Leadville Trail 100 MTB Nutrition Strategies

Last Updated: May 14, 2024
photo of a man mountain biking down a trail with aspen trees

It’s that time of year – late spring and avid mountain bikers are gearing up for the epic, grueling Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race (LT 100 MTB). This race places extraordinary demands on the body, from the altitude to the elevation change to the complex terrain.

A solid nutrition plan is vital for your success in the Leadville Trail 100 MTB race. In this blog, I will cover the foundational nutrition principles that you should have in place before this race. The sooner you can start dialing in your nutrition for LT 100 MTB, the better!

photo of a man mountain biking down a trail with aspen trees

Make a Nutrition Plan for LT 100 MTB

Please don’t leave your nutrition up to change in the LT 100 MTB! How you fuel before and during an ultra-endurance race like LT 100 MTB can make or break how you feel and perform during the race.

Simply put, your nutrition impacts your muscles’ ability to produce energy for movement and your brain’s ability to stay focused throughout the event. A lack of proper fueling is a common cause of DNFing (Did Not Finish) in endurance races; optimizing your nutrition plan may help you avoid the dreaded DNF and cross the finish line feeling proud and accomplished!

Your nutrition plan for Leadville should include a daily nutrition plan for fueling during training and a nutrition plan for race day.

To build your daily nutrition fueling plan, check out my blog on mountain biking nutrition. Of course, I also help mountain bikers develop their daily nutrition plans via one-on-one consultations in my sports nutrition practice. I am happy to help if you want one-on-one, personalized support!

LT 100 MTB Daily Nutrition Suggestions

Here are a few considerations for your daily nutrition plan while you’re training for Leadville:

  • Please do not do a lot of fasted training. I hear from a lot of athletes who are doing excessive amounts of fasted training – this can have negative repercussions on health and performance. I previously wrote a blog on the pros and cons of fasted running; much of what I discuss in that article also applies to fasted mountain biking.
  • Fuel properly before your training sessions. I find that most athletes do well eating a meal that provides approximately a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein in a meal 1-2 hours before training. If you can’t eat a full meal beforehand, eat a snack with a 1:1 to 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein.
  • Optimize your protein intake in your daily nutrition plan. As an ultra athlete (you ARE an ultra athlete if you’re training for Leadville!), an optimal protein intake is crucial for helping your muscles adapt and repair during training. Research shows that ultra athletes may require protein intakes of 1.6 g/kg/day to maintain lean mass and support recovery, but amounts up to 2.5 g/kg/day may be warranted during the peak of your training cycle. Using the 1.6 g/kg/day target, a 160-lb athlete must consume at least 116 grams of protein/day. (Source)
  • When you’re on the trail training for over 3 hours, I recommend eating some protein to prevent your body from breaking muscle protein down for energy. Just a bit of protein, around 5-10 grams per hour, should be sufficient during 3+ hour training sessions and during your race (more on race fueling below).
  • I highly recommend doing a sweat test during training to figure out your hourly sweat rate. The results of your sweat test will allow you to determine how much fluid you need to consume during training and racing. Of course, you’ll also need to supplement that fluid with electrolytes. Here are the basic instructions for doing a sweat test (note: this only tells you how much fluid to aim for; you’ll still need to figure out your electrolyte needs):
    • Immediately before the test, weigh yourself with no clothes on and whatever food you plan to eat during the one-hour test, including gels, bars, and anything solid. Do not weigh in with the fluids you plan to consume during the test.
    • Note the environmental conditions – dry, humid, hot, cool, cold
    • Run or cycle for one hour at an aerobic effort (Zone 2)
    • When you’re done, dry yourself off if you’re sweaty, and then weigh yourself again with no clothes on before going to the bathroom.
    • Your pre-workout weight minus your post-workout weight is your sweat loss.
    • Sweat loss plus the ounces of fluid consumed during the one-hour test is your sweat rate in liters/hour.
    • Realistically, you can consume about 50-75% of the fluid you lose during exercise. So, if you lose 1 liter of fluid, you can try hydrating with 500-750 mL of fluid during exercise.
    • 1 liter = 33 ounces

