Nutrition strategy for the Marathon des Sables: practical tips from ultrarunner Beat Fraefel
For ultrarunner Beat Fraefel a dream has come true: The Swiss endurance athlete finished the legendary Marathon des Sables, an ultra-marathon over 250k in six stages through the Moroccan Sahara - in fourth place in the over-60 category! Since the athletes have to carry all their personal belongings and sufficient food with them for the entire race (only water is provided daily by the organisers), the ultra-run through sand and heat - temperatures during the day are well over 40 degrees! - make it a very special challenge. In the following interview, Beat Fraefel talks about his food management during the competition and tells us which SPONSER products he used.
Beat, first of all: congratulations on your successful finish! What strategy in terms of marathon nutrition worked for you during the MdS?
The daily stages were between 32k and 83k long. I wanted to keep the nutrition as simple as possible, so I took one HIGH ENERGY BAR and 35 grams of COMPETITION per 10k. I had planned to eat the HIGH ENERGY BARS in small portions, but because of the heat it worked better to take a whole bar with lots of water at the checkpoints (about every 10-12k). For the long night stages I had CAFFEINE CAPS in my luggage.
What did you eat and drink in the camp?
I drank 60g of RECOVERY DRINK, which I enriched with 25g of MULTI PROTEIN on the advice of my nutritionist. I had freeze-dried penne for dinner and freeze-dried porridge for breakfast. For in-between meals I carried nuts and dried meat with me, and for dessert in the evening I allowed myself two Willisauer Ringli.
Did everything work out in the competition as you had imagined and planned in advance?
The HIGH ENERGY BARS and the COMPETITION worked out very well with two exceptions: COMPETITION Cool Mint no longer had a cooling effect in the high temperatures and the taste became completely disgusting for me. Fortunately, I still had some of the Fruit Mix flavour with me. It also paid off that I filled the COMPETITION into small bags at home so that I had one portion per drinking bottle ready. The HIGH ENERGY BARS Banana and Berry also worked very well. I also liked the Salty Nuts, but in the heat the rougher consistency of the ground nuts turned out to be a disadvantage - so on the third day I gave all my Salty Nuts bars to the Berbers who were setting up the tents. They were very happy about that.
What nutritional advice would you give to a MdS novice?
Keep it as simple as possible! Take salt tablets as prescribed by the doctors. Take two bottles of water (3 litres) with you at the checkpoints. The extra weight is insignificant compared to dehydration. On the first day I didn't take this into account and so I was dehydrated after 27k - it felt like a giant hammer man! And another advice: take a recovery drink immediately after the stage and generally eat with discipline!
How did you deal with the calorie deficit?
I had a lot of respect for the calorie deficit, which adds up over the week, so I took a total of about 20,000 calories (5.05kg) with me. That, it turned out, was too much. Still, it was an advantage as I was able to compensate for the products I couldn't tolerate, such as Salty Nuts Bars and the Cool Mint. For me, weighing 70kg, about 17,000 calories would have been enough.
Do you look at certain things with new eyes after the MdS?
It is a luxury that we always have an abundance of food here. And above all: having enough clean water is the greatest luxury of all!