Frosting! Cookies! Peanut butter! It's all fair game during long days of racing.
By: AC Shilton Feb 28, 2017
Clare Gallagher, who won the 2016 Leadville Trail 100, began her ultrarunning career while undergoing a teaching fellowship in a rural corner of Thailand. There wasn’t a single sport-specific gel packet or PowerBar within a hundred-mile radius of her town. Gallagher, now 25, improvised, sucking down Coca-Cola, Thai milk coffee, pure sugarcane, and lots and lots of packets of sweet sticky rice.
Not only did Gallagher feel fine eating this unorthodox combo, but she also started kicking ass, winning her very first ultra. Now, when Gallagher looks at the prices of sports nutrition products, she rolls her eyes: “Westerners are so self-righteous with our extravagant nutrition strategies that cost more than a month of student loan payments—for one race,” she says.
Plus, gels, bars, and powdered sports drinks are not exactly fine dining—especially in large quantities, when it feels like your taste buds are being assaulted by pure sugar. This is why more endurance athletes these days are eating real food while training and racing. “It gives me something to look forward to,” says ultrarunner Dylan Bowman of his favorite salted fudge brownies.
We caught up with six athletes to hear about their favorite unorthodox fuels, and then asked Cara Anselmo, a New York–based registered dietitian to weigh in on what, if any, benefits these foods might convey. (A necessary disclaimer: Not every workout requires this kind of fueling. If you’re going out for under two hours, we suggest you stick with water and maybe a gel.)