Carb storage for unsupported ultra races

Hi folks,

I am considering doing an unsupported 320km race that begins at 11pm and will take approx. 13 hours. It is an A-B race so no laps of any kind and leaving supplies out is not allowed.

Practically, with the lack of opportunity to buy food on the way (the first 8 hours will be remote and at night) this means that I will need to take much, if not all of my nutrituion with me from the start. This approach also allows me to focus on the effort rather than the logistics of food but clearly has a weight/space penalty. I should also mention that there is relatively regular access to water so I have no need to carry more than 2.5l at any one time (2 x 750ml bottles and a 1.5l bladder).

My fuelling plan is to have 1 x SIS gel, 1 x Clif Shot and 750ml of SIS Go every hour. This equates to 100g of carbs/hour for 13 hours.

To achieve this I would need to carry 13 gels, 13 shots and 52 scoops(!) of powder!. The gels and shots are managable in terms of size and weight (a total of 1kg) but I am struggling with the powder - 52 scoops will take up a fair amount of space and practically speaking will not be that convienient.

Has anyone dealt with this issue before? I was thinking of making up a concentrate of the powder which might help on the space front and on the convienience front - I could squirt the concentrate into my bottles and bladder rather than scooping powder. But unsure how much water is required to make 52 scoops of powder sufficiently viscous to squirt and this additional water is clearly additional weight.

Thought I’d share my problem and see if anyone has any clever ideas out there.

Would it be better to focus on separating energy from water? In which case maybe find some sachets of SIS Go to mix in occasionally but try and carry more energy dense foods. Personally I couldn’t continually eat energy foods for 13 hours (YMMV) so would look to have more real foods in a frame bag to add some variety.

My personal go tos have been sausage rolls, pork pie, fruit loaf, flapjacks.

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I think I’d follow a similar plan to @Schmiken, a tube of hydration tabs and some salt tablets for my liquids, and then keep the carbs up with gels/sports nutrition and some real food.

I think banana and on bangles would definitely be in my selection good energy dense food and as pretty tasty even after being squashed!

The SIS gels are isotonic so in terms of hydration these are ‘neutral’. My SIS Go mix shall be slightly less concentrated than the recommendation to help with the hydration requirements from the Clif Shots which are not isotonic. The idea being, between all three I am neutral in terms of water required to process the carbs and therefore don’t require water on it’s own.

There is only one opportunity to purchase ‘real’ food - around 180km in at 5am. and even this place is not guaranteed so I can’t rely on it.

Given the huge calorie requirements, I assumed gels and powder would be the best options in terms of absorbtion.

Having done several long events like this, both on the bike and as runs, where I carried all or most of my own fuel, here is my recommendation.

Packets of powder are (obviously) easier and lighter to carry, so go with that. As you have access to water on the course, figure out how often you can/want/need to stop to resupply/top-up your liquids, at which time you can dump the sachets of powder into your bottle/bladder as necessary. But this is obvious, perhaps the question is the powder.

I would not make a concentrate with the powder because of the quantity. That will be some concentrate. Instead, I would suggest using sachets or baggies or one or more collapsable flasks to hold powder until use. The advantage of the individual packets is serving size is predetermined but then there’s additional bulk and trash (though since you’ll have regular access to water, perhaps you’ll have regular access to a trash bin). The advantage of the collapsing flask is the volume requirement diminishes and it is more sturdy than baggies.

The good thing about carrying all of this is the weight drops as you progress (the bad is you have the weight and bulk at the start).

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I should also add that the Clif Shots are the ‘Razz’ flavour which have 0.23g of salt and 0.06g of Potassium in. 13 of these equates to 3g and 0.7g of salt and potassium respectively. It will be cold at night so I am not overly concerned with sweating as if it was a hot summer day.

Should I have more than this? I wouldn’t say I sweat more or less than the ‘normal’ person.

This is exactly the conversation I wanted to have. The collapsable flask is a good idea but baggies have the advantage of predetermined measures. I am sure there is something out there that makes the process simple and easy. Water soluable bags so you can just dump them in? A container with sections (imagine a big pill box) so you can empty a specific amount each time? Or am I overthinking this all??

