit clean or that you left your favorite running cap at a friend’s place the night before. Not to mention that you forgot to get your needed race supplements.

Race Nutrition

Use what you know works for you.
Seriously that’s it, don’t try new things on race day it just will end up making you anxious unnecessarily as you will not know how your system reacts to it.

Don’t get into a shitty situation

Try to go to the loo the night before or in the morning at home before getting on the bus.
Grab a newspaper, magazine, tablet or your phone then sit down and wait for your system to empty itself. There is nothing worse than needing to go unnecessarily on race day.
That being said, run with a few wet wipes in a bank bag or a small ziplock bag just for the off chance nature calls during the race. You do not want to get to a porter loo only to find no toilet paper.

Anti-Chafe Cream and Sunscreen

If you know you chafe then make sure you put on the anti-chafe where needed. Apply liberally as it is going to be a long day out. The same goes for sunscreen. You really do not want to be finding yourself getting roasted. I would recommend applying this at home before heading out to the bus pickup point.

Make sure everything you can control pre-race day is sorted out.
This will help relieve most of the tension.

Step 2: Plan but respect the race.

Understand the race you are about to run, you should know the race profile to the point where you can recite at which kilometer the profile changes and the type of change.

Oceans, for those that haven’t meticulously studied the profile, is a very misleading race the first +-30km. It’s rather flat for the first half and overcooking it from the gun is a huge temptation.
If you are feeling strong then slowdown is my advice for the first 20km. Use the first 20km as a means to get your body warmed up and comfortable. You can always increase your pace later on if needed. Going out too fast will cost you in this race as the climbs are at the end.
I would also strongly suggest joining the clubs long run that recce’s the last part of the route.

When planning your expected pacing take into account that there is going to be traffic at the start.
A big mistake here would be to try running on the pavement and weave in and out amongst runners. It’s risky in terms of falling and wastes large amounts of energy unnecessarily. The field will thin out as the race goes along. REMEMBER TO WATCH OUT FOR CATEYES!
As with any ultra, whether trail or road, it is highly suggested to have a plan A, B, C, D. Things just happen to go wrong the longer the race is. Setup your desired pacing accordingly and know what you will do if something was to go wrong like an upset stomach, blisters, unexpected chafing, etc.
This way you won’t be caught off guard and will also not feel overwhelmed if things don’t go 100% on the day. Also, take note of the weather forecast for the day.
This is what we refer to when we say respect the race, making provisions and acknowledging that no ultra is easy. Knowing the race profile really does help, another thing not to brush off.

Step 3: Race etiquette.

Unfortunately, we have to touch on this subject. There are just a few small things to remember to make it an enjoyable race, not only for you but for others too.
Firstly and foremost is litter. There is absolutely NO EXCUSE not to put the empty water sachets in the bin or to carry them with you to the next bin. I personally will make anyone’s life a living hell for the duration of the race if I see them doing this. The reason being is that the plastic becomes crazy slippery when there are a few of them piled on the tar, making it an accident scene waiting to happen. Obviously, the environmental impact is also something to keep in mind. So please don’t be that person that doesn’t have basic manners and acts like their parents didn’t teach them the right way on race day.

Secondly, have fun. It really is a beautiful race. The views are spectacular and the atmosphere is contagious on the day. It really is a special race that will leave its mark on you.
Thirdly, smile and remember to great your fellow club mates along the route. It really does mean a lot to people when you say hi to them as they know it takes a bit of extra energy to do so.
Lastly, obey the race marshals and remember that your safety is their first priority. They are not there to make your life difficult. Giving them the thumbs up or thanking them also goes a long way.

Step 4: Listen to your body and ignore the mind.

Your mind is going to pull the usual stunts on race day. It normally starts around the 30km mark. I have no idea why but most runners can concur with this. In two oceans however the profile also starts to change at this point. Here is where the training and knowing your strengths come into play. Some people are great uphill runners and others can allow their quads to take a beating on the downs. Remember what worked for you during training and listen to your body. If it needs to take a walk then take a walk. If you have overcooked it and feel like pulling out the race, take 15 min on the side of the road and relax. If it still is unbearable then take another 5 min before you exit the race. In this time try to get some electrolytes into your system. Most runners that have pulled out of a race say that while they sit in the bailers’ bus they start to feel better shortly after getting in.
Stick to your strategy and remember we all have to run our own race.

Remember these steps and you should have a great race experience!!

Curious as to what I will be taking or using on race day then you can read lower down.

 

 

My Two Oceans Preparations

Last year I ran the long trail the day before and the following day the 56km.
This year I will be doing it the other way around, the 56km followed by an additional 44km trail ultra.
My goal is to try and run 100km in sub 15h. Which sounds like a lot of time however a trail ultra is never a quick exercise.
I will need to have a few logistical and other plans in place.
Firstly, I will definitely be making use of the bus to the event.
Secondly, I will be trying to figure out if I can get my trail gear to the finish of the 56km.
That being said, I will have to make sure that during the 56km that I am very well hydrated and my electrolytes are topped up every 15km. Otherwise, the trail section is going to eat me alive and make for a very very long day out.
Thirdly, provided we start on time, I may have to consider that there is a chance I will be running at night. This is going to mean packing in a headlamp and some warm clothes.
Fourthly, food for the trail. There won’t be aid stations so packing light but high-calorie food is also going to be a challenge of note.

The weather is going to determine if I do attempt the extra 44km on the day. As it is not an official race and I will be on my solo in the mountain and am not prepared to risk life and limb if the weather is unfavorable.
So let’s hope for great weather on the day.

Happy running, until next time!!!

Your First Trail 100 Miler – Part 2

You should now have a good idea as to whether or not you are brave or stupid enough to enter your selected 100 miler.
Either way, this is not going to detract from the fact that training is going to take a large part of your time going forward.
We mainly focused on the pre-entry analysis in the last post.

For this post, we will predominantly focus on how to research and plan training going forward.
Ideally, you would like a year or more to get yourself feeling comfortable for such a large distance.
Best to build slowly over time and after a solid rest. Resting and timing when to rest will also play a key part in achieving getting to the start line injury free.

As with the previous post, I will be breaking it up into steps/sections to attempt to make the flow of the document a tad easier and more pleasant.

Pre Training Analysis

Step 1 – List what you know

We have heard and seen that no one person’s body reacts the same to identical training programs, even at the same intensity, time of day, temperature, humidity, etc.
The reason for this is simple, we don’t live the exact same lives. While some tense up their muscles from stress others perhaps struggle to sleep as the brain unwinds, the point is we are different.

To make life a lot easier for yourself and your coach (really recommend a coach that has run a few of these and completed them) we are going to pick your brain on things you do know.

Starting with…

Race Nutrition

For most people, this will not be their first road/trail ultra.
What do you normally consume during a race?
Do you have a set plan in terms of what supplements you drink or consume?
I, for example, find that a rehydrate or cramp ease every 15km tends to help me stay on top of getting cramps. It is also vital for me to consume some sort of food at 50km like stew or chunky soup with bread, cheese, and biltong. Eggs and bacon is also a winner if possible.
In combination with this, at least 750ml of water is needed every 10km.
For a treat, I enjoy a good date ball that is made of dates, nuts, coconut, and honey. Kind of a reward snack for having reached a certain point in the race or training run.

This combination or strategy has worked for me during my long training runs.

If you do not have a nutrition plan that works for you or one that is rather more guesswork than anything else I recommend to make a huge mental note here. Knowing what does and does not work for your digestive system is a huge plus.
During your long training runs, you will also want to eat, this will teach your system to learn to handle food while running. This will also help you determine at what pace to run before/during/after consuming food.

Recovery

How long does it take you to recover after a marathon FULLY!?
Recovery in this instance means, absolutely zero stiffness or pain AND a back to normal low HR at regular low HR pace? What do I mean here…
During your training for a marathon, there will be some easy recovery runs that you would have done. These will either be pace based or HR based. An example, if I am well rested I can run at 6:15/km at my recovery pace. If I am slightly fatigued or have been training hard for the week that can be 7:30/km. That way I know I am feeling recovered after a marathon, in terms of HR if I am running anything from a 6:15-6:30/km for an easy recovery low HR run.
This is a very important fact to know, so don’t brush it off. How long does it take you to be back to that regular low HR recovery pace with no aches, niggles or discomfort?

This will predominantly give your coach a very good idea as to how to set your recovery weeks, in terms of intervals and intensity for these vital rest weeks as you go along in your training program.

Previous Injuries

What did you injure previously? How did this injury come about, a fall or overtraining or possibly overexertion during a race?
Knowing the cause of the injury and revisiting that moment in time can give you insight into what not to do. Try and write down the warning signs you had before it took place. You want to ideally avoid this at all costs during training.
What was your recovery time and what steps did you take to recover from this?

Initial Recovery Steps

What recovery steps do you take that have worked well for you in the past?
Some people find that a protein shake post a run has worked miracles for them others have found that 20min ocean baths or hot Epson salt baths have done the trick.

Others prefer and swear by supplements such as slowmag, rehydrate and or vitamin C intake post a run within 20min.

Sleep

This little piece of information is always overlooked and gently placed to the side. Our bodies recover best when we have had adequate and sufficient deep sleep.
What have you found in the past to be the recommended hours of sleep?
Do you perform better with a regular sleeping cycle?
Have you given much attention to this point before? A vast majority of runners have not. As an ultra-trail runner, this will become your strength or your weakness. Knowing where your best sleeping pattern lies can really give you the edge during building weeks of training.

Shoes and Socks

These two pairs of items can make or break your 100 miler experience.
Finding the right shoes for me personally was not a huge issue but the socks… I could write a whole book on just how darn difficult it was to find the right socks and knowing how to prep my feet to keep them blister free.
The point is though that this is definitely something you want to know as soon as possible. Unfortunately, it is literally a case of trial and error.
A short summary of my experience. I found that trail toe socks worked well for me. I use baby powder to dry my feet, apply Vaseline to the top of the toenails of each foot then place on the sock. Replacing my socks after river crossings or after 50km. I also run the race with a small towel to dry my feet.
Have also found that after all the river crossings to replace my shoes with the socks worked like magic.
It, therefore, is very important to know this before race day as to what works for you.

Weather

How does your body react to the weather? Some people really struggle when running in severe conditions. These people have to specifically do heat or cold weather training to get their bodies to adapt to conditions. Heat used to be my Achilles however knowing this I informed my coach and he made sure that my training program incorporated enough heat training.
Try research for the race the different possible conditions for the area and train accordingly. Doesn’t help to train in the snow if your race is in sub-Saharan Africa during the summer.

General Nutrition

Felt I had to separate race Nutrition from general Nutrition.
There is a lot of buzz going about as to what to eat etc during training.
My advice is just to make sure that whatever your preferred dietary plan that you consume enough calories in a day. Sounds really strange but make sure you are not starving yourself. It can be extremely difficult as a non-professional athlete to balance a busy lifestyle with enough food. Often you feel like skipping meals because you are just too busy with something. Stop and take the time to eat. Here again, it helps if you know what works for you from past experiences.
If you do not know what works for you or feel that maybe this could be improved upon then now is the time to see a dietitian before the hectic training starts.

General Recovery

How many days do you find that foam rolling and or stretching help?
Do you find that pre or post foam rolling works best? Perhaps rather doing this daily at night before bedtime has a better effect on your system? Do adding certain supplements in this part of your routine also assist with better recovery periods?
Trial and error if you don’t know.
From personal experience, foam rolling at night or at least 5h after exercise works well for me followed by a slowmag and 1 gram vitamin C. This way I minimise cramps in the night and wake up feeling less stiff than usual. In the mornings after a shower, I find that general stretching makes the day a little more bearable especially during building weeks.

Right, so this should give you a comprehensive idea of what you do or rather don’t know.
A lot of these points will come to light as you train.
I suggest having a good old fashioned pen and paper journal whereby you can take note of these things along your journey to training for the 100 miler.

Step 2 … I think that’s enough for this post, next time we can discuss step 2 onwards.

Happy trail running, until next time!!!

Your First Trail 100 Miler – Part 1

The goal of this multi-part series is to assist those that are thinking of attempting a trail 100 mile race.
Hopefully, this will give some insight into the process of getting to the start line.

If you have never attempted a 100 miler trail race, forget everything you think you know about running a race. Start afresh with your preparations and be prepared to train like never before.

“Really!? You are starting with training as the first post?”
Unfortunately, most of us think of training as putting your exercise clothes on and heading out to do some physical activity. In a 100 miler it would be impossible to finish the race without the physical training however, the mental and analysis skill development outweigh the physical.
“Analysis skill development… right…”

Yes, the ability to analyse, assess and execute in a situation when you are awake for more than 24h gets challenging. As with the physical side, you cannot be expected to master this skill set without some training. The starting point of developing this skill is to learn to research and read.
Your biggest challenges are going to know what to do when faced with adverse obstacles during your run. DNF’s (Did not finish) can be avoided, in most cases, if the runner has mastered the skill of pre-race Analysis. I’m going to attempt to break it down into a few steps to make the thought process seem a bit more logical. To be honest you will be visiting these steps at random, most likely while preparing for your race.

In the first post, we will discuss…

“Entry” Analysis:


Step 1:

Pick your race carefully. Make sure it will be roughly during the year where you can afford to take some time away from other activities. It will consume you mentally and physically especially leading up to race day. As a non-professional athlete, this is very difficult to predict a year in advance. We all know life happens in between and that we don’t live in a bubble where everything happens according to plan.
Note: a year in advance…

Step 2:

No, you cannot click enter just yet… for a while, so relax the submission button won’t jump off the screen!
Don’t get carried away by the sales pitch videos on the website or from pro athlete interviews about the terrain! “Flat, runnable” are two very subjective terms in trail running. For some there are even newly paved roads that are “runnable” or “flat” at 5km into a race but not at 130km into a race.

The term jeep track is also one to take very lightly. I have seen some jeep track that is absolutely not runnable without taking on some serious risk. Even though being simply flat you may discover that they are littered with ankle breaking rocks.
Take into account that running at night can make the terrain also shift from runnable to not.
Another great idea is to establish communication with the event organiser concerning the terrain.
Most of the event organisers will gladly respond to emails or other channels of communication even if you are just a potential entrant. In my experience, if they do not respond to you within a reasonable time it’s most likely not the type of race you want to be associated with. That being said, asking questions one month before a race is not exactly helpful. Allow yourself enough time to research. When asking  organisers don’t hold back, it helps you to gather as much information as possible. If you haven’t been able to find videos of the terrain, not the scenery, ask the organiser for pictures or videos.
Make sure you know where the river crossings are, if there are any, and what terrain follows the river crossing. Wet shoes combined with some steep rocky downhills shortly after might make you reconsider or at least prepare you for possible gear change etc.

The two videos give a great example of how even the professional runners can view a race very differently. I think it is clear to see that it is rather subjective as to what is runnable or less challenging.

Step 3:

You should now have an idea if the terrain is something that is acceptable but still a challenge for you over a 161km distance.
Profile examination and checkpoint analysis are generally a great follow up to this. Based on the terrain you get an idea as to why some of the checkpoints are only 10km apart and others might be 6km. The race organiser would’ve pointed out either in the general description of the event or, as a reply to your communication why there might be a difference for some checkpoints. Do NOT forget or disregard this information. Also, take special note as to where the checkpoints are in terms of the race profile and how far after river crossings. It could be on the day or the days leading up to the event that terrible weather has made it impossible for them to set up an aid station. If that was to happen then would you have the correct sized pack and equipment to carry you past a missing checkpoint with adding too much stress to your system?

