View Full Version : Supermarathons and Salad Dressing

02-22-2010, 10:45 PM
My GF who runs pretty seriously just told me that in those super-endurance races guys chug salad dressing because apparently we humans can metabolize it into energy faster than just about any other food. A cursury google search doesn't turn up much, and i figure asking on here would be easier. Not that i don't trust her, but let's just say she doesn't know that I'm on here now posting this question.

02-22-2010, 11:59 PM
Awful lot of oil in salad dressing. Unless it's low- or non-fat. Just saying.

02-23-2010, 12:36 AM
Yuck. This is one "factoid" I'd never heard before. It's a repulsive thought, to me, to imagine chugging ranch dressing. Or even Caesar dressing. Or eating mayonnaise with a spoon. (Why is it mayo is divine on a sandwich, but repugnant to imagine licking directly from the knife?)

02-23-2010, 06:50 AM
Italian dressing is essentially oil with some flavorings. If you want calories for an endurance race, oil is the way to go. On winter hikes (where you burn huge amounts of calories) I've seen people eat sticks of butter, or put half a stick in their hot cocoa.

I have friends who run ultras and I've never heard them talk about chugging oil or salad dressing, but they do eat high fat foods and complex carbs.

Fear Itself
02-23-2010, 07:30 AM
Iditarod sled dog racers routinely eat sticks of butter on the trail for concentrated calories.

02-23-2010, 07:44 AM
My Wifes an IronMan. I've helped out at lot of triathlons and I have never heard or seen such a thing.

Nutrition is incredibly important. Salad dressing? I think somebody is pulling your GF's leg.

02-23-2010, 07:56 AM
I imagine the oil would run right through some folks, I know it wouldn't stay in my body too long. Id have to stop at a restroom 10 mins into the race.

02-23-2010, 10:13 AM
I imagine the oil would run right through some folks, I know it wouldn't stay in my body too long. Id have to stop at a restroom 10 mins into the race.

Maybe that's the secret, extra motivation. ;)

"Today's Marathon winner who set a world record time of 15 minutes was disqualified do to use of performance enhancing substances, namely Olestra"

Tom Tildrum
02-23-2010, 10:20 AM
Iditarod sled dog racers routinely eat sticks of butter on the trail for concentrated calories.

Well, my dog would happily eat a stick of butter, too, if I offered it to her.

02-23-2010, 12:29 PM
I have started running ultras and just the thought of chugging a mouthful of pure fat makes me feel ill. I have friends who do many 50-100 mile runs and none of them has ever mentioned such a thing.

AFAIK the aid stations along the way don't have anything like that - there are certainly snacks with fat (PB&J sandwiches, french fries, cookies) but not cups of olive oil. You need some fat but not the majority of the calories.

When I'm doing those long runs food is mostly carbohydrates (simple and complex) with a little fat and protein. Gels, Gatorade, whole-grain bread, granola bars and a little trailmix, for example.

Once you stop running you can stomach more fats.

Anecdotal stories - like some other folks mentioned, I've got a friend who used to do winter SAR, cold-weather backpacking and so on and she also mentioned meals like "Cup of hot cocoa with a half stick of butter melted in it, plus a bowl of oatmeal with the other half stick". Another couple of friends knows a fellow who crossed Antarctica solo on foot and a very large amount of his diet was pure fat - to get used to it he'd drink pure olive oil, substitute olive oil for milk in his cereal in the morning, etc. I've done some winter camping and we definitely ate a lot more fat. In that case you're burning tons of calories just sitting still, keeping alive.

I've met ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes a few times and he likes to talk about eating a whole pizza on the run (IIRC that story was from running a 200 mile race). He said that one of his favorite meals to eat on the run during the Badwater ultra was a whole-wheat sandwich with almond butter, honey and soy sauce. Note that both those have a lot of fat but are also loaded with carbohydrates, protein and salt.

Superfluous Parentheses
02-23-2010, 12:35 PM
Another (friend-of-a-friend type) anecdote: I've heard of people working near the arctic in Russia starting their day with a cup of hot lard followed by a shot of vodka.

So far, all the examples in this thread of lots of fat eating/drinking seem to be in very cold circumstances.

02-23-2010, 12:35 PM
Well, my dog would happily eat a stick of butter, too, if I offered it to her.

they also happily eat cat shit ...

[but butter for fast calories does make sense]

02-23-2010, 02:48 PM
I just asked an office-mate who's a big runner, and he said "Why would we do that?" I said "For the fat and the calories", and he said that there are a lot of other foods with a lot of fat and calories that are easier on the stomach, and that carbs and protein are more important while you're running, anyway.

Backcountry Medic
02-23-2010, 03:43 PM
It's not an ultramarathon, but when I have a long day trip or overnighter into the mountain in the cold and snow we make bacon brownie bars, which typically consist of a dollar bill sized slab of brownie, a thick layer of cream cheese (typically half a pack per bar) and a layer of crispy bacon on top. Keep it in a cool part of your pack and it'll give you the boost you need to get up in the morning or top out on a peak.

I think the cold is what brings out the oil cravings. For a long, hot footrace I'd rather have a gu-pack, some fruit and a cool drink of water anyday.

02-24-2010, 07:02 PM
Another thing to remember is that we can only digest food so fast - I've read that you can put about 300-400 cal/hour into your system. More than that your digestive system can't handle in time, it'll either sit there in your stomach or just get pushed along your intestines as bulk, which leads to stomach upsets, not a good thing on a long run.

300 calories is not much - it's three tablespoons of pure oil or three of those little gel packs; very close in terms of physical bulk, so it's not like eating fat would let you avoid having to eat a whole mess of "regular" food.

You just can't process the calories fast enough that a small reduction in bulk makes any real difference, it's not much bulk to begin with.

Running will easily burn 600-1000 cal/hour (depending on speed, terrain and your size), so on any long run it's not possible to eat enough to make up the calories you are burning, you're just lowering the deficit. I'm not an expert on the details but my recollection is that your body will first use the readily available stores of glycogen and then when that runs out it'll start burning off body fat, somewhere around the 20 mile mark (which corresponds to when many people hit the wall in a marathon). A pound of body fat packs an amazing amount of energy - 3500 calories is theoretically enough to let you run almost 30 miles (running burns about 125 cal/mile at a wide range of speeds). There may well be some difference in how your body converts those different stores of calories into usable energy.

From a "how easy is it to digest" standpoint I did some reading after I got altitude sick on a mountain and what I read is that the easiest to digest foods are simple carbohydrates. Proteins and fats are harder to digest (which is why my salami sandwiches were a bad idea when the air got thinner!).

02-24-2010, 11:36 PM
Saw a movie tonight at the Banff Film Festival about a guy biking from Alaska to Tierra Del Fueggo on a tandem bike. At one point he was biking through essentially a cold desert and burning huge amounts of calories. He was drinking olive oil straight from the bottle.

02-25-2010, 06:01 AM
I was trying to get my head around this:

An Ironman event consists of three events: 3.9km swim, 180km cycle and 42km run.
The swim is about 2000 Calories (your glycogen limit), the cycle is 7000 and the marathon 2500, with a 17 hour cutoff. At 300 Calories per hour digested (if you could manage it without throwing up), you could possibly manage 5000 Calories intake, leaving a 6500 Calorie debt when you finish (~ a kilo of body fat).

I was talking to my cardio class instructor last night, and he described helping out some Ironman competitors with nutrition and training, and watching one of the guys who had just finished. This guy had the shakes and an IV drip in his arm, and was planning to do a double ironman the following year.

I'm sticking with sprint and olympic triathlons.


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