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Trend sport Trailrunning: Aim high with the right nutrition!

Full of energy over hill and dale

Trail running & nutrition – a great challenge

When most people put their running shoes back in the corner, others have not even completed half of the race. We are talking about trail runners and/or ultra runners. 

If they stand at the starting line, the finish is usually more than 42km away. There are distances of 50km, 90km, 161km and even up to 245km (Spartathlon). Almost needless to say, actions like this push the body to its extreme limits. [1]

Not only during the race itself, but also during training, some things should be paid close attention to in terms of nutrition in trail running.

Trail running nutrition in training 

Carbohydrates, carbohydrates, carbohydrates

Ultra runners in particular cover incredibly long distances every day. The top priority, then, is to meet the high caloric demand that results from extensive training. 

For this, it is recommended to develop an individual nutrition strategy based on the “food-first” principle. This principle states that in any change or improvement in an athlete’s diet, natural nutrition comes first. 

Overall, a high-carbohydrate diet is recommended for trail and ultra runners. This means that more than half of the energy intake should be covered by carbohydrates.

This works best with an intake of 5-9g carbohydrates per kg body weight per day. These amounts can counteract overtraining and prevent chronically depleted glycogen stores.

Fat metabolism training

Of course, it is especially important for trail runners to train their fat metabolism well. For this purpose, it is recommended to supply slowly available carbohydrates during training. 

These enter the bloodstream slowly and thus cause blood glucose levels to rise somewhat more slowly than rapidly available carbohydrates. For a training of fat metabolism especially in the first phase of training optimally suitable. Another tip is to add carbohydrates in combination with some protein and fat. These nutrients are usually not found in typical carbohydrate drinks, so this is where bars come in handy.

In general, the easiest way to train fat metabolism is to use products that are specifically designed to support fat metabolism. An example would be our SLOW CARB. The carbohydrates they contain are slowly available, thus favoring fat metabolism and helping to save muscle glycogen.

A concrete example of how you could provide during a fat metabolism workout: SLOW CARB: 30g /h (Total should not exceed 90g/h) To reach this amount you could consume 3 bottles of 30g SLOW CARB powder.

You can cover the remaining energy demand for example with a PORRIDGE BAR cover In addition to 39.2g of carbohydrates, each bar also contains 5.9g of protein and 8.4g of fat.

If the workout lasts even longer, you can switch to Powercarb in the second part of the workout. Thus, 60g of carbohydrates and minerals important for the efficiency of training can be supplied without digestive problems and comfortably.

Total carbohydrate intake should be 30-60g/h.

The right protein intake

Not to be forgotten is the sufficient supply of proteins. Even though ultra- and trail-running is the epitome of endurance training, this should not be taken as a free pass to not provide sufficient protein. 

To maintain muscle mass; at least amounts of 1.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight should be supplied. However, this is rather the lower limit of the recommended intake. To accelerate recovery and prevent injuries, an intake of up to 2.0g per kg body weight is recommended. [1]

Nutrition in trail running: The last start preparations 

Even if the training runs optimally, the adventure of the competition can quickly become a nightmare. To reduce this risk, it is important to plan energy intake well.

In order to optimize the availability of carbohydrates, it is possible to help even before the starting gun. This “loading” strategy includes a carbohydrate intake of 10g/kg body weight per day in the 48 hours before the event. [1] 

This is the, in the course of this article, the highest value mentioned and declared – and it is very high indeed. For example, a 55kg athlete gets 550g of carbohydrates a day. Such masses are usually known from long-distance runners from Kenya [2].

The catering during a trail run

Trail runners usually choose spectacular backdrops to hold their competitions. However, this brings with it other things than beautiful photos. Environmental conditions affect our carbohydrate consumption and also our fluid requirements. 

Heat and/or altitude cause the absolute oxidation rate of carbohydrates, and thus intake recommendations, to skyrocket. The ISSN (International Society of Sports Nutrition) recommends an intake of 150-300kcal/h for distances up to 81km. If the event is longer than 81km, an intake of 200-400kcal/h is advised. To avoid is a sustained intake of less than 200 kcal per hour.

For this, at least 60-90g carbohydrates/h should be supplied. Those who have consistently supplied high amounts of carbohydrates in training and therefore know they can handle them well can also supply 80-100g of carbohydrates per hour. 

It is important that the supplied carbohydrates are properly combined. If only one type of carbohydrate is supplied, such high amounts cannot be absorbed. Read more in this article.

In contrast to the training for fat metabolism, carbohydrates should now be supplied, which quickly pass into the blood and are available to the organism after a short time. It is also important to make sure that the carbohydrates are easily digestible.

