Racing for 24 hours solo means that you must also eat for 24 hours, ideally 300-400 calories an hour which equates to 7200-9600 calories over the course of the race!
That is alot of eating, but thankfully most riders can distribute that amount between solid food and liquids. Normally in the first 8-12 hours there aren’t any problems, but after this I find it takes alot of work to keep my stomach happy. Sugars are the simplest form of fuel but they can reek havoc on your blood sugar levels and have your energy levels all over the map if you aren’t careful. Proteins and fats supply a steadier form of energy but they are slower to access and can be heavy on the stomach. Ideally a mix of carbs, proteins and fats will do the trick but this combination will be different for everyone.
I have started to experiment with homemade snacks such as rice cakes, granola bars and other tasty treats in which I can control exactly what the ingredients are. Commercially made energy bars are also good, with the simpler more organic ones often being the better ones. I’ve depended on Clif Bars and Clif Blocks for many of my 24 hour races and have found there products to work well over the course of 24 hours. Energy gels I try to stay away from as I find it creates an unsustainable energy which often upsets the stomach at the same time. Overeating can also be a problem, and can bog you down if you engulf too much food at once. Ideally consuming somewhere around 100 calories every 20 minutes should keep the fire burning steady!
Electrolytes and hydration are the other key to success. Your potassium and sodium levels must be kept in balance for a successful race. Himalayan pink salt has been a top choice of mine as it also contains some valuable minerals. Potassium can be found in many energy drinks, potatoes, bananas, oranges and dried fruits such as raisins and dates. In the past I have also used ORS, an electrolyte mix produced by the World Health organization to battle dehydration. These packs have a good balance of electrolytes and are cheap and easy to use. The other question is how much you should drink. I find a large (750ml) water bottle every hour is generally enough although if it is a hot race this can go up to 1.5 bottles per hour. I’ll also take in some extra liquids every time I come through the pits to make sure I avoid dehydration. Sometimes this is some caffeinated tea, a V8 or some sort of fruit smoothie. In the end everyone will be different and the most important thing is to try out different options while training to figure out what is going to work best for your body come race day.
One thing is for sure, after a 24 hour race your metabolism will be on fire for a few days and you’ll be able to consume all your favourite foods with little worry of gaining any weight. My post race favourite has always been a burger and large plate of greasy fries. Good luck and happy eating!