Step 4:

This brings us to the required and recommended gear list. As mentioned above does your gear allow you, if need be, to miss a checkpoint due to unfavorable weather conditions?
Do you meet the minimum gear requirements and are you able to purchase this well in advance to the race as you need to do the physical training with it. Take into account that when the bag is packed with the required gear and the water is filled that you could be sitting with a 7kg bag, especially if it’s possible that you need to carry food and water for missing checkpoints.
At first glance this is going to be not such a big issue, however, you are going to revisit this point for consideration later. There are some little extras that you might like to add to your gear that you will find during training to prevent blisters, chaffing, cramps etc. A good example of this might be 3 pairs of extra socks and or a towel to dry your feet. Again adding to the weight factor, as wet clothes do add on weight.
Very few bags are fully waterproof for if you fall into the water at river crossings. The last you want is to be pulled from the race because you didn’t waterproof some of the required electronic devices!

Step 5:

If at this point you are happy about the gear requirements, the race profile, and setup, you need to consider the financial implications.
Most events are not around the corner. They require flights, car rentals, accommodation. Often not only just for you but for people seconding and or supporting you.
Make sure you are well prepared and informed into the total cost of this exercise. Don’t forget the car rental deposit…
When computing this also take into account the cost of gear replacement during training. You might be burning through a few pairs of shoes, running shorter “training” races etc to get you to ready for the big day. This part can add up significantly.

Step 6:

Have a discussion with your coach as to what they envision your training would be like for the event. Here you ideally want someone that has done a few of these events themselves. The reason you don’t really find generic 100 mile training programs is that this type of training goes on a day to day basis. Yes, there will be targets set for the different phases that are weekly but it needs to be carefully monitored so that you build but do not injure yourself.
Here you need to get a rough idea as to the amount of training time that make take place to achieve your finish. Also, keep in mind that when you are doing high mileage weeks that post-training recovery time might be needed. Here a good example might be an ice bath or a dip in the ocean or even an afternoon nap on weekends.
You need to take note of the fact that driving to different locations to simulate race day environment might be needed. A great example of this is if you live on the coast that you may need to drive inland for 50km to train in extreme heat conditions. This in order to prepare your body and mind for hot conditions above 40 degrees on race day, which may be common climate for that environment.

Step 7:

The most important step!
Have a discussion with your life partner about what you are wanting to attempt. Show them the research and have a heart to heart about why you are wanting to do this event. Make sure they are aware of the amount of time you estimate it will take in training etc.
If they are not 1000% committed or have reservations as to whether you will be able to manage it then reconsider. Often these people know you better than your happy go luckily race entry clicking fingers.
This part can often make or break getting to the start line.

Step 8:

Be honest with yourself, can you really tick off comfortably steps 1-8?
If so, take a night’s sleep and enter for your race the next day.

Happy Trail Running, till next time!!!

IS RUNNING GOOD FOR YOUR SELF-ESTEEM?

1) THE CONFIDENT NOVICE

Running is a great self-esteem booster, especially if you are a beginner runner. Running will allow you to test and expand your limits like never before. With each milestone you reach you will find yourself more confident and able to take on the world.

Initially, once you make the decision to run and actually do it, you will begin to notice changes. You will shed some weight and tone your legs, which will definitely help with your self-esteem. When you start running regularly, you’ll quickly realize that your mental strength or will power, are stronger than ever, which should make you feel as good as you look. You will feel energized and great in general.

After a while you might decide to join a running club, which will be another stepping stone. Eventually you enter a few races for which you train diligently. You muster up courage to show up at the start line of each event. The gun shot goes off and excitedly you run your race. Many races and PB”s later you have grown in confidence and feel as if you can conquer any race.

2) SELF-ESTEEM FLIES OUT THE WINDOW (FASTER THAN YOUR FAILED RUN)

But unfortunately there is always that one race that humbles you. You run the first few kilometers full of confidence and expectation but further into the race your legs begin to feel heavy, your heart begins to race. You force yourself to keep on plodding, gasping for breath. Horrified you watch your slower counterparts effortlessly whizz past. Things aren’t going according to plan and your body is not co-operating. It’s not a good race day. So the comparisons and self-doubt begin. Self-esteem has flown out the window faster than your failed run.

3) SELF-CRITICISM

You feel shattered and broken. Feelings of self-doubt and anger start to creep in. How can your body fall apart at a race you prepared and trained so hard for? The answer is… “Because you are not a robot, but a human being with your own unique, individual body make-up of which the brain is the most important and complex organ.” Which means that when faced with failure, we implicitly assume self-criticism is necessary in order to motivate strong future performance. But in reality this strategy often falls flat. Giving oneself a harsh talking to doesn’t just make us feel bad, it also interferes with our ability to calmly examine the situation and identify what to change in order to improve.

4) LIFE IS LIKE A MARATHON. FULL OF UPS AND DOWNS

Have you heard the saying “Life is like a marathon, it’s full of ups and downs that take your breath away?”
So yes! You will definitely experience highs and lows in running. It’s part of the package. It’s what you do with the package that matters.
So please try not to loose your running MOJO because no matter how hard you may have trained or over trained (another story in itself) life happens. It is unrealistic on our part to expect all our runs to be greater and faster. Injuries and failed runs occur to the best of us as we all have our flaws and weaknesses. The secret lies in learning from our failures and to come out stronger and more compassionate.

5) RUNNING AND FAILURE CAN PROVIDE A SENSE OF HUMAN CONNECTION

Running is sometimes considered an isolated and competitive sport, but this isn’t always necessarily true. There are runners who step in to help others in times of difficulty. Running and failure can provide a sense of human connection, because it shows that the struggle is normal. So while running may sometimes be painful, we have to experience a degree of suffering and failure in order to truly value ourselves, to appreciate others, and learn what it means to be self-compassionate so as to pass it onto others. Perhaps because it allows us to appreciate just how small we are in the scheme of things.

6) UNWRAP YOUR PACKAGE

So please do unwrap your package, and if what is dished out to you on the day does not work out, use it to help another struggling or frustrated runner. Be kind to others and yourself, you both deserve it! Remember running is a gift. Open your package and share it with others. Most importantly have fun with like-minded individuals.

How Hip Flexor Stretching Relates to Running Economy

by Erik Bies, DPT, MS
Runners, coaches, and other athletes are always looking for ways to prevent injury and become more efficient and economical while running. In this example, let’s consider our athlete is the weekend warrior with a 40 hour/week desk job or high school student-athlete. This person sits several hours a day, with maybe a 10-minute walking break every hour. Conventional wisdom is that this person will develop a lack of hip extension due to tight/stiff hip flexors. The hypothesis is that stiff hip flexors shortens stride length negatively impacting running economy, defined as steady-state oxygen consumption at a given running speed.
So does improving hip extension range of motion directly affect running economy? According to the evidence, the answer is NO! Though a 20 year old article, this topic has been researched.1 Subjects were young, athletic male college students determined to have “less than normal hip extension” meaning they were unable to passively extend the thigh past 0 degrees. Subjects were divided into a THREE DAYS PER WEEK (yes that is all) hip flexor stretching group and a control group. Despite a statistically significant change in passive hip extension measured using the modified Thomas Test, change in running economy was not statistically significant. The control group (those who did not stretch) actually showed greater improvement in running economy. On average, hip extension improved 9.8 degrees in those who stretched 3 days per week.
What does this mean practically? Improving hip extension through stretching anterior hip structures does not improve running performance at speeds associated with running at paces one could maintain for 10-20 minutes. Could it actually be counter-productive? From both injury and performance perspectives, YES! Consider that running at faster speeds requires sufficient anterior stiffness to withstand the forces generated by some of the strongest torque producers in the body; the gluteals and hamstrings. It has been speculated with good biomechanical evidence that excessive hip extension forces and joint angles are associated with injury to the anterior hip joint.2 Furthermore, improving your stride length is not primarily the result of greater hip joint extension range but rather more distance traveled during the float phase of running. This requires power, the perfect combination of force production and timing. A well-timed and stronger stretch-reflex in the hip flexors generates a more powerful hip flexion moment. Finding the optimal blend of stiffness and mobility at exactly the right time is what is important. Improving economy comes down to practicing a skill and improving timing of force production along with other metabolic processes.
How does this affect you? First, understand the goal of your flexibility exercises. If you are stretching because of hip pain, back off stretching and get assessed by your physical therapist. Stretching could be counterproductive even if you get short-term relief of pain. Are you certain you have limited hip extension? Don’t assume that working at your desk creates short and stiff hip flexors. Videotape yourself from a side view running at fast and slow speeds when you are not fatigued. Even if you notice that your low back is arched and your pelvis is anteriorly tilted, do not assume you have stiff hip flexors. This often is a coordination issue that can be addressed through specific trunk and pelvic girdle movement awareness.
Sources:
1. Godges JJ, McRae PG, Engelke KA. Effects of exercise on hip range of motion, trunk muscle performance, and gait economy. Phys Ther. 1993; 73:468-477.
2. Lewis CL, Sahrmann SA, Moran DW. Effect of hip angle on anterior hip joint force during gait. Gait and Posture. 2010; 32:603-607.

The surprising science behind why ‘easy days’ and ‘hard days’ make a difference in your workout

ALEX HUTCHINSON
SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL
PUBLISHED MAY 27, 2018UPDATED MAY 28, 2018

Stephen Seiler’s awakening occurred shortly after he moved to Norway in the late 1990s. The American-born exercise physiologist was out on a forested trail when he saw one of the country’s elite cross-country skiers run past – and then suddenly stop at the bottom of a hill and start walking up.
“And I said, well what the heck are you doing? No pain, no gain!” he later recalled. “But it turned out she had a very clear idea of what she was doing.”
Seiler’s observation led him to devote 15 years to studying how world-beating endurance athletes train, revealing that they push harder on their hard days but go easier on their easy days than lesser athletes. But, as research that will be presented this week at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conference in Minnesota reveals, most us haven’t incorporated these findings into our exercise programs – which means we’re not training as effectively as we should.
When Seiler began analyzing the training of elite athletes in sports such as cross-country skiing and rowing, he found a consistent pattern. They spent about 80 per cent of their training time going relatively easy, even to the point of walking up hills to avoid pushing too hard. And most of the other 20 per cent was gut-churningly hard, with very little time spent at medium-effort levels.
This approach is often referred to as “polarized” training, since it emphasizes the extremes of very easy and very hard efforts. The pattern has now been observed in top athletes across almost all endurance sports, including cycling, running and triathlon. It was popularized in endurance coach Matt Fitzgerald’s 2014 book 80/20 Running. But it’s still not necessarily what athletes, especially less experienced ones, actually do.

In the new study being presented at the ACSM conference, a team led by Ball State University kinesiology researcher Lawrence Judge followed a group of collegiate distance runners through a 14-week season. The coaches were asked to assign an intended difficulty rating, on a scale of one to 10, for each day’s workout. Using the same scale, the athletes were then asked to rate how hard they actually found the workouts.
The results were telling. On easy days, when the coaches wanted an effort level of 1.5, the athletes instead ran at an effort level of 3.4 on average. On hard days, conversely, the coaches asked for an effort of 8.2 but the athletes only delivered 6.2. Instead of polarized training, as the coaches intended, the athletes were letting most of the sessions drift into the middle.
The new findings echo a similar 2001 study by Carl Foster, an exercise physiologist at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, who is among the pioneers of using subjective perception of effort to guide training. The problem, he says, is that athletes have the misguided sense that the easy days are too easy – and as a result, on hard days, they’re simply too tired to push hard enough to get the biggest fitness gains.
To Seiler, who in addition to holding an academic post is a research consultant with the Norwegian Olympic Federation, the willingness to keep the easy days easy – “intensity discipline,” he calls it – is one of the traits that distinguishes successful and unsuccessful athletes.
Of course, the same principles apply even if you don’t have a coach. If you try to hammer every workout, you’ll never be fresh enough to really push your limits; if you jog every run, you’re not challenging yourself enough to maximize your fitness.
Figuring out the appropriate intensity doesn’t have to be complicated, Foster adds. According to his “Talk Test,” if you can speak comfortably in complete sentences, you’re going at an appropriate pace for easy days. If you can barely gasp out a word at a time, you’re in the hard zone. If you can speak, with effort, in broken sentences, you’re in the middle zone.
The hard part isn’t identifying the training zones – it’s having the discipline to adhere to them. Most of us, Foster believes, have internalized some vestigial remnant of the puritan work ethic, conflating hard work with virtue. But to truly push your limits, you sometimes need to take it easy.

Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience) is the author of Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance.

Why 85 percent Effort Is Important

85 Percent Effort Is Important
What does 85 percent effort mean and what’s the significance of that number?
If you have read running magazines, books on running, or any of the hundreds of websites offering running or training advice, you may have come across the following terms:
• Tempo Runs
• Anaerobic Threshold (A/T) Workouts
• Threshold Pace
• Lactate Threshold Pace
• Sub-maximal effort
• Cruise Intervals
• vVO2Max Runs
• Steady State Runs

In some of these more intense workouts you may see 85% as the suggested effort level. For the most part – without getting into minuscule technicalities – most of these terms represent essentially the same workout. Over the last 40-50 years of research on long-distance running, most scientists have drawn fairly similar conclusions. At this MAGIC pace (at either side of 85% of maximal effort) a lot of very special things happen to the human body.

For the beginner/novice level runner: 85 percent is the effort that “feels like you’re doing something.” You know the “no pain/no gain” mentality? Welcome to the threshold where you will soon be in pain if you don’t back off! When you are just getting into it – you may find yourself skyrocketing to 85% in no time at all. This is why WALK BREAKS are so important in gauging your pace to keep you more in the 65-75% range for most of your training. The 85 percent effort level is something to play with very occasionally. Until you establish a true foundation of aerobic endurance (the 65-75% range), the 85% level will be pretty hard on you.

For the recreational runner: 85% is the effort or pace that’s just slightly faster (I mean slightly – about 6-8 seconds a mile – just a step or two quicker!) than your half-marathon pace. Doing some running at this pace a few times a week will help you gradually get more comfortable at a slightly quicker pace in your half-marathons. As you may have figured out already, an improvement of just 6-10 seconds a mile is a BIG improvement in your overall time.

For the advanced runner: 85% is the effort that you begin to feel strong. Somehow when you hit this pace, you get the feeling as though you could “run all day long.” The truth is, if you are truly at your Anaerobic Threshold, you can probably hold this pace for 50-60 minutes (a little short of that “all day” feeling). Since none of us will be running any 50-60 minute half-marathons any time soon – the world record is currently just under 59 minutes – it is important to train sparingly at 85%. The “minutes” workouts, “tempo” workouts, and “cruise interval” workouts you will see on your intensity day will allow you to play in the 85% playground for short periods of time.

For the competitor runner: 85% is the effort that helps you control an opposing runner. If you know where 85 percent effort is for you and you learn to stay “just this side of it” – holding on to your extra gears for later in the race – while the person you are running against is “just the other side of it” and beginning to struggle or fade, guess what happens? Shift gears and good-bye. The “minutes” workouts, “tempo” workouts, and “cruise interval” workouts you will see on your intensity day will allow you to determine exactly where your personal gears are and help teach you how to conserve, accelerate, recover, and GO when you need to!
We follow this philosophy in our

Team GFR Training Plans. Take a look at our training plans and join us.

