Aiming high: Nutrition at 2000 m above sea level

Author: Jonathan Wyatt


Eating and drinking at altitude

Transalpine stages will require you to adapt your nutrition strategy because of running for long periods at altitudes over 2000m. Eat and drink early. If you feel dry in the mouth on a hot stage, then probably you haven´t drunk enough fluids early on. So, drink a good isotonic solution and get drinking at least once every 30minutes with a few good sized mouthfuls together with food. Not fuelling your muscles will result in light headedness no motivation and energy, as well as getting angry and upset and strange behaviour; so learn to see the signs of it coming.

Corinne Mäder-Reinhard, PowerBar Nutrition Expert

"Corinne: Ensuring to stay well-hydrated is essential for optimal performance. Especially at altitude where overall fluid requirements are higher than at sea level and fluid loss during exercise can be greater, it is important to watch sufficient fluid intake before, during and after competition. More about the optimal hydration strategy, you will find here: Blogpost Nutrition/Hydration during Endurance exercise"

If you do feel light headed and dizzy then walk, eat and drink to fuel up your energy stores with sufficient calories and easily absorbed and digestible foods you like the taste of.

Corinne Mäder-Reinhard, PowerBar Nutrition Expert

"Corinne: The right hydration and carbohydrate strategy is crucial! The body must be supplied regularly with sufficient carbohydrates to meet the fuel demands, to support cognitive functions and beating the bonk. Every athlete should train and practise their nutrition strategy several times during training to find out what works best."

Long downhill sections of the transalpine run can give you muscle cramps. So make sure you stop drinking plain water and substitute with electrolyte drinks for the long downhill sections (these long downhill parts often come towards the end of the Transalpine stages).

Corinne Mäder-Reinhard, PowerBar Nutrition Expert

"Exercise-associated muscle cramps is a common condition during sports events. It is believed that they are mainly caused by muscle fatigue but may also be associated with Dehydration (fluid deficit) and/or electrolyte imbalance/deficit (especially sodium). However, the cause and risk factors are still not fully understood. Nevertheless, a well-regulated fluid and electrolyte balance is one of the main key principles of sports nutrition for optimal performance."

The Transalp takes you to high altitudes for a runner and you will feel more fatigued and light headed with the higher altitude and even more so in hot weather. If you are not used to altitude running it can affect your appetite too. Feeling light headed and dizzy is an indication your energy levels are pretty low so if that happens then walk and eat / drink isotonic immediately. But often the altitude suppresses the appetite so you might not feel hungry. Instead stick to a plan that you have practiced in training where you must eat a set amount of calories every 30minutes. I know that for me, over 1500 metres altitude is the point that i start to feel the change and i use my watch to monitor when i need to eat.

Corinne Mäder-Reinhard, PowerBar Nutrition Expert

"In high altitude environment carbohydrate utilization is increased and consequently the fuel requirements of training or competition are higher. However these alterations are usually accompanied by suppressed appetite. Athletes should therefore focus in particular on carbohydrate containing foods like dried fruits, low fat muffins, sports drinks or gels to ensure sufficient carbohydrate intake."

Have a 'plan B' a back up plan that because the transalpine run takes you up to high altitudes you might begin to have problems to eat or even feel sick. Have a variety of options you can then try if on one day your normal food doesn;t work well for you.

I prefer eating and chewing some regular food in combination with the performance bars early on in long races. I will take dried fruit and some nuts and chew that with the calorie efficient performance bar. I switch to more Gels and Gel shots in the last 2 hours of a long stage because when i get more tired my body needs food it can digest and extract the energy from quickly and using less energy to do so.

I watch the weather and put more salt in my nutrition for the extra long and also for the extra hot days of running. I try not to use caffein products at the start of the stages but will bring some caffein gels with me for the final 1 or 2 hours of a long day race.

Corinne Mäder-Reinhard, PowerBar Nutrition Expert

"Caffeine intake before and/or during prolonged endurance exercise is well known as performance booster. However, there is no one-size-fits all caffeine strategy. Every athlete should experiment during training to see how caffeine is tolerated and to find out the individual optimal amount and timing of intake. More information about caffeine and performance under: Blogpost Caffeine the popular Peerformance Booster"

I don't do any carbo or pre loading before long races but some people do and it works for them. For me, i just prefer to keep everything really simple because I have to travel to many different countries with different food possibilities so I can't always get the perfect set up. Therefore I eat a normal diet in the last days before a long event where I have rice, or potatoes as my carbo of choice. I do drink some extra fluid in the last 24 - 48 hours, but don't exaggerate this as you'll have to visit the bathroom every 30minutes!

Immediately after you finish stage then you have to fuel the body in order to recover. Protein rich easily absorbable foods (i like a protein shake with banana in it) will help to repair muscle and begin the recovery. I then try to eat salty foods and my favourite are some chips and a good hot noodle soup. Hot foods become really important to help warm the core of the body after a wet and stage.

Corinne Mäder-Reinhard, PowerBar Nutrition Expert

"The optimal recovery nutrition strategy starts immediately after exercise. The main nutrition components to promote recovery are carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores, high-quality protein for repairing damaged muscle tissue and fluid and electrolytes (especially sodium) for effective rehydration. Furthermore, the recovery phase is a continuum and therefore subsequent meals and snacks must be carefully planned and selected. It’s important not to forget that sleep plays a major role during recovery and that nutrition also influences this period. A sub-optimally created evening meal can influence sleep quality and reduce night-time recovery. More about nutrition strategies to promote recovery under: Blogpost Nutrition during Recovery"


Jonathan Wyatt 

Mountain running legend Jonathan Wyatt, from New Zealand, has made history with a his undisputed success: as well as succeeding in numerous local and international competitions, he has taken the Australian title twice and the New Zealand title 14 times. He has also won more than 8 mountain running world championships and competed twice in the Olympics. 

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