Case study: Nutrition planning and intake for marathon des sables-a series of five runners

Alan J. McCubbin*, Gregory R. Cox, Elizabeth M. Broad

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


This case study describes the nutrition plans, intakes and experiences of five ultra-marathon runners who completed the Marathon des Sables in 2011 and 2013; age 37 (28-43) y, height 184 (180-190) cm, body mass 77.5 (71-85.5) kg, marathon personal best 3:08 (2:40-3:32). MdS is a 7-day, six-stage ultra-running stage race held in the Sahara Desert (total distance of timed stages 1-5 was 233.2 km in 2011, 223.4 km in 2013). Competitors are required to carry all equipment and food (except water) for the race duration, a minimum of 8,360 kJ/day and total pack weight of 6.5-15 kg. Total food mass carried was 4.2 (3.8-4.7) kg or 0.7 (0.5-1.1) kg/day. Planned energy (13,550 (10,323-18,142) kJ/day), protein (1.3 (0.8-1.8) g/kg/day), and carbohydrate (6.2 (4.3-9.2) g/kg/day) intakes on the fully self-sufficient days were slightly below guideline recommendations, due to the need to balance nutritional needs with food mass to be carried. Energy density was 1,636 (1,475-1,814) kJ/100g. 98.5% of the planned food was consumed. Fluid consumption was ad libitum with no symptoms or medical treatment required for dehydration or hyponatremia. During-stage carbohydrate intake was 42 (20-64) g/hour. Key issues encountered by runners included difficulty consuming foods due to dry mouth, and unpalatability of sweet foods (energy gels, sports drinks) when heated in the sun. Final classification of the runners ranged from 11th to 175th of 970 finishers in 2013, and 132nd of 805 in 2011. The described pattern of intake and macronutrient quantities were positively appraised by the five runners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-587
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


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