Workout Of The Week: Recovery Run

Matt Fitzgerald / February 17, 2016

If you asked a stadium-size crowd of other runners to name the most important type of running workout, some would say tempo runs, others would say long runs, and still others would say intervals of one kind or another. None would mention recovery runs. Unless I happened to be in that stadium.

I won’t go quite so far as to say that recovery runs are more important than tempo runs, long runs, and intervals, but I do believe they are no less important. Why? Because recovery runs, if properly integrated into your training regimen, will do just as much to enhance your race performances as any other type of workout. Seriously.

It is widely assumed that the purpose of recovery runs—which we may define as relatively short, slow runs undertaken within a day after a harder run—is to facilitate recovery from preceding hard training. You hear coaches talk about how recovery runs increase blood flow to the legs, clearing away lactic acid, and so forth. The truth is that lactic acid levels return to normal within an hour after even the most brutal workouts. Nor does lactic acid cause muscle fatigue in the first place. Nor is there any evidence that the sort of light activity that a recovery run entails promotes muscle tissue repair, glycogen replenishment, or any other physiological response that actually is relevant to muscle recovery.

In short, recovery runs do not enhance recovery. The real benefit of recovery runs is that they allow you to find the optimal balance between the two factors that have the greatest effect on your fitness and performance: training stress and running volume.

Here’s how:

Training stress is what your body experiences in workouts that test the present limits of your running fitness. You can be fairly sure a workout has delivered a training stress when it leaves you severely fatigued or completely exhausted. The two basic categories of workouts that deliver a training stress are high-intensity runs (intervals, tempo runs, hill repeats) and long runs. A training program whose objective is to prepare you for a peak race performance must feature plenty of “key workouts” that challenge your body’s capacity to resist the various causes of high-intensity fatigue (muscular acidosis, etc.) and long-duration fatigue (muscle tissue damage, etc). By exposing your body to fatigue and exhaustion, key workouts stimulate adaptations that enable you to resist fatigue better the next time.

Running volume, on the other hand, has a positive effect on running fitness and performance even in the absence of exhaustive key workouts. In other words, the more running you do (within the limit of what your body can handle before breaking down), the fitter you become, even if you never do any workouts that are especially taxing. The reason is that increases in running economy are very closely correlated with increases in running mileage. Research by Tim Noakes, M.D., and others suggests that while improvement in other performance-related factors such as VO2max ceases before a runner achieves his or her volume limit, running economy continues to improve as running mileage increases, all the way to the limit. For example, if the highest running volume your body can handle is 50 miles per week, you are all but certain to achieve greater running economy at 50 miles per week than at 40 miles per week, even though your VO2max may stop increasing at 40 miles.

You see, running is a bit like juggling. It is a motor skill that requires communication between your brain and your muscles. A great juggler has developed highly refined communication between his brain and muscles during the act of jugging, which enables him to juggle three plates with one hand while blindfolded. A well-trained runner has developed super-efficient communication between her brain and muscles during the act of running, allowing her to run at a high sustained speed with a remarkably low rate of energy expenditure. Sure, the improvements that a runner makes in neuromuscular coordination are less visible than those made by a juggler, but they are no less real.

or both the juggler and the runner, it is time spent simply practicing the relevant action that improves communication between the brain and the muscles. It’s not a matter of testing physiological limits, but of developing a skill through repetition. Thus, the juggler who juggles an hour a day will improve faster than the juggler who juggles five minutes a day, even if the former practices in a dozen separate five-minute sessions and therefore never gets tired. And the same is true for the runner.

Now, training stress—especially key workouts inflicting high-intensity fatigue—and running volume sort of work at cross-purposes. If you go for a bona fide training stress in every workout, you won’t be able to do a huge total amount of running before breaking down. By the same token, if you want to achieve the maximum volume of running, you have to keep the pace slow and avoid single long runs in favor of multiple short runs. But then you won’t get those big fitness boosts that only exhaustive runs can deliver.  In other words, you can’t maximize training stress and running volume simultaneously. For the best results, you need to find the optimal balance between these two factors, and that’s where recovery runs come in.

By sprinkling your training regimen with relatively short, easy runs, you can achieve a higher total running volume than you could if you always ran hard. Yet because recovery runs are gentle enough not to create a need for additional recovery, they allow you to perform at a high level in your key workouts and therefore get the most out of them.

I believe that recovery runs also yield improvements in running economy by challenging the neuromuscular system to perform in a pre-fatigued state. Key workouts themselves deliver a training stress that stimulates positive fitness adaptations by forcing a runner to perform beyond the point of initial fatigue. As the motor units that are used preferentially when you run begin to fatigue, other motor units that are less often called upon must be recruited to take up the slack so the athlete can keep running. In general, “slow-twitch” muscle fibers are recruited first and then “fast-twitch” fibers become increasingly active as the slow-twitch fibers wear out. By encountering this challenge, your neuromuscular system is able to find new efficiencies that enable you to run more economically.

Recovery runs, I believe, achieve a similar effect in a slightly different way. In a key workout you experience fatigued running by starting fresh and running hard or far. In a recovery run you start fatigued from your last key workout and therefore experience a healthy dose of fatigued running without having to run hard or far. For this reason, although recovery runs are often referred to as “easy runs,” if they’re planned and executed properly they usually don’t feel very easy. Speaking from personal experience, while my recovery runs are the shortest and slowest runs I do, I still feel rather miserable in many of them because I am already fatigued when I start them. This miserable feeling is, I think, indicative of the fact that the run is accomplishing some real, productive work that will enhance my fitness perhaps almost as much as the key workout that preceded it. Viewed in this way, recovery runs become essentially a way of squeezing more out of your key workouts.

Practical Guidelines For Recovery Runs

Now that I’ve sold you on the benefits of recovery runs, let’s look at how to do them so that they most effectively serve their purpose of balancing training stress and running volume in your training. There are five specific guidelines I suggest you follow.

  1. If you run fewer than five times a week, recovery runs are generally unnecessary. Recovery runs can only serve their purpose of balancing training stress with running volume if you run five or more times per week. If you run just three or four times per week, you’re better off going for a training stress in each run, or at least in three out of four.
  2. Whenever you run again within 24 hours of completing a “key” workout (i.e., a workout that has left you severely fatigued or exhausted), the follow-up run should usually be a recovery run.
  3. Do key workouts and recovery runs in a 1:1 ratio. There’s seldom a need to insert two easy runs between hard runs, and it’s seldom advisable to do two consecutive hard runs within 24 hours. A good schedule for runners who run six days a week is three key workouts alternating with three recovery runs, as in the following example:

Monday: OFF

Tuesday: Key Workout (High Intensity)

Wednesday: Recovery Run

Thursday: Key Workout (High Intensity)

Friday: Recovery Run

Saturday: Key Workout (Long Duration)

Saturday: Recovery Run

Most elite runners who train twice a day do a hard run in the morning followed by a recovery run in the afternoon or a hard run in the afternoon followed by a recovery run the next morning. The frequency is twice that of the above example but the ratio of key workouts to recovery runs remains 1:1

  1. Recovery runs are largely unnecessary during base training, when most of your workouts are moderate in both intensity and duration. When you begin doing formal high-intensity workouts and exhaustive long runs, it’s time to begin doing recovery runs in a 1:1 ratio with these key workouts.
  2. There are no absolute rules governing the appropriate duration and pace of recovery runs. A recovery run can be as long and fast as you want, provided it does not affect your performance in your next scheduled key workout (which is not particularly long or fast, in most cases). Indeed, because the purpose of recovery runs is to maximize running volume without sacrificing training stress, your recovery runs should generally be as long as you can make them short of affecting your next key workout. A little experimentation is needed to find the recovery run formula that works best for each individual runner.
  3. Don’t be too proud to run veryslowly in your recovery runs, as Kenya’s runners are famous for doing. Even very slow running counts as practice of the running stride that will yield improvements in your running economy, and running very slowly allows you to run longer (i.e. maximize volume) without sabotaging your next key workout.

Make A High Stride Rate Work For You

Kelly O’Mara / July 15, 2014

 

Over and over, top runners maintain consistently high stride rates—and so should you. 

Running speed is a function of two very simple things: the length of your running strideand the frequency at which you take those strides. To go faster, either one or the other has to increase.

But, for elite runners, one of those two rarely changes. Top-level distance runners typically run at a high number of steps per minute – between 180-200 – no matter what speed they’re going; simply varying the length of their stride to run faster or slower.

“Fitter people have a little longer stride, but the rate stays the same,” said Jack Daniels, coach, exercise physiologist and author of the seminal book Daniels’ Running Formula,which first included analysis of stride rate.

Daniels’ initial study that established the magic number of 180 steps per minute was conducted during the 1984 Olympics. He counted the stride rates of every athlete competing in every distance from 800 meters on up. Only one racer had a stride rate below 180 steps per minute – and she was at 176. Conversely, over his years as a coach and collegiate physical education instructor, he never had a student above 180 steps. The average recreational runner is closer to 150-170 steps per minute.

That original research has since been duplicated and corroborated many times. In a race in London in 2011, Bernard Lagat outkicked Kenenisa Bekele with a 51 second last lap, but his cadence stayed just over 200 steps per minute throughout the entire race, not increasing as he sprinted for the finish. In the 2011 Boston Marathon, both Desiree Davila and Caroline Kilel held a 180-190 stride rate even as they struggle at the end of the race. Over and over, top runners maintain consistently high stride rates.

The reason a higher stride rate is ideal is two-fold, said Daniels.  Most casual runners run at a slower rate with longer steps. A higher step rate forces smaller strides, which brings a runner’s feet more directly under them instead of out in front, decreases the injuries associated with overstriding, and increases efficiency.

“You’re landing more in the middle of your foot than on your heel,” said Elizabeth Chumanov, from the University of Wisconsin. Chumanov recently co-authored a study where a group of runners ran at their natural stride rate and then increasd that rate by 5% and then 10%. A 5-10% increase was associated with lower forces as the foot hits the ground and a greater engagement of the hamstring and glute muscles as the foot prepares to strike and push off.

Chumanov is now conducting research that she believes will show an increase in stride rate can lead to a decrease in the tension and forces on the knee and, in turn, a decrease in knee pain.

he reason a higher stride rate can reduce injury is because it decreases the amount of time the foot hangs in the air and changes the angle at which it lands. The longer the foot is in the air the harder it hits the ground.

The second reason a higher stride rate can be ideal is related to that push-off. The force from your push-off the ground is what propels you forward. Spending too much time in the air decreases the amount of force pushing you forward. Spending too much time on the ground with each step means you’re, well, stuck on the ground and not running forward. A high turnover pushes a runner forward quickly and strongly.

“You want to just roll over the ground,” said Daniels.

Compared to changing your stride length, increasing your stride rate is relatively straight-forward. A person’s stride length can vary depending on their height, hip mobility, and general fitness.

It takes more energy to run with larger steps, which is why Daniels says that fitter athletes tend to have slightly longer strides. It also requires hip mobility, flexibility, and glute engagement to pull your leg back behind you. Though it was in vogue in the 1970s to try to maximize stride length by throwing your legs as far in front of you as possible, that’s now considered overstriding, which can lead to injuries and is not efficient. Mostly, though, an individual’s stride length can only be increased so much.

Studies done on 100-meter sprinters, who have the longest stride length of any racers, show that over a range of athletes the average length is consistently 1.35 times the runner’s height. In distance running, strides are understandably shorter than in sprints.

The best thing a casual runner can do, rather than worry about stride length, said Daniels and Chumanov, is to focus on increasing their stride rate.

First, count your steps while running. Count how many times your right foot lands in a 30-second period and then multiply by four to get your total stride rate per minute. Then, attempt to increase that rate slightly. It’s easiest to play with your stride rate on a treadmill where you can set the speed to stay the same, said Daniels. You can also purchase a metronome and use it for brief periods during runs to build up your cadence.

However, UK coach and sports rehab specialist James Dunne cautions runners not to become too focused on some so-called magic number for stride rate. Instead, he suggests simple small increases at a time.

“Unnaturally forcing an uncomfortably high cadence too soon can result in its own technique issues,” said Dunne.

****

About The Author:

Kelly Dunleavy O’Mara is a journalist/reporter and former professional triathlete. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and writes for a number of magazines, newspapers, and websites. You can read more about her at www.sunnyrunning.com

Explosive exercises for improving running economy

RUNNERS WORLD:

Improve your running economy and go stronger and longer at any pace.

 

BY JENNIFER VAN ALLEN

JUN 2, 2009

What makes a runner fast? Conventional wisdom says it’s high aerobic capacity, or VO2 max. But check out the 10 fastest runners at any race, and the winner won’t necessarily have the highest VO2 max. So what’s the secret? It’s running economy.

According to a new book, The Runner’s Body (Rodale, May 2009), the role of VO2 max has been way overrated. If you want to run faster and farther, the authors say, you’ve got to improve your running economy, or how efficiently your body uses oxygen. Like the fuel economy of a car, the less oxygen and energy you need to run at a certain pace, the longer you can go without ending up, well, gassed.

“Running economy is what’s going to help you run faster longer and cost you less than people around you,” says co-author Jonathan Dugas, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “VO2 max just doesn’t predict performance beyond a certain point.” 

That’s good news because there’s more room to improve economy than VO2 max, which is largely limited by genetics. Here’s how to do it.

GET GOOD FORM 

Sure, Paula Radcliffe set the world marathon record with her distinct loping gait. But for mere mortals, floppy form means wasted energy. Research has shown that through practice you can become more economical. “The more you rehearse, the more efficient you’ll become,” says running coach Matt Fitzgerald, who co-wrote the book with Dugas and Ross Tucker, Ph.D. You don’t have to analyze your stride; the learning occurs naturally as you gain experience.

Make It Happen: Practice running with good form at a pace that feels comfortable from start to finish. You shouldn’t be huffing and puffing, or moving so slowly that it feels unnatural. Over time, your gait will become more efficient. If you’re a beginner, just focus on logging miles. If you’re more experienced, add speedwork.

GET POWER 

Increasing the force in your stride will make your running feel easier. The more powerfully you can push off the ground, the less effort each stride will take, and ultimately it will be easier to run faster. “You’ll feel like you have more strength in reserve,” says Fitzgerald. 

Make It Happen: Try plyometrics—explosive bounding movements that help you push off the ground. These exercises (see “Jump Up to Speed,” below) mimic parts of the running stride and help give you more push-off power on the road.
GET STRONG 

Build up your all-around body strength, and it will be easier to stay on pace when you’re fatigued. “It’s about being equally strong everywhere, not just having your legs go fast,” says Dugas. Any weaknesses can throw off your biomechanics and cost you more energy. 

Make it happen: Core, back, and shoulder work will help you stay upright. Choose specific exercises that fit into your routine and do them consistently, Dugas says. “It’s most important that you’re just doing something,” he says. 

Jump up to Speed

Exercises to make your running more efficient.

Matt Fitzgerald, a coach and co-author of The Runner’s Body, suggests these three plyometric moves to improve bounding power. Try each of these once a week for four weeks. Do them after a run, or on a nonrunning day with 15 minutes of jogging to warm up.

Lateral Bounding 

Stand to the left of a box or a platform that’s about 12 to 16 inches high. Bend your knees slightly and leap up and over the box so that you land on the floor on the opposite side on the opposite foot. Continue leaping over the box in both directions for 30 seconds.