LT 100 MTB Racing Nutrition Suggestions

Racing nutrition is very individualized. What works great for one person may work terribly for another, so practicing your racing nutrition plan during your training is crucial to finding what works for you. Here are some basics for building your race-day fueling plan:

  • 30-60 grams of carbs/hour may work well for many athletes. However, some athletes will need more carbs per hour due to the intensity of the race, which is heavily fueled by carbohydrates. Remember that at altitude (which Leadville is known for!), the body may preferentially burn more carbs than fat because less oxygen is needed to metabolize carbohydrates for energy than fat. This means you may rely more on carbs during this race than when training at lower altitudes.
  • It can be hard to eat solid foods during Leadville Trail 100 MTB due to the technicality of the race course, the altitude, and the intensity of the race itself. While some athletes tolerate solid food – you’ll likely want some solid food along the way – gels will be necessary. Two of my favorites are Maurten and Spring Energy.
  • You can try carb loading 24-48 hours before the race. If you’re a female, make note that research shows carb loading may work better for males than females. (Source)
  • Please don’t make the mistake of trying a bunch of new foods on race day. This is often a recipe for gastrointestinal distress. If you plan to eat aid station food, find out beforehand what it will be so you can practice consuming it during training.

Nutrition Considerations for Altitude

The Leadville Trail 100 MTB reaches a peak elevation of 12,600 feet above sea level. You’ll be at high altitudes that your body probably isn’t used to at all for most of the race! Altitude puts extra nutritional demands on the body.

As I mentioned above, our bodies may burn carbs more effectively than fats for fuel at altitude. Consider this when you build your daily nutrition and race-day fueling plans.

The risk of dehydration also increases at altitude. Drinking plenty of fluids and replenishing electrolytes will be crucial throughout the race.

I highly recommend optimizing your iron status at least 2-3 months before the race. Iron is an intrinsic part of hemoglobin (in red blood cells – RBCs) and myoglobin, the proteins that transport oxygen in your bloodstream and muscles.

At altitude, the reduced partial pressure of oxygen in the atmosphere reduces the driving pressure for oxygen exchange in the lungs, compromising oxygen availability in the body. Ensuring an optimal iron status will allow your body to make enough hemoglobin and myoglobin to carry the oxygen available at altitude.

For more information about the importance of iron for athletes, especially those exercising at altitude, check out my blog, The Importance of Iron for Mountain Athletes.

Your body also needs vitamin B12 for RBC formation. I recommend working with your healthcare provider to test your vitamin B12 and a complete iron panel at least 2-3 months before the race so that if you’re low, you can work on optimizing your levels of these nutrients well before the race.

Want more nutrition tips for the Leadville Trail 100 MTB? Check out an interview I recently did on the GetMyBuckle YouTube channel on this topic!

The Bottom Line on Nutrition Strategies for the Leadville Trail 100 MTB

You’ve spent a ton of time, energy, and (probably) money preparing for the Leadville Trail 100 MTB; don’t let your nutrition be the thing you gloss over or skimp on! With the proper daily nutrition and race-day fueling plans in place, you can be strong and successful in your race!

I hope the nutrition information I’ve shared in this article will help you up-level your nutrition so you can feel and perform your best during training and when racing the Leadville Trail 100 MTB!

If you need personalized nutrition guidance to support your mountain biking training and racing, I would love to help! If you’re ready to start, schedule a complimentary discovery call to learn how I can help you!

The content provided on this nutrition blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

The information and recommendations presented here are based on general nutrition principles and may not be suitable for everyone. Individual dietary needs and health concerns vary, and what works for one person may not be appropriate for another.

I make every effort to provide accurate and up-to-date information, but the field of nutrition is constantly evolving, and new research may impact dietary recommendations. Therefore, I cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information presented on this blog.

If you have specific dietary or health concerns, please consult a qualified nutritionist or another healthcare professional for personalized guidance.

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Lindsay Christensen Dietitian Nutritionist Colorado

Hi, I'm Lindsay

I help mountain athletes improve their performance through a holistic and inclusive approach to nutrition.

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