Given you are starting at 11pm, you probably won’t be drinking that much for the overnight part. So you may want to think about being MORE concentrated to get in the necessary carbs, rather than less - at least for the night time portion.

Also, palate fatigue will accumulate over 300km, so you may want to add some variety to the Clif Bloks - perhaps something different every 3rd hour?

Rather than scoops, I’d suggest mixing your own sachets/small baggies with the desired mix of carbs and electrolytes. 1 baggie, 1 bottle - easy, known volume, no scooping.

1 kg of carbs IS a lot of volume, but I assume you will be using a frame bag/seat pack for surplus clothing anyway, so volume may not be an issue. Just a small bento bag to keep nutrition for the next couple of hours easy to hand.

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As the layers come off as it warms up the volume of food carried will decrease which is good for bag space.

On the only 14 hour ride I did I had gi issues for the last couple of hours. And I started on real food and gradually moved over to carb mixes and drinks (and beer). Rides up to 10 hours I never had an issue.

Have you ever tried eating only that stuff for a ride of that duration?

Personally I can’t handle it. Will start feeling nauseous. For rides longer than 300k I need some sort of real food. Even over 200 becomes questionable. When I bring my own food it’s usually some combination of chocolate covered macadamia nuts, Smarties, and banana/Nutella sandwiches (crushed into a cube like object). This is based on trial and error.

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A sandwich of a King’s Hawaiian roll, ham slice, cheese, and a flat pickle slice is a great change of pace from gels. The King’s Hawaiian roll will easily mush waaaaaay down in size and it’s still around 20g carbohydrate. Highly recommended

“In your grocer’s deli”

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Personally I don’t take any traditional sports nutrition (gels, chews, bars, etc.) for these types of events any longer. Technically, I always have one “emergency” gel with me but it’s long since expired as I’ve yet to need it. The one “exception” is I drink one bottle of Tailwind Naked flavor (1 scoop, 100 cals) per hour.

My brain thinks in terms of calories per hour instead of carbs/hr. I aim for 250-300 cals per hour. I’ve already mentioned the Tailwind. The rest I make up with real food, including cookies, nuts, fruit, granola, beef jerky, sandwiches, mini donuts, etc. Really anything and everything I can think of that might be tasty.

The way I handle it is to break everything down into 100 cal servings. The food goes into snack size ziplock bags or for the nuts in empty mini M&M containers that I collect when my kids are done with them. The Tailwind servings go in small ziplock bags referred to as “jewelry bags” found at craft stores or on Amazon (size #3 are perfect). I then have a timer set to go off every 30 mins and eat one serving each time. I simply reach into my frame bag and pull out a random bag. I’ve got enough variety in there that I never go “fatigued” with any one particular item.

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1.4kg of swedish fish meets the carb requirements. Just saying :grinning:

also…the first ingredient, sugar, is half glucose/half fructose. Corn syrup is all glucose. the ratio has got to be somewhere close to 2:1 glucose/fructose. I regularly just use candy for fueling rides. Less packaging, easy to dose out, tastes better, fraction of the cost of sports candy. Which is just the same stuff anyway with different packaging IMO.

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Haribo gummy bears are also a good source of sugar. I personally think some candy like this is the way to go versus ‘blocks’, as the blocks are essentially super expensive gummy candy with a little salt added. I’d rather get my salt via my drink (or an occasional salt tablet) rather than pay for blocks.
For longer rides I have put my drink mix into individual jewelry bags as mentioned above - I think for me the 2"x3" (not sure) was the perfect size for putting Skratch into a 24oz bottle. I think you definitely want things measured out beforehand. On my very long rides (24+ hour everests) I definitely had palate fatigue - I knew I needed to eat, but was really tired of what I had been eating. If you can carry some salty snacks that could also be good - I know I have really appreciated some chips in the middle of a long ride.

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gummy bears are good…but you really kind of have to chew them pretty good; they don’t break down so easily, which can be challenging if you’re really pushing the pace. I actually really like sour patch kids. Very little chewing, and the sour taste is a nice break from pure sugar.