Single-Leg Box Jump 

Stand on your right foot facing a platform 12 to 18 inches high. Bend your right leg and swing your arms back, then forward, and leap onto the box. Don’t let your left foot touch down. Immediately jump down, landing on the same foot you jumped up with. Keep jumping for 30 seconds, then switch legs. 

Split Squat Leap

Stand with one foot ahead of the other with knees slightly bent. Squat, then thrust straight up. In the air, move the forward foot back and the rear foot forward. Land on both feet and immediately bend your knees to begin the next leap. Start with 16 reps. 

 

The relevance of proper recovery runs

Runners world:

BY JOHN A. KISSANE

NOV 10, 2014

The Easy-Day Pace

Are you running your easy miles too fast—or too slow?

In May, Sally Kipyego, a 2012 Olympic silver medalist in the 10,000m, sped to a 30:42.26 win at Stanford’s Payton Jordan Invitational—a pace that works out to 4:56 per mile.

Achieving that pace for 10,000m requires Kipyego to log plenty of hard track sessions and tempo runs. Yet on her non-workout days, she ambles along at 8:30-per-mile pace, sometimes even slower.

“I think most Kenyans do that,” Kipyego says about taking it slow on her easy days. “As long as I can remember, when I was a junior back in Kenya, the easy days were really easy. I am kind of old-school in some ways. You go by feel; you let your body tell you.”

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Mo Farah, winner of two gold medals at the same Olympics where Kipyego took silver. Until last fall, Farah had been averaging 7 minutes per mile for up to 40 percent of his weekly volume. But as he was preparing for his marathon debut in London, his coach, Alberto Salazar, instructed him to speed up his easy-day pacing in order to get more benefit from all that mileage. Farah now runs much faster; with training partner Galen Rupp, he works down to 5:30 pace on easy days.

If the faster pace leaves Farah with heavy legs, Salazar doesn’t sweat it; he told Running Times in March that the goal of feeling fresh for workouts is overrated. “If you’re always worried about feeling perfect for every workout,” he says, “you may never really get the conditioning you need.”

So who is right, Kipyego or Farah? And more important, what is right for you?

WHAT EASY RUNS DO

They’re all the other miles—not the tempos or track repeats or long runs. They’re the entries in your training log that make up a large percentage of your weekly mileage total, but with which you don’t bother to record much data: Simply an “8” or a “6” or a “park loop” suffice to remind you what you did that day.

The easy day is the Rodney Dangerfield of distance training: It receives precious little respect. Some hardliners might even use the term “junk miles” for Kipyego’s easy-day running, despite her international successes. Why do we do them? Because easy running—even very slow easy running—provides fundamental adaptations.

n easy days, you’re using mostly slow-twitch muscle fibers. They have a higher density of mitochondria, high levels of aerobic enzymes and greater capillary density than fast-twitch fibers, which are more involved in higher-intensity training, says Dan Bergland, principal sport physiologist at Volt Sportlab in Flagstaff, Arizona. On easy days, “You increase mitochondria and capillaries and blood flow to those muscles, so they’re better able to utilize oxygen,” he says. “Without that, you can’t do the intense runs.”

All runners, and especially beginners and those coming back from injury, benefit from the cardiovascular and muscular-structural development easy running promotes. The base fitness a runner puts down through a preponderance of easy runs enables the athlete to safely progress to other types of training.

Seasoned runners also need easy days in order to maintain hard-earned aerobic fitness and make continual gains in running economy. Of course, competitive runners are interested in moving efficiently at race paces, the primary reason for training at a variety of intensities, in addition to running easy. But even slow running allows for modest gains in efficiency of movement.

More important, it allows for recovery from the hard days. “A runner should achieve a training effect every day,” says Dennis Barker, coach of Team USA Minnesota, “and to me, recovery is a training effect, maybe the most important one. It’s during recovery that adaptations from the hard training take place. If a runner doesn’t recover, the body is not going to adapt, and you’ll either continue digging a hole for yourself or get injured.”

YOUR PACE OR MINE?

The question, then, is what pace is right, and what do you stand to lose if you go too fast or too slow? In a general sense, an easy run is a low-intensity effort of a short to moderate duration. So a long run, even completed at a relaxed pace, should not be considered “easy,” because, despite the pace, there comes a point where the duration raises the overall intensity out of the comfort zone.

A dozen years ago, Barker began working with Carrie Tollefson, a four-time national champion at Villanova. The transition to working with Barker was initially rocky, because Tollefson wouldn’t back down on her easy runs. “At Nova we were very low-mileage, but we ran hard all the time,” Tollefson says. “And then I came to Dennis and we were trying to hit 85 or 90 miles a week, and I couldn’t do it all. I was always pushing the envelope, but I just couldn’t run a ton plus go really hard in all my workouts, my easy days and my long runs.”

Barker’s solution was to mandate that Tollefson wear a heart rate monitor and keep her easy and long runs within appropriate ranges. It worked. “Slowly but surely, running slower helped me,” Tollefson says. “By 2004 I was having my best year, and that’s when I made my Olympic team. I just needed to grow into the sport and know that it was OK to back off on those easy days and not be so stuck on the watch and always running 6:30 pace. It didn’t matter what I ran on my easy days; they were supposed to be easy.”

Though Barker extols the virtues of keeping the pace relaxed on easy days, that doesn’t mean he sends his athletes out for short jogs. In fact, he’s been known to assign runners hilly routes on non-workout days, to give the run a little extra benefit. But pacing is almost always reined in.

“Pace is the most important thing to keep easy on an easy day,” Barker says. “Many runners can still recover if they run a few more miles, as long as it’s still at an easy pace. But from my experience, they can’t recover if they run a faster pace, even with fewer miles. So pace really needs to be governed on easy days, [but] mileage not quite as much.”

Bergland believes runners can’t really go too slow on their easy days, unless their form starts to break down. At that point, slower becomes counterproductive. In his opinion, as long as your form holds up, lower intensity trumps higher intensity for easy days.

While elite athletes have a finely tuned sense of pace and effort, rank-and-file runners often struggle with it. Bergland advises runners to use 10K race pace plus 2 minutes for easy-day pace, wear heart rate monitors (and aim for 65 to 70 percent of maximum heart rate) or take occasional treadmill runs to monitor pace.

AVOIDING THE RUT

Currently working with athletes across the spectrum of age and ability, Ian Dobson, an assistant with the Oregon Track Club Elite coaching staff in Eugene, Oregon (which is Kipyego’s team), sees runners fail to back off on easy days. He meets weekly with Team Run Eugene Flyers, a group of recreational runners, to oversee workouts. “I see some of them warm up and then run mile pace and 5K pace and marathon pace, and it’s essentially indistinguishable; they’re just running, you know?” he says. “Those people are suffering from this stuck-in-one-pace kind of thing. And it’s because they don’t want to run 11-minute pace, or whatever they really need to be running, on their recovery runs.”

Those who don’t run their workouts hard enough are stuck in a middle ground, in third gear. “The common denominator among most really successful runners, people running at a high level, is a really wide chasm between training-run pace and where they work out,” Dobson says. “It’s kind of counterintuitive, but when total volume is high, your average training-run pace is probably also a bit higher.” He explains that you see this with marathoners—when an elite athlete is running more than 100 miles a week, chances are his average training-run pace is faster than an 800m runner or miler running only 30 miles a week. The miler is running really fast when he’s on the track and really slow when he’s not. Brenda

Martinez, who has PRs of 1:57.91 for 800m and 4:00.94 for 1500m, is a perfect example of this. Under the guidance of coach Joe Vigil, she’ll run 8 × 1,000m repeats at 2:55, but on her easy days, she’ll run 9-minute pace.

KEEPING YOUR RHYTHM

While Farah’s 5:30 easy-day pace boggles the mind of most nonelites, he’s within the range of an easy day that a variety of running calculators prescribe. But not everyone is. Take Jason Ryf, who ran the 2013 Boston Marathon in 2:23:06 at age 42. He rarely trains slower than 6 minutes per mile. Most training calculators would suggest that Ryf run his easy mileage in the 6:15–6:40 range, but he just can’t do it. “Believe me,” Ryf says, “I go through the internal struggle quite a bit—’Hey, I should be going slower’—because all the training books would have me going easier. I do plan on it sometimes, but after a couple of miles I’m right back at 6-minute pace.”

But Ryf’s training is solely focused on the marathon. Any racing he does at shorter distances is training for his next 26.2-miler, and his PRs at 10K, 10 miles and the half marathon pale in comparison to his full marathon performances. Were he to spurn the long racing and target other distances, Ryf would attempt to modify his approach. “I would probably try to back off a little bit, so my legs would be fresher for workouts,” he says.

Ray Treacy, whose Providence women were the 2013 NCAA cross country champions, has his athletes running toward the faster end of the scale on most non-workout days and expresses disdain for “jogging.” The veteran coach schedules workouts every fourth day, less often than is typical, and instructs his athletes to go truly easy only immediately following hard training sessions. “The day after the hard workout might be easy,” Treacy says, “but the other two days you’re trying to get something out of it, to improve your fitness. I wouldn’t like to waste a day’s training on going for a jog; let’s put it that way.”

Some physiologists agree with the faster approach. One of those is Bob Otto, director of the Human Performance Lab at Adelphi University. The real question, he asks, is what does a slow run accomplish? In an email to Running Times, he details the downsides of going slow: It provides orthopedic trauma, allows athletes to practice something they would never use in a race and provides insufficient cardiovascular or metabolic stimulus to accrue improvement.

“Conversely, the faster-paced run may provide some cardiovascular stimulus, may enhance metabolic function, mimics the biomechanics of race pace and hopefully provides less orthopedic trauma than the slow run,” he writes. “Although the ideal scenario is to decrease one’s stride frequency to run slower and maintain a similar biomechanical foot strike, we know that most people change their mechanics significantly and their stride frequency moderately. I am an advocate of practicing like you want to perform and find little value in a ‘slow run.'”

For some highly trained athletes, moving too slowly throws them off. Marielle Hall, the University of Texas senior who won the NCAA 5,000m title in June, picked up the pace of her easy days from 8 minutes to about 6:40 over the course of the academic year. “I like to get athletes into a rhythm, whether it’s a recovery day or a general day, and not worry about pace so much. Make sure you’re getting something out of it but not killing yourself,” says Brad Herbster, who started coaching Hall last fall. “I think [Hall’s] base fitness slowly increased. I’d check with her and she never told me it was feeling too fast. So for her it worked out really well. I know some people are really different and some coaches will say ‘Oh, you’ve got to take every easy day really easy.’ And that might work for some, but for Marielle it didn’t.”

 

WHAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU?

Returning, then, to the easy 6-miler you do four days a week before work: Would you benefit from speeding up or slowing down? The answer, of course, depends on your goals, your other workouts, whether you’re hitting a variety of speeds during the week, your total weekly mileage, what your body is telling you each morning—and what time you have to be at work.

“Runners have to pay attention and learn about themselves because an easy day will be different based on how long you’ve been running, what you’re training for, how much mileage you have in your legs, all sorts of things,” Barker says.

While you never need to emulate the program of another runner, you might experiment with varying the pace of those Rodney Dangerfield miles—and test the changes with a race. Maybe you’ll find it’s not the hard efforts—the number of reps or the grade of the hill—that will make the difference in your training program. Maybe it’s what you’re doing on the easy days.

LEVELS OF EASY

You can calculate your easy-day target pace using a range of methods, from a percentage of current 10K ability to something a little less scientific—perceived exertion—as defined by Roy Benson, exercise physiologist and distance-running coach. We calculate the range for a runner who can do a 40:00 10K (6:26 pace) or a 3:04 marathoner (7:03 pace).

Run type

% of current 10K race pace

% of current marathon pace

% of max. heart rate

Perceived exertion

For a 40:00 10K/3:04 marathon (min/mi)

RECOVERY

130-138

119-127

60-70

Very easy; a short, slow run, jogging

8:22-8:53

EASY

122-130

112-119

65-75

Conversational; not fatiguing unless distance is longer than average and/or weather or terrain/course provide challenges

7:51-8:22

PROGRESS TO MODERATE

112-126

102.5-115.5

70-85

Easy to start, with a progression to near marathon pace; easily sustainable and only moderately fatiguing

7:12-8:06

 

Cape Town Marathon – by a Grand Stand Spectator

As you may know, I am on the “short side” in a few different ways (be it height, running distance, temper or concentration) – so the thought of even trying to run a marathon just does not even feature for me! So what else could I do when such an awesome event is hosted in the Mother City and when I belong to such a great club with awesome runners, on all levels……..what to do ???

SUPPORT – CHEER – ENCOURAGE – LOVE – UPLIFT and all the rest of it – that’s what you head out to do !!!

So that is what I decided to do at the SCTM on Sunday and what an experience it was. Usually when supporting at a race, I would find myself on the road somewhere, dressed up with pom poms or something silly to shout and cheer the runners along the way. But this year with the new fantastic finish in Vlei Road I thought the end of this grueling marathon would be extra special and a great opportunity to catch these top athletes as they crossed the finish line.

So I dressed up a bit, found a spot a few metres away from the clock and parked off, stood on a chair (yes because I’m short) and then waited patiently for the runners to come through…………

There is just something magical about being a spectator – you find yourself among all sorts of people, from all walks of life, almost making new friends for a short time as you discuss who is out there, who you are supporting, what times you are watching for, how you fit into this whole spectacular event…..and you ramble on with so much enthusiasm and excitement but then have to laugh when the questions get too technical and fly over your head!

But the buzz is just contagious – you don’t know where to watch, be it on the big screen, on your new friend’s cell phone (who is watching it live on SABC2), on the race App – or just keep your eyes peeled on that one corner… And then it happens and it is like the Mexican Wave – where the supporters further down the blue carpet start to cheer and you realize that something is happening! You can’t contain yourself and you just start clapping, cheering and shouting all sorts and get caught up in all the emotion around you, with your new found friends for the morning! The energy levels just rocket! It is goosebumps stuff, watching those long legged lithe bodies cross the finish line in just a matter of a couple of hours – and many of them still looked so strong as if they could have just kept on going. It’s amazing when you stop to think for a minute what they had just endured and in the time frame too! Record breaking stuff too – what an experience.

As time ticks by, the sun is baking your body, your feet start to ache, you need the toilet, you’re hungry, but you are just too scared to move from your spot for fear of missing out! And I hate suffering from FOMO !!! So you knyp, ignore the hunger pains and carry on cheering your heart out. I am not sure who actually heard what when they came running past our noisy bunch – but I will say, it was super rewarding when you are cheering for a random runner, who might be taking strain, who probably felt like just collapsing right there in front of you – but you shout out his club name and/or his name (if you can see it) and you get an acknowledgement of a wave or a smile….and then you just tell them how awesome they are! For me – that’s just the best!!! It may have lasted only 2 seconds but you know that someone appreciated your shrieks and cheers – and THAT is what support is all about – making a difference, bringing a smile, that little bit of oomph when you maybe needed it most. Of course the shrieks were that little bit louder when a familiar face came through – and I stood almost in awe watching the red, white and blue vests run past me. I felt like a proud mom almost – a mom to I dunno how many crazy WC peeps – and I even had many Gugs ladies in on my WC cheering – it was just awesome!

So here’s to many more silly outfits and screaming and shouting – this is what I love doing most and can’t wait for the next !!!

Your biggest fan!

Jax

Going gold: Sanlam CT Marathon race review

G is for Gold, Green and Generosity!