Suitable for carbohydrate intake are special sports products such as gels or carbohydrate-rich drinks, which are easier to digest due to their consistency. However, there is just as little to be said against additionally consuming bars or other solid food. Of course, these should be sports bars and foods that are easy to digest and provide quick energy. Classic examples would be a banana or white bread.

It is important that you find out already in the training whether it comes into question for you to take solid food or not. As a general rule, it is advisable to take solid food rather on less strenuous sections of the race. As I said, each athlete has to figure that out for himself.

The easiest and most efficient food/nutrition in trail running works with products that are adapted to the specific needs during a competition.

A proven example of a carbohydrate product suitable for competition in elite sports is our POWER CARB. The carbohydrates contained in it are quickly available, easily digestible and through the right combination of different carbohydrate sources (maltodextrin, fructose) you can consume up to 100g of carbohydrates per hour.

120g carbohydrates per hour – The limit of the possible?

As far as the amount of carbohydrates consumed is concerned, however, there is still room for improvement. More and more often, voices are being raised that speak of an intake of 100 or even 120g/h. Viribay et al. have conducted a study to see what lies behind this statement.

Here’s how the study was structured:
The effects of different amounts of carbohydrates were studied. A distinction was made between: 60g/h, 90g/g and 120g/h.

In order to create conditions as close to practice as possible, a trail marathon with 4000 HM was carried out. Participants were 26 elite male endurance athletes randomly assigned to one of three groups. It should be noted that the athletes were accustomed to the appropriate amount of carbohydrates during training.

The first and probably most important finding of the study was the fact that it is at all possible to supply such high amounts of carbohydrates without major problems. Furthermore, markers showed that muscle damage was significantly reduced. Faster and better recovery was also noted.[3]

The importance of high energy intake, whether before or during the race, is shown by the fact that so-called “finishers” consume on average twice the amount of carbohydrates than those who do not make it to the finish line.[1]

Stay hydrated – The right fluid intake

During ultra events, drinking rates of 450-750ml per hour are recommended by the ISSN. More precisely, the recommendation is: 150-250ml should be supplied every 20 minutes. The ingested fluid should be mixed with electrolytes (especially sodium) to avoid hyponatremia. Hyponatremia refers to a too low sodium concentration in the blood serum. [1]

Most sports drinks have appropriate electrolytes added, and hyponatremia can be easily avoided. It becomes problematic for athletes who consume only drinking water over a longer period of time. 

Of course, it is also possible to salt this, but the problem here is that this significantly worsen the taste. Which can lead to not only too few electrolytes, but also too little fluid.

Learn more about micronutrients in sports here

Help your immune system after trail running

To conclude the article, there remain the recommendations for post-race recovery. In addition to the intake of carbohydrates to optimize the regeneration process, the supply of high-quality protein sources is also important. 

To support your muscles in the best possible way, you should make sure that leucine is supplied. The intake of essential amino acids during the regeneration process is also of high importance.

Optimally, nutrition should be started as soon as possible after training/competition. If possible, it should not be waited for more than one hour.

Something that is often forgotten, and is especially important during extreme stress such as trail running, is the intake of antioxidants. Your immune system is weakened after such extreme exertion – this is also called “post-exercise immune function depression.” In such situations you can help your body by taking in as many antioxidants as possible during your recovery phase.

These are found in fruit or vegetables, but also in spices or other secondary plant substances. In some products specifically designed to improve regeneration, such protective substances are included. 

This is also the case in our RECOVERY SHAKE, which is rich in protective substances due to the added cocoa powder.

It is also helpful if the products you take during the race or training are already rich in natural protective substances. For example, during your competition, would you like to use our POWER CARB. In addition to carbohydrates, also provides you with natural protective substances through the genuine pineapple powder.

 Core values for optimal nutrition in trail running


Recommendations for carbohydrate (KH) intake

On training days

5-7g KH/kg KG (body weight)

The day before the competition

10g KH/kg KG

During the competition

60-90g KH/h
80-100g KH/h

Fluid intake

Per hour


Every 20 minutes

150 – 250ml

[1] B. Tiller et al., “International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Nutritional considerations for single-stage ultra-marathon training and racing,” J. Int. Soc. Sports Nutr., vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 1-23, 2019, doi: 10.1186/s12970-019-0312-9.
[2] V. O. Onywera, F. K. Kiplamai, P. J. Tuitoek, M. K. Boit, and Y. P. Pitsiladis, “Food and macronutrient intake of elite Kenyan distance runners,” Int. J. Sport Nutr. Exerc. Metab., vol. 14, no. 6, pp. 709-719, 2004, doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.14.6.709.
[3] Viribay A, Arribalzaga S, Mielgo-Ayuso J, Castañeda-Babarro, Seco-Calvo J, Urdampilleta A. Effects of 120 g/h of Carbohydrates Intake during a Mountain Marathon on Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage in Elite Runners.

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