Did someone say snacks?
When it comes to nutrition for an ultra-endurance event like The Kokoda Challenge, the most important thing to do is practice and! This involved a lot of trial and error when it comes to figuring out what foods and fluids work the best for you out on the trails. The difference a well-planned nutrition strategy can make could be the difference between you finishing the event or pulling up short along the way!
1. Training diet for ultra-marathons and endurance events
Your individual nutrition and hydration requirements will be determined by the distance of the event you are doing, how much training you are undertaking in the lead up to the event, the type of training sessions, any specific dietary needs you may have, as well as bodu composition goals, and overall health.
In other words, you need to think about:
This is the type, amount and timing of energy that you require. This should predominantly involve carbohydrates to provide the most readily used energy to fuel your training and during The Kokoda Challenge. Carbohydrate foods include pasta, bread, rice, cereal and fruits, as well as a huge range of energy bars, chews and gels available that can be super convenient to carry in your pack while training or competing. Check out the product range from our partner KODA Nutrition and don't forget to apply the code KOKODAGOLD10 at checkout to receive exclusive discounts!
Recovery and Repair
Protein is important to repair muscles between training sessions and for healthy mitochondria (which are the powerhouse of our exercising muscle cells). Rich sources of protein include lean meats, eggs, fish, dairy, lentils/legumes and soy based foods such as tofu and soy milk.
Energy and Health
You really want to be fronting the Kokoda Challenge starting line in good health, so it is important that your daily diet in the lead up is packed full of nutrients including vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats and fibre from a range of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, seeds and other healthy fats from olive oil and fatty fish.
2. What to eat before the Kokoda Challenge
Everyone will be different in their preferred food and fluids in the days leading up to their challenge. For some longer events at the Kokoda challenge, carbohydrate loading may be useful. This involves eating an increased amount of carbohydrate in the days leading up to the event to maximise your available energy stores. There are a number of ways that this can be achieved, and it is important to discuss these needs with a Dietitian for best results.
On the morning of the challenge it is important to eat something carbohydrate rich that your body is familiar with digesting. Some good options may be:
- Cereal or oats/porridge with low fat milk + fruit
- Toast with vegemite + piece of fruit
- Toasted sandwich
- Pasta or rice dish
- Rice cakes with peanut butter + banana
If solid foods don’t sit well for you before a race, or you struggle with nerves that make your stomach churn, a liquid source of protein and carbohydrate such as a fruit smoothie, UP&GO or KODA Energy Gel can be a good option.
3. What to eat during The Kokoda Challenge
Nutrition requirements and preferences are different for everyone. For those undertaking a lot of their challenge by trail running, quick and easy fuel sources high in carbohydrates and lower in fat and fibre will be preferred, to avoid stomach discomfort. Challengers competing at more of a walk will have more opportunity to consume solid foods.
It is important to check where your supported aid stations are along the course and plan what to have available at each, including something to eat and drink while you are there, as well as supplies to refill your pack for the next section of the course.
The key is to work out what works best for you. Although it is challenging to replicate race-day circumstances, using training sessions is a good time to practise your challenge day nutrition to determine what sits well in your stomach, what you can carry easily in your pack and what fuels your body well.
One of the number one reasons competitors drop out of The Kokoda Challenge is due to dehydration! It is important to always start your training sessions and the event itself well hydrated.
This requires regular fluid intake (mainly water) throughout the day leading up to training and the days leading into The Kokoda Challenge. Having a glass of water with all meals and snacks is a good start.
It is also important to replace fluid losses during and after training. Individual fluid losses will vary depending on your individual sweat rate.
Rather than solely relying on thirst to determine fluid needs, a useful way to estimate fluid losses might be to measure your weight before and after a run or hike. If your weight is under your starting weight, you may need to increase your fluid intake on the trails. Another way of testing if you are properly hydrated is if your urine is clear or pale yellow rather than dark yellow.
I recommend practising on your training runs/hikes with water as well as electrolyte tablets to replace the electrolytes you lose when sweating. Check out the range from KODA Nutrition and again remember to use the discount KOKODAGOLD10 at checkout!
It is also important to be prepared with recovery meals and snacks for after training sessions and after the Kokoda Challenge event. They should contain carbohydrate to replenish your energy stores, some protein for muscle repair and development, and plenty of fluids and electrolytes to replace sweat losses.
Some recovery food suggestions include:
- Wrap with chicken, cheese and salad
- Milkshake or flavoured milk
- Chicken stir-fry with rice or noodles
- Homemade pizzas with cheese & veggies
I hope these tips have given you some things to think about and implement into your preparation schedule; I look forward to seeing you all out on the trails! If you would like further advice and/or a personalised nutrition plan for training and the Kokoda Challenge, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I offer in-person nutrition consultations at PhysioFit in Southport, as well as online consultations.
Recipe: Choc-Coated, Nut Butter filled Dates
- Nut butter of choice (I used Mayver's Original Super Spread)
- Dates (the bigger the better!)
- Chocolate of choice (dark chocolate works well – you can also use dairy free chocolate to make these vegan)
Cut a slit in the date and remove the pit. Spoon about ½ a teaspoon of nut butter into each date. Melt the chocolate and then dip nut butter-filled date into chocolate to cover. Place on a tray lined with baking paper. Leave in the fridge to set.
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