Sanlam Cape Town Marathon (SCTM) is Africa’s only Gold Label Status Marathon, and it truly offers participants a golden experience. It is no easy feat to achieve Gold Label Status. The criteria include (but are not limited to) sufficient depth and geographic representation of the elite field, obtaining an AIMS international measurement certificate, no vehicular traffic, equality in prize money regardless of gender and nationality, fully electronic timing and the list goes on. Hosting an event of this stature in our city is something to genuinely be proud of.

But wait, there is more. The SCTM was voted the Greenest Marathon in the world (2017), is certified climate neutral, and was the first event in the world to achieve 100% zero waste to landfill. If that does not impress you, last year the event won the South African Sports Industry Awards’ Participation Event of the Year for being ‘a leading event that stands out from all competitors, embraces new ideas or technologies and improves the industry standard’. 

As part of its impressive credentials, the SCTM Run2Change campaign focusses on sustainable development goals including health, fundraising, the empowerment of South African athletes and of course, peace. Each year the peace torch lights a flame at the start of the marathon and this flame is kept alight throughout the race until the last athlete finishes. Something about this gesture moves me; knowing that someone is keeping a flame alive while others, including myself, go through a literal and symbolic (often painful) journey sparks a deep kind of inspiration to keep going.

So considering all the above, simply being at the start line is an experience. According to event media coverage, 86 countries were represented at the race. I tried to count the number of clubs on the results page, but when I hit 300 (and I was not even nearly finished counting) I gave up. As for West Coast Athletic Club, close to a quarter of our members took part in this prestigious race on 23 September 2018.

SCTM has a vision of becoming one of the World Marathon Majors. Now of course it is not in my hands to bestow this upon them, but I do believe that they are brewing a winning recipe.  I for one will be back every year showing my support. To see why I think they have all the right elements in the blend, read my Sanlam CT Marathon race review in the infographic below.

G is for GEESies!

2018 saw SCTM launch its GEES competition, offering prizes in total of R500 000 to members of the public, charities and running clubs who come out in support of athletes. How to qualify? Show up, be creative and bring GEES to the event! Clubs qualified for prizes up to R100 000. Since we at WCAC are in the process of building our very own clubhouse, the response to such an invitation was a resounding “Hell Yes! We will bring the GEES!” Cos well, you all know we can.

The leader of the GEESie pack, Gillian Grobbelaar, is a force to be reckoned with. Is it a coincidence that her initials are GG – like gold and gees and go get ‘em? Me thinks not! It was weeks of build-up with daily social media motivations and GEESie elves working tirelessly to prepare costumes, make posters and cook finish line treats.

In the end, every ounce of effort paid off. The WCAC GEES station at 18km was phe-no-menal. Many of us whose families live far away, do not have the privilege of having a loved one on the side of the road to shout your name or to give you a hug while you challenge your body to go beyond its limits. Hearing your name called out loud by a crowd of crazy people with pink hair and blue tutus makes you feel like you got a family away from home.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who came out to support. You moved me! For more about our GEESies, read the special insert infographic below. 

G is for GO, GO, GO after your goals!

This whole event had me feeling all the feels – from hand shaking anxiety, to tears, to jumping up and down with excitement. And that was just in the the first five minutes after I woke up on race morning. This was my third SCTM, and both previous attempts found me bonking at 28kms and slogging myself to the finish line through pure mental tenacity.

So I came with a new strategy this year, based on a different training approach. I formulated a plan after hours of painstaking analysis of the route, race prediction tables, training data and insights of fellow runners (who very patiently listened to my anxious mumbling in the weeks before the race).

I stuck rigidly to my plan, but at 28km I felt the fear. What if it happens again? What if my body just tells me it is done with this self-torture? There was only one way to find out what would happen – follow the plan. And then it did not happen, I did not crash and burn – the strategy worked and it was all guns blazing till the end.

I managed to finish with a new marathon PB, taking about 5 minutes off my official course time and 7 minutes off my best net time (the time I record on my watch minus the delay at the start). I managed to run the coveted negative splits (second half faster than first) and the final kilometer was my fastest on the course.

G is for give yourself a pat on the back

No matter what your goals, your experience, or your talent, the marathon has the potential and tendency to humble you. It can teach you things about yourself you are not interested in learning or show you just how deep you can dig. One moment you are flying high, and the next cramps cripple you. This time round, it was all golden for me. Next time who knows.

People of the West Coast tribe, well frikking done! Whether it was your first, worst or personal best marathon or if it was just a regular day out running the city streets, I am humbled by your achievements and inspired by your stories. 

And now finally I have a question for the GEESies, are we thinking Rio Carnival next?

Walking – the taboo word amongst runners

Mention of the word ‘walking’ amongst most runners is equivalent of many other taboo utterances that in different contexts elicit the same sensations of disgust, weakness and inferiority. Such is the mind-trap that social pressures and at times conventional wisdom incorrectly leads us to believe.

Is there a place for walking in running? A fair number agree there is, but only within the narrow realms of easy runs, training runs or when tackling difficult inclines. Mention the word ‘walk breaks’ in the context of a race and the default vindication again falls back on tackling those difficult inclines and/or associated with a strategy usually applicable to ultra-endurance events. Mention ‘walking’ within the context of a 10km road race and people will think you are stark raving mad, unless of course you have hit the proverbial wall.

Conventional wisdom, social pressures and ego often dictate what we should and should not be doing or saying. And the same is often true when we run races. If one is dictated by one’s ego and the accompanying social pressures on how (or who) to race, then one is at the mercy of these external influences and has equivalently lost focus of what really matters – YOU. Unfortunately, we too often than not, get caught up in this idiocy on race day and hence risk jeopardising the many weeks of training and sacrifice that went before.

In everyday life, we go on a walk to clear the head, to take time-out, to relax or break the manic stressors and pace of life, often returning with renewed energy, vigour and clarity of thought. The same holds true in races. By applying a planned walk strategy we are effectively doing the same. These walk-breaks lower our heart rate, aids our recovery, clears our thoughts, breaks the accumulated stressors of our respective racing pace and just as importantly allows one to calm the ego and return one’s focus to YOU.

With the Cape Town marathon and 10km approaching this weekend, I encourage those bold and wise enough to incorporate a walk strategy into their race plan. Should social pressures and ego start to dictate and play havoc with your well intentioned plans, then provide your walk strategy with an appropriate euphemism such as “refuelling my shoes” to sustain your disposition.

Walking should not be taboo within running, but rather embraced as it is in everyday life.

Some Advice for Sunday

Runners World

Run a Perfect Race

The alarm clock rings…now what? Here’s how to navigate any course correctly

 

To race well, you need to train well. Duh.

But there are also race-day logistics to master. Even if you nailed all your workouts, you can still blow everything by tearing around on race morning in a manic panic in search of safety pins, finding yourself at the starting line with a jumble of jingling keys, or getting body-blocked midrace trying to pass an iPod-wearing runner. So to make sure your hard training doesn’t go to waste, we’ve compiled all the advice you need to successfully navigate race day. Our tips start before the start, finish after the finish, and–if employed properly–will guarantee a glitch-free race. (Maybe even a PR.)

Before the Gun

Your prerace goal should be to arrive at the starting line relaxed and ready to run. Here’s how

Lay It Out 
“The night before, lay out everything you’ll need race day on an extra bed or the floor,” says Greg McMillan, a USA Track & Field certified coach in Flagstaff, Arizona. With the race start still half a day away, you can think clearly about all the things you want with you on race morning.

Travel Light
Save yourself the postrace hassle of retrieving your supplies by not checking anything. Wear an old pair of sweats and a shirt over your racing outfit that you can toss at the start (most races donate the clothes). If you need to check your bag, don’t put anything in your sack that you can’t live without “Ninety-nine percent of the stuff gets back to the runner,” says Dave McGillivray, race director of the Boston Marathon. “But one percent always gets lost in the wash.”

B.Y.O.T.P
The longer the lines at the Port-a-Johns, the more likely the potty will be out of toilet paper. “So bring your own,” says Rod DeHaven, 2000 U.S. Olympic marathoner.

Show Your Number 
Even though most races time with chips, you still have to wear a number. “Bib numbers show race officials that you are a registered runner,” says Cliff Bosley, race director of The Bolder Boulder 10-K. “They should be visible at all times.” Pin your bib on the front of your racing outfit with four safety pins to keep it from flapping around.
Secure Your Key
Find someplace to stash your car key (note: singular), but not where someone might find it, like in the gas cap, on a tire, or in a hide-a-key under the car (sound familiar?). If the key is one of those bulky computer-programmed jobs, use the valet key instead, and slide it into a zippered pocket, lace it into your shoe, or use a Shoe Pocket, which is a waterproof pouch that Velcros to your laces. You could also hand your keys to a spectating friend–as long as he has a nicer car than yours.

Stash Some Cash
If you have money with you for an emergency, you won’t need it. If you don’t, you will. So pin a $10 bill inside your singlet.

Bag Yourself
They aren’t stylish, but plastic garbage bags do keep you warm and dry. “Cut a hole for just your head, and tuck your arms inside,” says Bret Treier, cochair of the Road Runner Akron Marathon.

Warm Up Wisely 
If possible, warm up by running the first mile or so of the racecourse to get the lay of the land. If you can’t do that, warm up on a nearby road or sidewalk, not in a grassy field. Early morning dew can soak through your shoes and socks.

Line Up on Time
Don’t get there first, since the extra wait will only make you anxious. Instead, watch the clock and keep an eye on runners as they fill in behind the start. Then join in. Many races have signs showing you where to stand according to your predicted per-mile pace. Your race doesn’t have markers? If you’re hoping to run a four-hour (or longer) marathon, don’t line up within 100 yards of a Kenyan.

Go As a Runner
If you must dress up in a costume, “make sure it doesn’t extend beyond your body so that it won’t interfere with other runners,” says Bosley. Elvis jumpsuit? Um, sure. Elvis cape? No.

And You’re Off 

Once the race starts, there’s more to think about than just putting one foot in front of the other

Look For Room
As you ramp up to race pace, try to achieve “daylight” between you and other runners, which is basically two full stride lengths.

Be Patient
Don’t bob and weave through the starting pack like a punt returner. You’ll waste energy without getting very far. Instead, jog or walk with your arms slightly out to help you keep your balance. And be sure not to follow the guy with the headband who has jumped the curb and is sprinting ahead. The race gods will make him trip.

Drink Second
The first water stop in larger races often resembles a crowded subway station at rush hour. As long as you’re not thirsty, go ahead and skip it. “You don’t want to trip or slip on someone else’s cup,” says Treier. “So move over to the double-yellow line and run right through.”

Pass with Caution
Runners with MP3 players likely don’t know you’re approaching. “In a crowded race, runners need to have a level of consciousness about their environment, and people wearing headphones don’t,” says Phil Stewart, race director of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten-Mile Run in Washington, D.C. (That’s why so many races discourage headphones.) So wait until they’re done singing the chorus, then yell, “Passing on the left!” Make sure to give Mr. or Ms. iPod a wide berth–while making sure you don’t cut anyone off.

Steal Some Airtime
Look for TV cameras. If you spot one, move into an open space and simply point at it. Waving and shouting signals desperation.

Slow Down on the Side
If you need to slow your pace, do so gradually and move to the right side of the road, again making sure you don’t cut anyone off, like the ex-Georgia Tech linebacker behind you.

Slow Down on the Side
If you need to slow your pace, do so gradually and move to the right side of the road, again making sure you don’t cut anyone off, like the ex-Georgia Tech linebacker behind you.

Hold the Hoorays
Sure, it’s easy to get animated when you’re a couple of miles from the finish. You’re almost there. Yet yukking it up expends a lot of energy. “I once saw my wife talking, waving, and blowing kisses,” says Treier. “I yelled out: ‘Save it.’ She didn’t listen, and she did not finish with a smile on her face.”

Happy Endings
As you cross the finish line, you’re not quite done yet: the finishing chute stretches ahead

Keep Moving
Once across the finish line, runners are all striving toward a common goal–a cold drink and a shower. If you don’t keep moving forward, you’ll likely get knocked around.

Drink Up
Even though you are no longer running, you need fluids to rehydrate and recover. Take some and keep moving.

Wear Your Hardware
Drape your finisher’s medal around your neck. You need your hands for other things as you continue to move through the chute. Just make sure to take off the medal sometime in the next month.

Eat. A Little
Get yourself some food, but “just your share,” says Gordon Bakoulis, a running coach in New York City. You need carbs to begin postrace recovery, not to feed your entire extended family. Besides, stopping for extra food will only slow things down. And any leftover food is often given away to a charity, like a local food bank.

Find Your Family 
Have a prearranged spot to meet up with your family and friends after the race. Anything solid and immovable is best, like a tree, the front steps of a building, or Mike, who quit running three years ago. Don’t suggest something like the middle of a field, which could be jam-packed with runners come race day. Next, make sure you spot your group before they see you. Now start limping (cue the sympathy violins). But do so with a huge smile on your face

The Joy of Trail Running

We are extremely privileged to live in a beautiful City like Cape Town and trail running has become extremely popular and I can understand why. With it’s mountains and surrounding forests and vineyards within the City’s borders, it’s easy to see why it is such a trail runner’s paradise.

I still enjoy road running but mostly prefer trail over road because there is less congestion, prettier scenery, and awesome camaraderie. I was first introduced to trail running three years ago through a friend, Elschen Franklin, who has since relocated to New Zealand. But the bug bit and I’m addicted. Trail running has opened up a whole new world for me. I love being outdoors running with like minded friends through Rocky terrain, tackling hills, sprinting downhill or splashing through puddles of water. This has injected fresh energy into my runs and I am having so much fun exploring the natural world and getting away from it all.

Each and every trail has become a new adventure of discovery, as each trail event has its own unique terrain and challenge. There are wide trails, and of even surfaces. And then there are narrow single-track trails with a variety of obstacles, including tree-roots, rocks, sand, hills, mud and much more. Through trail running I have managed to explore many Wine Estates in Cape Town, which would otherwise have remained undiscovered. I also love to sometimes run up our beautiful Table Mountain although I leave the extreme technical trails to the pros.

Another attraction about trail running and I am pretty sure most of you will agree, is that it’s important to slow down and smell the roses, because running trails can be a lot more demanding than the roads, I figured that it was best to avoid comparing my pace, as I will be slower than normal road-running pace. For this very reason, at the start of any trail event I do not feel the pressure to perform as I do with a road race. On roads I tend to be very conscious of my pacing and sometimes push harder than I should, whereas with trail running I tend to be more relaxed and sometimes walk the hills (take selfies and/or panoramic pictures), sprint downhills (no selfies here) and run the flats. Most importantly, I have fun on the trails.

Each time I run trail I work different muscles because of the different motion and action of my body compared to road running. Afterwards I feel pain in places I never thought existed. It’s a great feeling as it means I have had a great overall workout. It is for this very reason that trail running can also prevent common running injuries. The camber of the road combined with repetitive pounding can cause stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, and shin splints. Running on grass, gravel, wood chips or sand can save your legs and add longevity to your running career. It certainly has aided in preventing me from getting another streets fracture.

All in all trail running lifts my spirits and adds joy to my running, certainly a breath of fresh air. Getting up early in the morning and driving to some or other exotic destination, practically on my doorstep and knowing I’ll be running in some beautiful forest or mountain adds a sense of wonder and adventure to my weekends. Early winter morning registrations have an added flair as we huddle around warm fires before our start, which adds to the fun and uniqueness of trails. But be careful! You know what they say about trail running – once you get on the dirt, you never want to go back to the roads.

