Managing Your Athletes’ Food Needs on the Trail

The longer an athlete is grazing out of the back of a support vehicle the more diversity in their choices will be necessary. The number one reason for that is not just to be healthy, but the longer they are on the trail the more nauseous they will be. So bright ripe fruit when you have a stomach ache is actually a terrible idea.

I’ve put together my Top 10 List for managing your athletes’ food needs out of the SAG.

1) Room temperature is appropriate for 50% of the beverage items that you have – not all things need to be chilled and runners who are craving specific nutrients will actually receive them faster if they’re not cold.

2) Stage the offerings to the athletes based on how far they are in the journey. Stage one foods that they will need in the early part of the journey are going to be anti-inflammatory foods and juice items that will help their body keep itself regulated.

3) Plan your music to be happy and a little cliché – most endurance athletes need a break from their mind, and a pit stop with a music break can send them on their way with a song in their head and more fuel in their tank. They will access more fuel with a music break, plus you can never have enough of “Eye of the Tiger!”

4) Chips are the internal god of longevity – the longer someone is in a high endurance situation the more salt they will need, and they will need that in calories that will give them burn rate – potato chips are perfect!

5) Buy food in smaller packages because they will put them in their gear.  A tiny container of M&Ms is more likely to get picked up than a large jar of them, plus they can take them on the road and have something to occupy them when they are starting to hit a wall.

6) Be creative on what you are serving and keep the quantities low. A simple pre-race interview with those athletes will teach you a lot about what they are willing to accept on the road. The other thing is that sometimes a wildcard, like a pack of Twizzlers, can make a new memory!
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7) Add protein to the menu, whether it be in drink form, or in a small bit of cheese. The protein needs in a long distance run are critical. I have added pizza, chicken, and even burrito bites to the offerings.

8) Smell is a secret weapon – the ability to smell food is the only way you will get a nauseous athlete who doesn’t want to eat, yet needs calories, to be able to eat. One of two things will happen, either it will invite them to the smell or they will just puke on the spot. Either way it gets the process moving forward.

9) Blankets are crucial items to have on hand – it can be a place for an athlete to lay down on the road, it can cover someone who is having a little bit of drama, and it can manage large amounts of water pouring out of your cooler.

10) Letting runners know why the foods are out there and why you have put them at that stage will help them make choices. Saying that this is a good time for your body to access protein, salt, sugars, anti-inflammatories or potassium is a fair reminder to athletes, especially if they are in long deep parts of their trail. Everyone loses their mind at some point in a giant endurance run.

Trail well.

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