Nutrition & Hydration Breakdown for Running an Ultra

This week, my husband and I are traveling home to Washington to compete in the Bigfoot 40 Mile Ultra which circumnavigates Mt. St. Helens! This will be my longest race at 43.5 miles and quite the challenge with over 9,000 ft. of climbing.

We’ve completed our last “big” training run and are settling into this week’s taper…  I’m restless already!

So, I’m harnessing this taper restlessness and turning it in to productive energy. Here’s an in depth look at my nutrition plan and what I’ll bring with me to power through 12-13 hours of trail running… and 9,000ft+ of elevation gain.

How Many Calories Do I Eat?

Running ultras (races longer than 26 miles), your body burns roughly 400 to 600 calories per hour. Even though you burn a lot per hour, your body only absorbs about 240 to 280 calories per hour. Running for hours on end, you will never fully crawl out of this calorie deficit, but it’s important to plan your nutrition well so you can reach the minimum absorption/hour to sustain energy.

My goal for Bigfoot is to eat about 220-250 calories per hour. I choose to eat every 45 minutes as this works best personally with my digestion. Some runners are able to eat every 30 minutes.


What’s in My Vest??

1 Honey Stinger Gel – 100 calories

*notice I only pack 1 gel and it’s usually the first thing down my gullet! You will get sick of sweet – bring a variety of food!

3 Honey Stinger Waffles – 450 calories

2 Bobos Bars – 720 calories *Lemon Poppy Seed is my favorite. I usually eat 1/2 a bar at a time.

2 Servings Original Triscuit – 240 calories

1 Lara Bar – 210 calories

4 Packs of Annie’s Fruit Snacks – 280 calories

2 Mini Kind Bars – 180 calories

1 Dave’s Killer Bread Cinnamon Raisin Bagel – 250 calories (not pictured above)

1 Cliff Bar Almond Butter Filled – 220 calories

2 Nuun Tablets

1 Salt/Electrolyte Tablet

Total Calories = 2,640

Calculating Energy 

My hope is to finish the race in 12 hours (16:45 min/mile) and eat 150-170 calories every 45 minutes. Calculating the energy I have so far in my pack, I have enough to consume an average of 165 calories every 45 minutes or 220 calories per hour.

Aid Stations

Due to the remoteness of this course, there are only two aid stations the entire race! One at mile 12 and the other at mile 28. The rest of my nutrition will be supplied at these two aid stations as needed. I want to make sure I have all the calories I need with me in case things don’t go as planned (GI issues, weather, extreme fatigue, etc). At each of these aid stations I definitely plan on grabbing additional calories. At the second and final aid station, they have hot soup… I’m so looking forward to soup. šŸ™‚


If you’re running longer than 90 minutes, the recommendation is to drink 16 to 24 ounces of water per hour (of course adjusting with heat conditions and your sweat rate). My running vest holds 2 liters (67 ounces) and my soft flask holds another 0.5 liter (16 ounces).  If I drink 16 ounces minimum every hour, I will have enough water to last 5 hours of running.

Honestly, I don’t break down my hydration like this very often. But given the fact that the Bigfoot only has two stations to fill up, it’s important to map this out ahead of time. Regardless of how much water I have in my vest when I approach these aid stations, my plan is to fill up every time!

For more information about the Bigfoot 40 Mile trail race click HERE.

Let’s do this!!

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