Interesting study on nutritional and ultra endurance

  • eview
  • Open Access

Nutritional implications for ultra-endurance walking and running events

Extreme Physiology & Medicine20165:13

https://doi.org/10.1186/s13728-016-0054-0

  • Received: 4 June 2016
  • Accepted: 1 November 2016
  • Published: 21 November 2016

Abstract

This paper examines the various nutritional challenges which athletes encounter in preparing for and participating in ultra-endurance walking and running events. Special attention is paid to energy level, performance, and recovery within the context of athletes’ intake of carbohydrate, protein, fat, and various vitamins and minerals. It outlines, by way of a review of literature, those factors which promote optimal performance for the ultra-endurance athlete and provides recommendations from multiple researchers concerned with the nutrition and performance of ultra-endurance athletes. Despite the availability of some research about the subject, there is a paucity of longitudinal material which examines athletes by nature and type of ultra-endurance event, gender, age, race, and unique physiological characteristics. Optimal nutrition results in a decreased risk of energy depletion, better performance, and quicker full-recovery.

Keywords

  • Ultra-endurance
  • Energy
  • Nutrition
  • Performance
  • Training

Background

As a crucial aspect of the life of athletes, and a basic element of physical fitness, endurance is significantly impacted by not only physiological characteristics but very importantly, the body’s capacity to effectively utilize nutrients to sustain performance, particularly during ultra-endurance events. Defined as events lasting at least 6 h [1], ultra-endurance events place extreme and unique physiological demands on athletes. Some events span several days, including those that have no scheduled breaks [2]. The diversity in location in which these events are sometimes performed presents athletes with unique challenges including extreme temperatures, increase in altitudes, rapid energy depletion, and the need to consume nutrients during the event. Proper training is important to prepare for such extraordinary physical feats, but nutrition is paramount as these events would not be possible without adequate fuel availability. Nutrition, hydration, and recovery are among the most important considerations for athletes, which require advanced planning.

It has been identified that a comprehensive source providing succinct guidelines and recommendation to both protect the health of these athletes and promote performance is not available. Numerous case reports and field studies [3456789101112131415161718192021222324] show that few ultra-endurance runners and walkers meet recommendations that have been established throughout the literature. In an observational study of 42 amateur runners in a Swiss mountain marathon, researchers discovered that the intake of most participants were significantly below the requisite nutritional recommendations [7]. They further asserted that 90% of ultramarathon runners agreed that nutrition has an important influence on overall performance. This being said, adequate food and fluid intake is related to a successful finish of an ultra-endurance race [724] and an important key to attaining this adequacy seems to be an appropriate nutrition strategy during the race [25]. These findings are possible indicators that the difficulty which athletes experience in meeting standard recommendations could be attributed to various factors. Among these are lack of or poor nutrition education, norms of ultra-endurance sports, the development of physical symptoms including injury, gastrointestinal disturbances, suppression of appetite, logistic challenges with implications for both food preparation in terms of time and available resources/facilities to do so and, by extension, total food intake particularly in those periods of increased needs [152627]. Additionally, dehydration and fluid overload [1426272829] appear to be areas with which have challenges. The myriad of stressors, such as extreme environmental conditions, intense physical exertion, limited sleep, and rationing of food, which ultra-endurance athletes encounter [1426272829], highlights the importance of prior planning where individualized nutrition strategy is concerned. It is clearly demonstrated throughout the literature that there is a need for appropriate education of ultra-endurance athletes, coaches, medical staff and race organizers, based on environmental conditions and course topography. Overarching goals should be aimed at minimizing the energy gap between intake and expenditure, attaining adequate dietary intakes of micronutrients and avoiding over or under hydration. This review will comprehensively discuss recommendations to address these issues.

Review

Energy needs of the ultramarathon athlete

As can be seen in Table 1, ultra-endurance events are highly diverse, but available literature suggest that they result in an energy deficit. Ultra-endurance athletes typically train for 1–6 h per day and many have multiple training sessions per day [30]. It is not uncommon to train for longer than 6 h at a time as some events require more than 24 h of continuous activity [30]. Therefore, as shown in Table 1, quantities of energy intake well above those of the average person are required to fuel the activity for both training sessions and events. With performance as a primary goal, athletes should strive to achieve an energy intake that matches the energy output of their activity, basal metabolic rate (BMR), thermic effect of food, and other activities of their daily life. It is important that ultra-endurance athletes consider these variables both during activity and outside the context of activity as failure to restore energy between training sessions can delay recovery and be detrimental to performance. Extreme energy deficits have been found to be a common feature among athletes who engage in continuous and multi-stage ultramarathon events. This is subsequently associated with poor recovery from exercise and sustained fatigue [1415]. Both inadvertent symptoms such as gastrointestinal challenges and injury, including those that are dermatologically related, increase the risk of insufficient food and fluid intake with and without the addition of environmental challenges [3132]. In competition, field research suggests that ultra-endurance athletes finish their races with an energy intake between 36 and 54% of energy expenditure [1834]. With this in consideration, Ramos-Campo et al. [33] have found that the magnitude of the energy deficit is correlated with performance, which suggests that reducing this energy deficit may be an advantage.

Table 1

A comparison of ultra-endurance walking and running events

Year published

Name

Subject(s)

Location

Time length

Exercise mode

Distance (km)

Energy intake

Energy expenditure

Total energy deficit

Climate

Terrain/altitude

Nutrition/fluid stations

Self-procured nutrition

Reference

1977

N/A

1 male

N/A

20 h

Running and walking

160

9600 kcal

10,720 kcal

−1120 kcal

Temperature range: 12–20 °C Wind speeds range: 15–17 km/h

N/A

Fluid stations

None

[16]

1993

N/A

9 female

N/A

7 days

Running

N/A

14,270 kcal

20,940 kcal

−6670 kcal

N/A

N/A

N/A

Food: ad libitum

Liquids: ad libitum

[23]

1994

N/A

1 male

Sydney to Melbourne, Australia

199 h

Running

1005

5972.57 kcal/day

N/A

N/A

Temperature range: 8–25 °C

Accumulated altitude: 900 m Ascent: 1000 m Descent: 100 m

Food and beverage provided every 15–20 mins. Fluids: carbohydrate supplemented beverage  Food: Potato, rice, pasta, and bread

N/A

[21]

2000

Australian run

1 male

Australia

217 days (data compiled over 2 weeks of this time)

Running

14,500

N/A

6321 kcal

Negative

N/A

N/A

None

Food: ad libitum

Fluids: ad libitum

[12]

2002

N/A

26 (21 male, 5 female)

New York, USA

26.2 ± 3.6 h

Running

160

7050 kcal

14,340 kcal

7290 kcal

Temperature range: 21–38 °C

N/A

37 food stations

None

[8]

2004

Marathon Des Sables

1 male

Sahara Desert

6 days

Running

229

17,572 kcal

33,776.75 kcal

–16,204.745 kcal

Temperature range: 5 °C(night)–50 °C(day)

N/A

None

Food: ad libitum (dehydrated meals)

Fluids: ad libitum (carbohydrate supplemented drinks)

[195]

2005

Tour des Dents du Midi

42 (39 male, 3 female)

Switzerland

7 h 3 min

Running and walking

44

219–2405 kcal

N/A

−1889 to −2470 kcal

Temperature range: 18–30 °C Humidity range: 34–61% at the lowest altitude, and 57–92% at the highest altitude Wind speeds range: 1–21 km/h

Total ascent:2890 m Ascent and descent range: 860–2494 m

15 support stations

Fluids:water, sweet tea

Food: Banana and orange slices, dried fruit mix, cereal bars and grape sugar cubes

Food: ad libitum

Fluids: ad libitum

[7]

2010

100 km Biel

11 female

Biel, Switzerland

12.7 h ± 91 min

Running

100

570 ± 230 kcal

6310 ± 1340 kcal

−5750 ± 1170 kcal

Temperature range: 8–15 °C

N/A

17 aid stations

Fluids: isotonic sports drinks,tea,

soup, caffeinated drinks and water Food: bananas, oranges, energy bars and bread

Fluids: ad libitum

[17]

2011

N/A

1 male

Atcama Desert, Chile

23 days

Walking

593

40,733 kcal

110,791 kcal

–70,058 kcal

Described as: temperate climate

Average altitude: 3103 ± 704 m

None

Food: freeze-dried foods, snacks

Beverages: coffee

[13]

2011

100 km Biel

27 male

Biel, Switzerland

11.5 h ± 119 min

Running

100

760 ± 300 kcal

7420 ± 1660 kcal

–6660 ± 1650 kcal

Temperature range: 8–18 °C

N/A

17 aid stations

Fluids: isotonic sports drinks, tea,

soup, caffeinated drinks and water Food: bananas, oranges, energy bars and bread

Fluids: ad libitum

[20]

2013

MSUM

74 (46 male, 28 female)

Al Andalus Ultimate Trail, Spain

5 days

Running

225

16,740 kcal

19,155–24,995 kcal

–2415 to –8225 kcal

Described as: hot ambient environment

N/A

Aid stations situated 10 km apart

Food: fruit (oranges and watermelon)

Fluids: plain water, electrolyte supplementation.

Fluids: ad libitum

[15]

2013

MDUER

1 male

North Scotland to Moroccan Sahara desert

78 days

Running

4254

5541.2 ± 764.3 kcal/day

N/A

N/A

Described as: extreme weather conditions (maximum range: 2.8–45.0 °C)

Altitude of ascent and descent ranged between 0 and 2400 m above sea level, with 7 days at altitude 31500 m

Food and liquid provided daily

N/A

[9]

2014

Glenmore24 Trail Race

25 (19 male, 6 female)

Cairngorms National

Park, UK

24 h

Running and walking

122–208

4776.9 ± 2627.3 kcal

13,136.5 ± 2627.3 kcal

–8359.6 kcal

Temperature range: 0–20 °C in 2011 and 3–19 °C in 2012 Humidity range: 54–82%

Average altitude: 342 m (SD 303 m)

Plain water and electrolyte

supplementation every 3 km

Food: ad libitum

Fluids: ad libitum

[14]

2014

N/A

6 unspecified

Sierra de Gredos, Spain

14 h 6 min

Running

54

5124.6 ± 531.2 kcal

9856.6 ± 859.8 kcal

–4732 kcal

Temperature range: 8–26 °C Temperature average: 14.9 ± 8.7 °C

Maximum altitude : 2484 m Minimum altitude : 1149 m

None

Food: energy bars

Fluids: water from various natural sources

[10]

2015

South Pole Race

13 (12 male, 1 female)

Antarctic

22.5 days

Running

800

Faster finishers: 5332 ± 469 kcal/day Slower finishers: 3048 ± 1140 kcal/day

N/A

N/A

Temperature average: −24.0 °C Humidity: 59.3% Wind speed: 6.6 ms

Altitude range: 2000–2615 m

Snack bags provided (contents: macadamias, chocolate bars, cheese, candy, biltong, muesli, freeze-dried meals, noodles, soup, hot chocolate, coffee, tea, milk)

Food: ad libitum

Fluids: ad libitum

[11]

2016

N/A

11 unspecified

Castles of Cartagena, Spain

6 h 44 min ± 28 min

Running

54

1493.1 ± 491.5 kcal

5197.1 ± 488.8 kcal

–3704 kcal

N/A

Accumulated altitude: 5391 m;

None

Food: energy bars, glucose tablets and fruit

Fluids: Water and energy drinks

[33]

As in standard marathon runners, attaining an intake that is as close as possible to energy output should be a noteworthy ambition [35]. Both general and environment/activity-specific implications and strategies on how to do this will be discussed in the following sections. However, it should be recognized that other non-nutritional strategies to reduce the risk of inadequate energy intake, such as those to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms and injuries, play a role in achieving this. Common GI challenges that hinder intake include nausea, abdominal cramping, bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, flatulence, and belching [2636]. These issues are more common as intensity and/or duration increase. Common injuries that hinder intake depend largely on the environment and climate and include blisters, subungual haematomas, chafings, abrasions, and plantar fasciitis [2637]. Climate and environmental-specific injuries include blisters and sunburns in hot temperatures, [26] and frostnip and frostbite in cold temperatures [37].

Carbohydrate

Given that the majority of an ultra-endurance athlete’s training is spent engaged in lengthy durations of aerobic activity, many of these athletes are well adapted to utilizing lipids via oxidative phosphorylation [35]. However, the energy demands of their specific activity will vary, predominantly depending on the duration, intensity and type of exercise being engaged in [38]. Intensity, duration, and food intake will largely determine how much fuel is being sourced from carbohydrates (CHO), protein, and fat. Although all three are being used as sources of energy at any given time, the intensity and duration are primary factors which determine the extent to which one is used over another. When the athlete is exercising at the standard marathon pace that requires 80–90% of maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max) or above, carbohydrate will be his or her primary fuel source and could provide up to 96% of the energy being expended [35]. However, at lower intensities in which sufficient oxygen can be achieved, such as walking, much more fuel could be provided from fat [39]. Therefore, the fraction of macronutrient utilization distribution is of considerable dependence on individual and exercise differences as well as carbohydrate availability, with lower availability forcing the body to depend more highly on fat and protein.

Based on the preceding discussion, as well as the observation that elite marathon running is nearly 100% CHO-dependent [40], awareness of CHO intake is important during training and events, especially those for which completion in minimal time is an objective. In fact, many studies have demonstrated that increases in the hourly rate of CHO and overall energy intake are correlated with faster race times in ultra-endurance events [81841]. This suggests that athletes should strive to maximize availability of CHO for their working muscles and reinforce the need for adequate energy to maintain performance.

Glycogen provides a reserve of CHO for the body and low glycogen availability appears to be a stimulus for feelings of fatigue [42]. To maximize fuel storage as glycogen for events, a high carbohydrate diet is generally suggested between training sessions and events [43]. Current recommendations regarding specific recommendations for carbohydrate ingestion have recently been reviewed by Burke and Hawley [44]. Specifically, 8–12 g of CHO/kg body weight/day is recommended, with a more precise amount dependent on the athlete’s training intensity and duration [45]. This being said, the need for high carbohydrate intakes both before and during the event is dependent on whether carbohydrate fuel sources are depleted or limiting for the demands. Increases in intensity, duration, demand of terrain [45], experience level of the athlete [40], and altitude [4647], all, increase carbohydrate needs. It is not a concern of athletes’ about consuming too much as almost all ultra-endurance walking and running events result in a deficit (as shown in Table 1) and narrowing the gap between energy intake and expenditure correlates positively with performance, rather it is a question of whether to pack carbohydrates or fat as the fuel source if they are carrying their own food. Fat provides more energy per gram and if the above variables are towards the lower end and less carbohydrate is needed, packing foods higher in fat will make the athletes carry load lighter and could allow them to narrow the energy gap further. This will be discussed in further detail in the section discussing dietary fat.

Current practices suggest that carbohydrate intakes in the diets of ultra-distance athletes range from 5 to 7 g/kg/day in regular diets during training to 7–10 g/kg/day during the 3–4 days prior to competition [48]. A study by Mahon et al. [49] on mountain ultramarathon runners found that despite over 65% of athletes reporting that they intended to increase their CHO intake in the week prior to the event, no participants came close to their CHO-loading recommendations of 10–12 g/kg/d in the 48 h leading up to the event. This demonstrates that although a high carbohydrate intake is well known to benefit long duration endurance performance, athletes often fail to reach daily CHO targets needed to maximize glycogen storage due to the difficulty in practical application. As carbohydrate intakes both prior to and during ultra-endurance events with demanding characteristics of those discussed above are positively correlated with performance, athletes should strive to consume as close to this recommendation as possible if needed. Possible means of doing so is through frequent consumption of carbohydrate dense foods that are low in highly satiating nutrients, mainly being water, protein, and fiber [50], and high on the glycemic index. Examples include white rice, pretzels, breakfast cereals, bagels, and granola bars.

