What’s on the inside counts. To push your body further and faster than you thought humanly possible, you need to eat right; it’s quite literally make or break. No one knows that better than ex-Army ultrarunner and Team SunGod athlete Tom Evans, who claimed 3rd place - despite breaking a bone halfway around - in the gruelling 171km Ultra Marathon de Mont Blanc, the most revered race in the trail running calendar.
Fresh off the back of his UTMB podium, Tom shares his recipe for success... literally. "When you’re training hard and racing, in simple terms, you’re eating more”, says Tom. "That means there’s more scope for things to go wrong. So no, it doesn’t always go perfectly! But come race day things have gone pretty well recently, so hopefully we have got the nutrition mix pretty spot on.”
Read on to discover Tom’s 5 top tips for eating smarter, to unlock your best race-day performance - whether you’re smashing out ultras on the regular, or dipping your toe into longer runs for the first time.
Tip 1: It’s all in the preparation
“You have to think ahead because the faster you run, the harder it is to eat”, Tom says. “Before a race, I cut all fibre out of my diet 48 hrs before. From that point on, my food is very plain and boring - pretty much just chicken, rice and yoghurt.”
"The faster you run, the harder it is to eat."
- Fuel preparation gets more and more important, the harder you push yourself, Tom says
"And it’s not just about getting your body fuelled physically; you need to get mentally prepared too. On the morning of the race, I like to do breathing and relaxation exercises to help keep me focussed and relaxed. I get pretty nervous before big races so this has been a game changer for me.”
Tip 2: Listen to your body
"There are so many nutrition products out there - test out different products on the market before settling on the right one for you. If certain things aren’t working for you and you’re not sure why, don’t ignore what your body is telling you."
"And remember, what works for one person may not work for someone else. You can get a test done to see if you have any food intolerances, which is really useful if you struggle with your gut. Gut health is important - and can be make or break on race day. So pay attention to your body, and work out what works for you."
Tip 3: Have a go-to "bonk-beater"
Bonking - also known as hitting the wall - is never fun, and when you hit the lowest low you need fuel you can rely on. Tom had a fall six hours into this year’s UTMB and fractured his finger, what he modestly refers to as “a bit of a low point” in the race.
"At times like this, you need to know your fuel will pick you back up. For me it’s Red Bull...it’s a game changer! The combination of sugar and caffeine really helps to give me the energy and the focus I need to perform at my best. I consume 5-6 mg of caffeine per kilo of body weight, which works out around 350mg. Caffeine has a half-life of 5 hours, meaning if you’ve consumed 10mg of caffeine, after 5 hours you’ll have 5mg in your body. So, I try to keep my stores topped up when running for long distances.”
"Alongside caffeine, I aim for 5g of protein every other hour of the race, and 90g of carbs hourly made up from gels, liquids, and solids. Don't be afraid to get creative with the solids! When you're halfway around an ultra you don't always feel like eating so you've got to have a good supply of your absolute favourite race-day snacks, to tempt your body into allowing you to eat. I swear by rice balls and pizza rolls - rolling a pizza and slicing it into bitesize pieces. These keep me powering through to the finish line when the going gets tough."
Tip 4: Get creative in the kitchen
Not all sports nutrition has to be expensive sports-specific fuel, out of a packet. While recovering from injury last year, Tom used his time to flex his chef muscles, getting creative with recipes.
“Fresh pasta has become a big thing in our house; we make it using eggs from our chickens. I'm lucky enough to be able to work with a nutritionist and a meal planner to make sure that I'm getting the right nutrients and macros (and my food tastes good!), but you can easily do this yourself at home with a bit of research. Also, remember sports nutrition doesn’t have to be complex. Don’t be afraid of the humble jam sandwich!"
"Don’t be afraid of the humble jam sandwich"
- Tom reminds us that sports nutrition doesn't have to be complex or expensive
Tip 5: Don't forget to relax and recover
"You work incredibly hard in the lead-up to a race, and on the day itself, so you deserve to unwind and relax afterwards. Plus, your body needs it! I try to eat healthy for a couple of days after a big race to help with recovery, but I always add pudding..."
"I'm all or nothing type of person, which means I take relaxation seriously in the off-season. I take 2-3 weeks off completely, with no meal planning; I eat the things I enjoy without overthinking. Taking the time to relax, unwind, and remember that food can be a joy, rather than just fuel, is key to making sure you have a healthy relationship with food all year round."
So there you have it; Tom’s 5 top tips for fuelling for success. Prepare, listen to your body, be ready to face the “bonk”, whip up a storm in the kitchen, and remember to give your body (and mind!) a break now and again. Sounds simple, right?
Now you know how to get your body primed and ready on the inside, it’s time to get prepared on the outside too. And there’s no better way to get ready to face the elements than by matching Tom’s look with a pair of SunGod Ultras™. Sun, low-light and photochromic lenses available now.