Friday, 22 April 2011

Marathon des Sables: NUTRITION

Photo (C) Mark Gillett

I'm covering nutrition and drink here as both combine to give an important diet while in the desert. The MdS rules state you must have at least 2000 calories per day (7) which obviously totals 14,000 calories.. you can get stopped at any time during the race or at camp and spot checked - this means you ALWAYS have to have the minimum requirements for each day..

Having said this i'm going to cover fluids first.. you are given aprox 10-11 litres of water per day at various stages - this water is used for everything including washing, cleaning, soaking, hydrating foods, cooling and of course drinking. Because you sweat a lot you are actually given 120 salt tablets to take - thats about 18 a day and they are just swallowed whole - you can't taste the salt.. I also took with me my trusted Enduralites Powder as it is fairly taste free and mixes with water easy - I mixed one (tiny) scoop with 500ml of water at all check points.. on hot days (40+) I also took plenty of salt tabs and never suffered with cramp.

Nutrition in one tiny scoop (about a quarter of a teaspoon)

Sodium (as Sodium Chloride) 40 mg.
Chloride(as Sodium Chloride) 60 mg.
Calcium (Chelate) 50 mg
Magnesium (Chelate) 25 mg
Potassium (Chelate) 25 mg
Vitamin B-6 (Pyrodoxine HCL) 6.7 mg
Manganese (Chelate) 1.6 mg
L-Tyrosine 17 mg
Glycine 50 mg

I decided not to take any flavoured drinks as in testing i found the taste to get on my nerves after a while.. However, someone gave me one energy drink while out there and if going again I would take one for each day - but no more. A lot of people complain and wished they had not bought as many...

I went out to get my 2000 calories with just 2 products a day..

1) Expedition Breakfast - 2 portion (a whopping 1,300 calories)
carbohydrates 153 g
protein 30 g
fat 72 g

2) Pasta Bolognese - 2 portion (1,000 calories)
carbohydrates 150 g
protein 38 g
fat 25 g

One in the AM and one at night.. easy.. Ok so the breakfast was ok all week but as the week went on I couldn't eat the whole thing and was forced to cut it in half and lose the spare.. My stomach had obviously shrunk - however the food still tasted ok - even though I was having the same thing everyday! The pasta was perfect all week - I only lost one packet - the 7th day as when we got to the finish it was not needed.
To make either of these you just add boiling water and leave for about 6 minutes..

Snacks were important on the go also.. I took the following:

Trek Peanut & Oat energy bars (7) one for each day - each bar is 68g

Per 100g: Energy 1472kJ/352kcal, Protein 16g, Carbohydrate 49g, Fat 11g
M&M's Peanut flavour - 250 Cl per packet - and NO they didn't melt. even with temps over 50C
SIS Go Gel - Tropical flavour (4)
Cl 100 ; Carb 22g Protein 1g Sodium 10mg
ZipFit ZV7c energy gels (3)
Calories 200 , Carbs 51g per sachet!!
Super trail mix (3) 125g per packet
per 100g:
Energy 447 Cl, Protein 9g, Carbohydrate 41g, Fat 30g
all the above products went down very well apart from the ZipFit gels - they were too sticky and sweet.. very tough to digest on a hot day! I had to drink a lot of water with them - great for carbs but just too thick and sweet i'm afraid - however, that's just my opinion. Trail mix and M&M's complimented each other very well and I would change anything only have SIS gels only and maybe 2 per day or at least half as many more.

After the race I'd have two recovery products...

Peporami (7)
126 Cl Fat 11g Carbs 0.6g Protein 6.1g Sodium 40mg

Muscle & Size gainer by Precision - 1.5 scoops mixed with 350ml water
aprox 400 Cl, 65g Carb, 30g Protein

I wrapped the Precision powder in individual bags - 7 of them. Both these products were brilliant!.. The Peperami was especially good - eating when you have a dry mouth is not east but this is quite fatty and therefore easy to digest.. might think of taking more in similar circumstances..
In all my nutrition was very good - i'd change a couple of things - maybe take single portion breakfasts only OR mix my own and take that... leave out the ZipFit gels and I'm good to go.. Nutrition was never a problem for me - I believe it's a basic need to just stick to the rules of balance and the body adjusts as you go on... Salt and Water and imperative to having a good run - even more so in this climate - test your products first - know your body and stick to these rules like clockwork.


  1. Sounds like you got that nutrition stuff spot on. I recall you testing various items that didn't make the grade (Supernoodles being just one!!!).
    How much weight did you lose during the whole event, Ray?