In addition, to restore glycogen stores between exercise sessions, a carbohydrate intake of 1.0–1.5 g/kg at 2 h intervals for the first 6 h and beginning within the first 30 min following exercise appears to be an effective strategy for recovery [51]. Consumption of carbohydrates during performance has also been shown to be beneficial to best conserve muscle and hepatic glycogen storage and to maintain blood glucose concentration. A carbohydrate intake as high as 90 g/h for the extensive duration of activities being discussed is suggested to maintain performance [43]. Again, however, this appears to have practical difficulties. Mahon et al. found that the average intake of the ultramarathon mountain runners was just 28 g/h. Another study on a 100 km ultra endurance running race found that mean intake was only 43 g/h. Again, narrowing the gap between energy intake and energy expenditure results in improvements in performance and athletes should strive to increase this g/h intake. Some ways in which athletes may be able to achieve this is through fluids, gels, and even whole foods, depending on the athlete’s preferences and gastrointestinal tolerance. Experimenting with different forms of carbohydrate in fluid replacement beverages such as glucose, maltose, fructose polymers, and branched chain starches with high glycemic indices at a concentration of 6–12% are recommended to provide carbohydrate late in exercise as muscle and liver glycogen stores become depleted and the risk of hypoglycemia is increased [52105]. These carbohydrates can also be provided in gel or bar form as it was recently demonstrated that carbohydrates in a beverage are oxidized at similar rates to carbohydrates from a gel [53] and from a bar [54]. Further ways to increase intake during events through management of gastrointestinal symptoms (GIS) will be discussed in the section on gastrointestinal intolerances.

Fat

Dietary fat is essential for optimal health and should not be overlooked by those engaging in ultra-endurance events. For those consuming a medium to high carbohydrate diet, a fat consumption similar to that recommended for the general population of 20–35% of energy intake is generally suggested to maintain performance and health [43]. Endurance training is known to enhance an athlete’s capacity for fat oxidation during exercise and fat oxidation provides the greatest relative contribution to energy expenditure during low to moderate intensities of exercise with a peak recently shown to occur at 64 ± 4% VO2 max [55]. Recent research has explored ways in which this can be further up-regulated to enhance exercise capacity and sports performance by reducing the reliance on the muscles’ limited glycogen stores and need to consume carbohydrate during prolonged events. Strategies employed to attain this include consuming a very low carbohydrate (<50 g/day) high fat (>70% of energy consumption) diet for either scheduled periods or permanently [56]. After 2–3 weeks on this diet, the body is able to adapt to using fat at greater contributions, sparing more carbohydrate [57].

With a reduced reliance on carbohydrates as a fuel source as well as the elimination of the need to consume carbohydrates during activity, many potential advantages are presented. The athlete would no longer be required to carry sources of CHO with him or her, worry about attaining enough CHO or risk GIS from eating during activity. However, this strategy also comes at a cost. This reliance on fat limits the intensity of exercise that can be performed and severely restricts the capacity to do anaerobic work [5758]. This is due to the decreased availability of CHO for glycolysis, the body’s fastest energy producing mechanism for intense work.

In a study on mountain ultramarathon runners, Mahon et al. [49] found that those consuming suboptimal amounts of CHO had higher levels of blood β-ketones post-event and that these post-blood β-ketone levels were negatively associated with performance. This further supports the need for CHO intake during prolonged events, given that ketones are an indicator of fat metabolism, particularly if an objective is to complete the event in minimal time. It is also important to note that in non-fat adapted athletes low CHO availability increases muscle protein breakdown [59] and if performed chronically can lead to a loss of skeletal muscle mass. However, naturally during multi-day events, exercise pacing tends to conform to submaximal levels of intensity, often below lactate threshold to preserve limited glycogen stores and optimize fat utilization and the Krebs cycle pathway for ATP resynthesis [60]. This being said, fat adaptation is worth experimenting with for those who consume far below the recommended intakes of energy and carbohydrates for their events, particularly for those who are prone to GIS. Bringing calorie intake closer to energy expenditure using fat also improves performance when compared to a larger caloric deficit without extra fat [6162]. Since fat is more calorically dense than protein and carbohydrate, athletes who must carry their own food should choose high fat food options if it allows them to reach closer to their caloric needs over carbohydrate. Therefore, this strategy may be most appropriate for those competing in ultra-events which have breaks and which athletes must carry their own food.

Although preloading with dietary fat, specifically medium chain triglycerides (MCT), has strong literature support to potentially improve performance based on its capacity to serve as a fuel source and spare muscle glycogen [6364], the majority of studies have found no glycogen preserving effect or improvement in shorter distance endurance performance [656667686970]. In longer duration activities, the research is conflicting. A study by Van Zyl et al. [193] found that performance in cyclists who rode for greater than 2 h in a 40 km simulated time trial had greater performance with supplemented beverages containing CHO+MCT during the trial rather than either CHO or MCT alone. Contrary to this, Jeukendrup et al. [67] also studied long duration cycling activity (180 min) and found that the contribution to energy expenditure was small and did not provide any significant benefit to performance or carbohydrate preservation. The difference in the results of these two studies is likely due to the quantity of MCT ingested by the participants. Van Zyl et al. provided 86 g in total whereas Jeukendrup et al. provided 29 g in total. However, an intake of 86 g far exceeds the recommended maximum by many authors (30 g) who suggest intakes higher than this lead to gastrointestinal discomfort and diarrhea [717273]. A later study by Jeukendrup et al. [74] attempted to test an intake of 85 g and found that it did indeed decrease performance due to provocation of GIS. At this time, the literature does not support the use of MCT supplementation in ultra-endurance activity.

Protein

Protein is a critical nutrient requiring considerable attention by the athlete to ensure proper recovery from exercise and to promote optimal adaptation between training sessions. The protein needs of athletes engaging in prolonged activity are greater than those required for the general population because of the need to repair damaged muscles and synthesize new muscle proteins. It further serves as an energy substrate during activity [75]. The repair and generation of body proteins greatly contribute to athletes’ sought after adaptations to induced challenges and consequent improvements in performance.

Bodily protein stores have been shown to provide up to 10% of the total energy used during endurance exercises [76]. The fraction of contribution is influenced by many factors including intensity, duration and, as previously discussed, the level of glycogen/glucose availability in the body [7677]. When it comes to increased metabolic efficiency with training, a certain degree of metabolic efficiency does occur to mitigate amino acid oxidation with training [95], however, the rate of oxidation still increases over 2 h of endurance activity resulting in a several fold increase compared to resting conditions regardless of training level [9697]. Due to both the use of amino acids as a fuel source as well as muscle damage associated with exercise, skeletal muscle mass seems to decrease in ultra-endurance running events without breaks, as has been shown in a few case reports of ultra-endurance athletes [378]. In contrast, in ultra-endurance events where there are breaks, skeletal muscle mass tends to remain stable [798081]. When muscle loss occurs from walking or running, with the exception of the thigh, it has been shown to occur in all muscle groups with the greatest losses occurring in the lower leg or calf region [38283]. The eccentric contractions involved in running cause the greater portion of body mass lost as muscle mass comparatively [82] to more concentric-based ultra-endurance activities such as cycling [84]. One way in which athletes may reduce the amount of endogenous protein lost, and by extension, promote recovery, is by ensuring adequate glycogen stores going into exercise and by consuming adequate energy during prolonged activity [35]. The following recommendations can also help ensure athletes are recovering lost muscle and preventing loss of skeletal muscle mass during training and events.

While a vast body of research supports a “hypertrophy-centric” view following resistance exercise, recent research highlights a critical role for dietary protein in supporting recovery from endurance exercise. Although the pre-eminent adaptations in resistance exercise compared to endurance exercise may be different, the requirements for amount, type, and timing are similar [75]. Protein remodeling, which is primarily determined by changes in muscle protein synthesis, is an important aspect of the acute recovery process after exercise that ultimately underpins the adaptations (e.g., greater muscle power, aerobic capacity) that accrue with endurance training [75]. Numerous studies have reported increases in mixed muscle protein synthesis following a single bout [8586] of exercise, and both short-term (i.e., 4 weeks) [87] and chronic (i.e., 4 months) [88] endurance training. Such increases in mixed muscle protein synthesis likely reflect enhanced remodeling of muscle proteins that may include mitochondrial-related proteins/enzymes, angiogenic proteins (e.g., endothelial and smooth muscle cells within capillaries), and myofibrillar proteins.

The current recommended intake of protein is 1.2–2.0 g/kg for a general athletic population [45]. Given the extraordinary caloric needs to fuel these unique tasks, it is likely that these athletes are meeting and possibly exceeding this recommendation if they are meeting their energy requirements [76]. In addition to daily protein needs, other factors are also important for optimizing performance adaptations, including timing and partitioning of intake. To maximize protein synthesis, and thus muscle remodeling and recovery [89], it is suggested that endurance athletes consume a minimum of 20 g of protein at 3–4 h intervals to maximize muscle protein synthesis [7590]. The amount required for ultra-endurance athletes and those who exercise longer than 2 h is presently unclear. However, it is likely that their needs would be even higher given the increase in total oxidation of amino acids during exercise as well as the possibility of splanchnic organ tissue damage due to the shunting of blood away from the digestive system during activity [91]. The rate of muscle breakdown is accelerated when muscle protein oxidation exceeds synthesis, which usually occurs in proportion to intensity and duration of the sporting activity [929394].

Currently, ultra-endurance runners consume an approximate average of 12% of energy as protein during racing [98]. It has been posited that supplemental protein or amino acids on top of this intake during an ultra-run may improve performance through provision of amino acids for use as a fuel source and to attenuate muscle damage [99]. Despite the use of supplementary amino acids having been shown to improve performance and decrease muscle soreness in cyclists, a study on ultramarathon runners showed no benefits. Knechtle et al. [100] supplemented 14 subjects with 52.5 g of amino acids immediately before and during a 100 km run and compared them against a placebo group. Contrary to their hypothesis, there were no improvements in performance or effects on parameters related to skeletal muscle damage in the supplemented group. Unfortunately, measures of skeletal muscle damage were only taken immediately after the race. More research is needed to determine if the intake of amino acids during the race would lead to lower values of these markers in the following hours and days of recovery. Therefore, at the present time, evidence would suggest no additional benefit from consuming supplementary amino acids or protein during ultra-endurance running events.

In comparison to resistance exercisers, the immediacy of dietary protein intake after exercise is critical for optimal recovery [101102]. The consumption of a snack or meal with a minimum of 20 g of protein within 30–60 min post exercise is suggested to optimally stimulate muscle protein synthesis and attenuate any existing breakdown that is ongoing from the bout of prolonged exercise [75].

Hydration

As little as a 2% reduction in body mass due to dehydration has been said to result in performance decrements as well as hemorheology, metabolic dysregulation, heat intolerance, and cardiovascular strain [103]. However, weight changes before and after an ultra-distance event do not provide an accurate indication of hydration status and weight loss greater than 2% does not necessarily have serious adverse consequences on performance [104]. Hoffman et al. [104] found that in addition to hydration status being unrelated to changes in weight, runners in a 161 km ultramarathon had a mean weight loss of approximately 3% and that many of the top performers had a weight loss of beyond 2% for much of the race. In other activities such as shorter duration endurance events, hydration needs for an event can be approximated during training through methods such as taking body weight before and after training at a duration, intensity, and environment that mimics that of a competition [105]. However, because reductions in body mass can be attributed to substantial breakdown of body tissues such as adipose and muscle [11] and increases in weight can result from reduced diuresis as well as decreases in intracellular osmolytes including glycogen, proteins, and triglycerides, this would be an ineffective strategy for ultra-endurance athletes. The reduced diuresis is induced by activation of vasopressin secretion and the angiotensin–renin–aldosterone mechanism during exercise and the decreases in intracellular osmolytes causes a shift of water to the extracellular compartment during very prolonged exercise [106]. With the complexity of hydration during these events, hyper-hydration has become increasingly common and is the most reported medical complication to occur during ultra-distance triathlons [107]. This is crucial as this can lead to the life-threatening case of hyponatremia by altering the blood serum to sodium ratio [108]. In fact, this shift appears to be a primary result of fluid overload and is unrelated to sodium losses [109]. To prevent over or underhydration, current available research suggests that the most suitable strategy to maintain hydration is to ‘drink to thirst’ [1527104109110111112].

Urine color (see Fig. 1) can also be used to guide hydration in ultra-endurance running. However, it should be noted that urine concentration (i.e., color and osmolarity) rises substantially throughout the race and increasingly becomes less reliable with duration [15]. Costa et al. found that it is in fact less reliable than relying on thirst as an indicator of hydration status [15]. It is important to note here that substrate metabolism is also altered as a result of dehydration during exercise resulting in greater reliance on carbohydrate as a fuel source [113]. Although the fatigue associated with dehydration is mainly a result of hyperthermia it also results in lower FFA uptake and higher muscle glycogen utilization [114]. Therefore, not only is maintaining hydration important for sustaining an optimal body temperature, preventing immediate fatigue, but it is also important to spare glycogen, potentially preventing or delaying later onset of fatigue.

Fig. 1
Fig. 1

Urine color as an indication of hydration status (reproduced with permission from [196])

Because sweat also contains sodium one might argue that sodium supplementation may be of importance during ultra-endurance walking and running events. Published data has shown that as high as 90–96% of ultra-endurance runners use sodium supplements [2729104]. Although past recommendations suggest a sodium intake of 1.7–2.9 g/L of fluid consumed to allow for fluid retention, more recent data have shown no benefit to hydration [19272829104115] or blood serum sodium levels [192829115] by consuming supplemental sodium during these races. This is likely due to the adaptations that increase sodium bioavailability and prevent losses (e.g. sweat, urine, and feces) which take place in response to periods of sodium deprivation or restriction [115116117]. In fact, sodium supplements taken in excess can result in inadequate weight loss and even unnecessary weight gain [118]. This ultimately results in fluid overload and decrements to performance as discussed above. It is therefore recommended that to best maintain hydration, athletes drink to thirst without using sodium supplementation beyond that taken in food and fluids, even when exercising in high ambient temperatures [104].

Other recommendations for maintaining euhydration during the event pertain to both the use of carbohydrate supplemented beverages and fluid intake before the event. As mentioned in the carbohydrate section, a concentration of 6–12% of carbohydrate is recommended for those that consume carbohydrate-supplemented beverages to achieve rapid absorption, reduce the risk of cramping, and provide energy [52105]. At 2–4 h prior to exercise, to achieve hydration balance going into the event, it is recommended to consume 5–10 mL/kg body weight from water or carbohydrate-supplemented beverage. This will allow enough time for excretion of any excess as urine before the event allowing for a balanced bodily fluid level going into the activity [45].