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I’ve done a boatload of 12hr races and done really well in most of them, as well as longer events. I would never advise to carry 1kg of drink mix. Unless your stomach is other-worldly in its ability to process sugar, it’s not gonna work out well. You get palate fatigue from drinking the same stuff, your body doesn’t want to process that much liquid or that amount of carbs. At night you won’t need nearly as much water so the bottles become really syrupy, but then the only thing you want is water…but the only way to get more calories into you is through syrupy drink mix. You’ll feel like you physically can’t put anything more into your mouth or you’ll throw up. It’s not good.

I’d recommend having a fair amount of solid food and supplement with drink mixes. Bagels, dried fruit, candy, fig bars. That sort of stuff.

It’s also time consuming to stop, fill bottles, get your drink mix out, pour it in…etc. Easier to reach into a top tube bag while riding and start chewing whatever looks good at the moment, and then sometimes only have to quickly fill water bottles at a water stop.

For the (hopefully less than 1kg) drink mix, I’d use smaller plastic bags. Don’t have to be individual bottle servings, just something you can eye. Say 1 bag = 4 bottles worth. When you stop, put 1/4 in one bottle, 1/4 in the other and you should have about a half bag left.

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Yes, the chewy-ness of the gummy bears is their big downside. Trader joe’s ‘swedish swimmers’ are much easier to chew, but I don’t like the flavor as much. Both the Haribo gummy bears and swedish swimmers are made with ‘glucose syrup’, so will be higher in glucose compared to candy made with HFCS, which as I understand is about 55/45% fructose/glucose.
I’ve seen some recent discussion of moving to higher fructose content when ingesting high carb loads, so being glucose based may not be that important after all.

Just need to have low-flavor beverages, and you won’t get palate fatigue.

My wife and I disagree. We use almost exclusively sucrose, sodium citrate, and a very small addition of Gatorade powder for flavor. It has worked for 8+ hr rides for me. It has worked for up to a 310-mi ride for Michelle, at a rate of approaching 90g/hr for 20hrs of riding.

She plans to attempt a trenching within the week, maybe on Mt. Lemmon. No solid food will be consumed. I posit that avoiding solid food and doing purely liquid nutrition is most optimal and tolerable on the gut. Primary reasons folks crave solid food:

  1. Hunger
  2. Palate fatigue
  3. Lack of sodium in their fluids.

If hunger occurs, you’re way behind on optimal fueling.

If palate fatigue occurs, you’re probably way behind on sodium and may have chosen a beverage with too high of flavor intensity.

If craving salty foods as below:

It’s almost guaranteed to be because of insufficient sodium consumption in the fluid mix. Targeting 1000mg/L/hr is a good start. Consider bumping to 1500mg/L/hr if cravings persist.

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Here’s what I would do…

1.) Use a bigger bladder. Something over 2 liters
2.) Use one of your 750ml bottles to mix up a concentrate of 2 parts dextrose to 1 part fructose. You should be able to get about 850 cals in the bottle. Drop in 1/4tsp of sodium citrate.
3.) Ditch the powder. It takes up space and mixing it takes up time.

That gets you to 410 cals/hr…which is close to the 100g you plan. And you don’t have to worry about squirting this much concentrate into that bottle…just take a drink of water, take a drink of concentrate, chase it with a drink of water. Concentrate on riding.

One additional piece of advice. It’s a popular notion that you just can’t ride more than XX hours without eating ‘real food’. I used to say I’m a 12 hour guy so maybe that’s true…I’ll let the 24 hour racers provide guidance. Well, now that I have some 24 hour experience under my belt I can say that ‘real food’ advice is complete hooey. FOR SURE you can race for 20+ hours and eat nothing but fructose and dextrose. It’s no problem. Especially if you’re able to take down 400 cals/hr.

If you want to eat ‘real food’ then great. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to. It’s not cognitive torture to race on nothing but dextrose and fructose. There are no physiologic problems with doing it. It’s perfectly OK if you train to do it.

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Started to quote pieces of your reply to agree with them individually… but then realized that virtually every word was golden advice. Love it.

Only recommendation I’d advocate strongly for change to:

I’d make it at least half a tsp, if not 1 full teaspoon.

Solid advice all around.

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