Vitamins and minerals

Vitamin and mineral considerations are crucial when participating in and training for ultra-endurance activities. When it comes to athletic performance, these micronutrients are particularly important for energy production, hemoglobin synthesis, maintenance of bone health, adequate immune function, and protection of the body against oxidative damage. They also assist in important physiological processes related to synthesis, recovery, and adaptation to exercise. Because of this, exercise may increase the turnover and loss of these nutrients resulting in greater dietary intakes being required. Some vitamins and minerals that athletes need to pay particular attention to are calcium, vitamins D, C, E, and the B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium, as well as, beta carotene and selenium for their antioxidant properties.

Calcium and vitamin D play important roles in growth, maintenance, and repair of bone tissue as well as regulation of nerve conduction, and development and homeostasis in skeletal muscle. A deficiency in both or either calcium and vitamin D increases the risk of low bone-mineral density and stress fractures [119]. Calcium can be obtained from food; however, vitamin D is mainly synthesized through sunlight. Serum Vitamin D levels should be tested regularly, especially in athletes who do not receive adequate sunlight daily, such as those who live at northern latitudes (>35th parallel) or who primarily train indoors throughout the year [120]. In those with suboptimal levels (stated in Table 2), supplementation may be necessary. Current vitamin D supplement recommendations suggest 1000–2000 IU per day for athletes [121].

Table 2

Optimal serum levels for ultra-endurance runners/walkers

Micronutrient

Serum marker

Optimal serum level

Vitamin C

L-Ascorbic acid

40-60 μM

Calcium

Calcium

4.5–5.5 mEq/L

Vitamin D

25-hydroxyvitamin D

75–100 nmol/L

Vitamin E

Alpha Tocopherol

5.5–17 µg/mL

Folate

Plasma folate

2.7–20 μg/L

Vitamin B12

Holotranscobalamin

35–156 pmol/L

Iron

Ferritin

>50 ng/mL

Magnesium

Magnesium

1.5–3.0 mEq/L

Zinc

Zinc

84–159 µg/dL

B vitamins play a role in energy production and the building and repair of muscle tissue. There is some data suggesting that to obtain optimal health and performance, highly active athletes may need to double the current recommended amounts of these B vitamins though it is likely that these needs are being met with increased energy intakes [122]. Of particular consideration, however, are vitamin B12 and folate. A deficiency in either of these nutrients results in anemia which can greatly reduce time to fatigue and therefore endurance performance [123]. Because vitamin B12 is obtained through animal products, such as meat and dairy, athletes such as vegetarians or vegans may need to consume supplements with this vitamin.

Iron deficiency will also result in anemia, reducing the ability of red blood cells to transport oxygen. A deficiency in iron is common among those engaged in prolonged activity due to up-regulation of the hormone hepcidin. The increase in this hormone is observed hours after exercise and reduces the gut’s ability to absorb dietary iron [124]. Because of this, ultra-endurance athletes should pay particular attention to their iron consumption and obtain regular blood tests to check their ferritin status. Iron absorption can be improved by consuming heme iron found in meat products with non-heme iron found in plant products and vitamin C with sources of iron [125126]. Athletes should aim for blood ferritin levels of >50 μg/L for optimal performance and iron supplements may be considered under the discretion of a health care provider if this level is not being met through dietary sources alone [127128].

Zinc plays a role in muscle repair, energy metabolism, and immune status. A deficiency in zinc can result in disrupted thyroid hormone levels, affecting metabolic rate and performance [129]. It can also reduce cardiorespiratory function, muscle strength, and endurance [123]. Athletes are at high risk of inadequate zinc levels [130] and should therefore strive to achieve adequate zinc intake through zinc-rich foods. They should be cautioned if using zinc supplements that they do not exceed the tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) of zinc (40 mg/day) [131], which can lead to decreases in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and nutrient imbalances by interfering with the bioavailability of other minerals such as iron and copper [123]. Zinc-rich foods include shellfish, green leafy vegetables, and seeds. If supplementation is required, athletes should receive guidance from their health care provider.

Magnesium supports the proper functioning of the nervous and musculoskeletal systems [132]. Deficiency can cause multiple symptoms resulting in decreased performance as it is linked to many pathological conditions of the cardiovascular, skeletal, and nervous systems [133]. Ultra-endurance athletes are at increased risk of this deficiency due to increased urinary and sweat losses induced by magnesium redistribution within the body during prolonged intense activity [134]. In addition, the dietary reference intake of 310–420 mg/day is likely suboptimal for most athletes [135]. Ultra-endurance athletes should have their blood levels of magnesium tested regularly and self-monitor for common symptoms of hypomagnesaemia such as muscle cramps. Supplementation with magnesium is recommended if necessary and dosage should be determined under the discretion of their healthcare provider to avoid toxicity.

Antioxidants

Exercise can induce a release of free radicals or reactive oxygen species which have the ability to modify lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids in the body [136]. These modifications are collectively known as oxidative damage or oxidative stress and have been linked to negative health outcomes such as insulin resistance, atherosclerosis, cardiac dysfunction, and injury [137]. Antioxidant vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and selenium can be used to mitigate these effects. These nutrients act in different ways to either remove oxidative species or prevent their reactions from happening [138]. However, because oxidative species also have some beneficial effects on the body, their function is not to completely eliminate these processes, but to keep them at homeostatic, and thus optimal, levels. Therefore, there is a threshold to which antioxidants can provide benefits for performance, health, and recovery. Research on ultra-endurance athletes has demonstrated that their need to prevent oxidative damage is higher given their extraordinary exercise volume [136].

Although more research is needed to examine the effects of these antioxidant supplements during and immediately prior to an event, current evidence suggests little to no benefit [139140]. A study on runners ingesting vitamin supplements (N = 9) and mineral supplements (N = 12) showed that the supplementation did not result in faster race times compared to the athletes without supplemental intake of vitamins and minerals [141]. It is important to note that although ultra-endurance athletes may benefit from ample intakes of antioxidant vitamins and minerals that exceed the current recommendations for the general population, they should be cautioned not to consume these nutrients at levels above the ULs. High doses above the UL can also result in pro-oxidative effects, causing risks of decreased performance, recovery and health [142].

Other antioxidants which have recently been investigated for their effects on endurance performance include polyphenols with the most popularly researched being quercetin, catechins, and resveratrol. These polyphenols are organic chemical compounds mainly found in plants that have strong antioxidant properties [143]. They have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory, cardioprotection, and anti-carcinogenic properties in clinical populations [144]. However, few studies have investigated the effects of these polyphenols on performance, particularly in an ultra-endurance population.

Catechins are commonly found in plants such as green tea and cacao. Some human studies have shown positive effects for endurance including V02 max [145], fat oxidation, and insulin sensitivity [146] in an untrained population; however, studies on trained subjects are yet to show benefits [147148149]. It is unlikely that supplemental catechins would be beneficial to ultra-endurance performance.

Resveratrol is present in concentrated quantities in grapes. It’s strong antioxidant properties have shown to be beneficial against degenerative and cardiovascular diseases from atherosclerosis, hypertension, ischemia/reperfusion, heart failure, diabetes, obesity, aging, and neurodegenerative diseases [150]. With one exception, studies to date have only been performed on rodents, and the effects on performance range from extremely beneficial to extremely detrimental [151152153154155156157]. Taken together, these studies would suggest that resveratrol benefits trained rodents and is potentially harmful in untrained rodents. The only human study was performed in untrained elderly participants and the effect demonstrated that supplementation was also potentially harmful through blunting of cardiovascular training adaptations to endurance exercise [151]. Further research is needed before supplemental resveratrol should be taken by ultra-endurance athletes.

Quercetin is found in foods such as red onion, dill, apples and capers and has been studied more extensively than other polyphenols. It provides many health benefits in humans [158] and has shown to encourage mitochondrial growth in rodents [159]. Although quercetin supplementation shows potential endurance performance benefits in cell culture and in vivo animal studies [160161], research on its use as a supplement in humans are less clear. Some studies have reported increased endurance exercise capacity and performance in humans following supplementation with quercetin [162163164]; however, many have failed to find benefits [165166167168169170171]. Of the 2 studies [172173] on ultra-endurance trained subjects, both have shown no significant benefit. Nieman et al. [172] examined the effect of quercetin supplementation on inflammation after three consecutive days of cycling and following an ultra-endurance run. No improvements in performance or attenuation of markers of muscle damage, inflammation, increases in plasma cytokines, and alterations in muscle cytokine mRNA expression were found [172]. Quindry et al. [173] supplemented half of their 63 ultra-endurance running trained subjects with quercetin combined with niacin and vitamin C for 3 weeks leading up to and during a 160 km ultramarathon. The supplement did not fortify plasma antioxidant levels against ultramarathon-induced oxidative stress in blood plasma or improve performance. This being said, a 2011 meta analysis by Kressler et al. [194] encompassing the above research concluded that quercetin supplementation can improve human endurance exercise capacity in a small but significant magnitude (~3%). Based on data showing favorable outcomes for supplemental quercetin [162163164], a daily dosage of 1000 mg could have small potential benefits and is unlikely to be detrimental for ultra-endurance trained populations.

Where micronutrients in general are concerned, there are currently no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)’s in place specifically for athletes. However, the amounts needed in excess of those recommended for the general population are likely dependent on multiple factors including individual variability, training intensity, and training duration. To determine if ultra-endurance athletes are consuming adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals, they should obtain regular blood tests to ensure blood levels are being maintained at levels that are not only acceptable for general health but are optimal for performance (see Table 2). This may be particularly important during times when their training or nutrition changes. It is important to emphasize that regular adequate intake of vitamins and minerals is required for optimal performance and that consuming extra vitamins and minerals through supplementation immediately before or during an ultra-endurance event has not shown to provide any performance, health or recovery benefits [141174].

Gastrointestinal intolerances

During ultra-endurance activities and corresponding training exercises, food and fluid must be consumed while being active to minimize the energy deficit. Because of this, it is no surprise that GIS are a common issue for these athletes [175]. Endeavoring to prevent GIS is important as it is one of the most common cited reasons for inadequate intake during events [176177] and is positively correlated with increasing duration [178]. Running in particular appears to result in more pronounced GIS than other activities [175] as well as a dehydrated state compared with a euhydrated state [179]. There also seems to be an individual predisposition for GI distress during exercise as Pfieffer et al. have determined a positive relationship between GIS during races and history of GI issues both associated with and away from exercise [175180]. Another common issue in ultra-endurance athletes is reduced appetite, which is closely related to GIS as both are subsequent results of splanchnic ischemia. Particularly at workloads above 70 % VO2 max, splanchnic blood flow is reduced to about 30–40% as blood shifts to working muscles and skin to dissipate heat [177].

If the event has no enforced breaks, whole foods may not be an option as they may be too difficult to chew and swallow and could result in GIS. In this case, intake from fluids is a viable option as not only does it provide the energy but also hydration. However, in cases where the prevention of hyper-hydration is important, products such as sports gels can also be supplemented to the racer’s diet. With gels, it has been shown that high doses of CHO (1.4 g/min) are well tolerated by most runners [180]. Against this background, it may be best to determine strategies, such as use of different types of nutritional sources and frequency of consumption to find which methods work best to maximize carbohydrate intake during an event without causing GI distress. One of the possible ways that this could be done is through coingestion of glucose and fructose as a carbohydrate source rather than one or the other. Research suggests that this can increase carbohydrate oxidation from an average of 1–1.26 g/min mainly due to increased bioavailability as the 2 different compounds use different transporters within the gut [181]. With the use of gels as a source of carbohydrates, Pfeiffer et al. [180] showed no overall difference in tolerance between glucose-based gels and combined glucose and fructose gels. However, some individuals showed more symptoms with one or the other gel. It should, therefore, be advised that individual athletes, especially those who experience GI problems frequently, test their tolerance during intense training sessions, ideally under conditions similar to those of the races they aim to compete in.

The intake of the nutrients fat, fiber, and protein, have all been linked to GIS during exercise [182]. To prevent this, food items low in these nutrients, such as bananas, biscuits, energy gels/bars, and sports drinks, are popular food and fluid choices for ultra-endurance events. However, as the duration of ultra-endurance races increases, these food and drink choices have become less tolerable and appealing [183184]. In terms of athletes’ tolerance, individual testing of food and drink intake during training conditions similar to the event they are training for are vital. No matter where the athlete is starting from, another potential strategy is “gut training”, which involves increasing the absorptive capacity of the gut through high carbohydrate dieting and progressively increasing the hourly carbohydrate intake during training [185]. Although the evidence of this is mainly anecdotal, intestinal carbohydrate transporters can indeed be up-regulated [186187] and gastric emptying rates can be enhanced with training [188].

GIS occur less frequently after adequate training or when relative exercise intensity is reduced [189190]. Although more research in this area is needed, experimentation with this strategy during training is likely to present little risk and athletes should dedicate at least some time to gut training. Endurance training itself appears to enhance gastric transit time [191], and higher energy intakes during training further enhance this rate [192]. Cox et al. [187] demonstrated that exogenous carbohydrate oxidation rates were higher after the high carbohydrate diet (6.5; 1.5 g/kg BW provided mainly as a carbohydrate supplement during training) for 28 days compared with a control diet (5 g/kg BW/day) in endurance trained cyclists. The higher rates were attributed to improved absorption, which provides evidence that the gut is indeed adaptable and that this could be used as a practical method to increase exogenous carbohydrate oxidation. Therefore, ultra-endurance runners should strive to gradually increase their intakes as tolerated during training to further approach suggested intakes (kcals/km) for events. This could lead to improvements in performance through greater fuel availability as discussed in preceding sections.

Conclusion

There is a paucity of agreed-on and concrete nutrition best practices for ultraendurance runners and even less demarcating such by event type. From a macronutrients perspective, ultra-endurance athletes need to ensure adequate intake. Generally, carbohydrate, protein, and fat recommendations are 8–12 g of CHO/kg body weight/day, ≥20 g at 3–4 h intervals and 20–35% of energy intake, respectively, and athletes should strive to minimize the gap between energy intake and energy expenditure to optimize performance. However, the practicality of such recommendations needs to be considered on an individual basis and the importance of rehearsal of an individualized nutrition strategy prior to competition cannot be overemphasized. Because micronutrients are crucial and may sometimes be overlooked, special attention needs to be placed on each both in terms of interaction with the body’s internal physiology, other ingested foods and the nature and intensity of physical rigor the body endures. As far as is necessary, and in keeping with advice from healthcare providers, ultra-endurance athletes may use supplements to support training and events performance and aid in recovery. While some recommendations presented are prescriptive in nature based on the findings of various studies, ultra-endurance athletes are encouraged to apply them within the context of their particular training regiment, body mass composition, and corresponding physiological needs. All the literature reviewed indicate that ultra-endurance athletes must take great care in attending to their nutritional needs to maintain good health, promote optimal performance, and reduce the likelihood of injuries. Proper nutrition will result in decreased energy depletion, better performance, and accelerated recovery. With the growing international appeal of ultra-endurance events, significant research is needed to promote the health and wellbeing of athletes. More longitudinal studies are needed to ascertain the precise nutritional and environmental conditions under which athletes perform most optimally based on age, gender, type of event, body type, and other physiological factors.

Abbreviations

BMR: 

basal metabolic rate

 

CHO: 

carbohydrates

 

UL: 

upper intake level

RDA: 

recommended dietary allowance

 

GIS: 

gastrointestinal symptoms

ATP: 

adensosine triphospate

Declarations

Acknowledgements

The author wishes to thank the US Anti-doping Agency for their permission to use Fig. 1 and my professor, Dr. Greg Wells, for his constructive feedback and encouragement to publish this review.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

 

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