Aid and Food Stations Nutrition Guide For Endurance Event Race Organisers

Aid and Food Stations Nutrition Guide For Endurance Event Race Organisers

Do you run an endurance event and provide food for the competitors. We've created this write up to hopefully bring up some points that you may have not though of, if you have some pointers, we'd love to hear in the comments!

As you may already know, the nutrition plan of the athletes and competitors could help them in their pursuit of finishing, exceeding their expectations but also having the potential to ruin a race.

Imagine coming in to an aid station in 187th, that means 186 people before you that have potentially put their hands in to the same bowl of sweets that you're about to eat from. They could have clean hands, if they're lucky, but they may eat a non-gluten free food or animal based food item at the beginning of their aid station resupply and then touch the vegan and gluten free foods and cross contaminate, and thats the best case scenario.

Here we hope to propose a basic aid station guide which covers many different athlete nutritional and diet requirements and a plan in how to approach the interaction competitors have with the food and drink.


What Do Ultra Marathon Events Offer

Before we get started with anything else, we'll look in to what some ultra marathons offer for food and drink choices on their events.

We have added two ultra marathon events and their food and drink offerings, the UTMB in Europe and the UTHC in North America.

Food And Drink At The UTMB Refreshment & Food Stations

The UTMB Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc is the biggest ultra running and mountain running event in the world, happening every year with up to 10,000 competitors in multiple race distances.

There are a lot of people to feed over the 6 days of running races and with a lot of different dietary requirements. We look at some of their food options which they offer at their refreshment and food stations throughout the races.

Refreshment Station

There are two types of food and aid station at the UTMB, one of them being a refreshment station, which is where you can get your liquids, carbs, electrolytes and hydration all in the form of liquids and drinks.

  • Plain water (gluten free and vegan)
  • Sparkling water (gluten free and vegan)
  • Long distance Hydrixir by Overstims (A carbohydrate energy drink powder)
  • Organic Hydrixir by Overstims (A carbohydrate energy drink powder)
  • Cola (gluten free and vegan)
  • Coffee (gluten free and vegan)
  • Tea (gluten free and vegan)
  • Noodle soup 
  • Rice balls (Vegan)
  • Vegetable soup (Vegan)

Complete Refreshment Food Station

The second and larger of the two aid and food stations UTMB use as support of the runners have the following foods:

  • All drinks from above refreshment station
  • Overstim Amelix energy bar
  • Overstim Bar Bio energy bar
  • Overstim Fruit energy bar
  • Cereal bars
  • Sweet cakes
  • Chocolate
  • Dried apricots (gluten free and vegan)
  • Dried figs (gluten free and vegan)
  • Bananas (gluten free and vegan)
  • Oranges (gluten free and vegan)
  • Watermelon (gluten free and vegan)
  • Lemon (gluten free and vegan)
  • Salty biscuits
  • Cheese (gluten free)
  • Sausage (gluten free)
  • Bread

Food And Drink at the Ultra Trail of Harricana in Canada

UTHC is an ultra marathon in Canada which you can get points for UTMB and ITRA, has multiple distances and here is it's food list.

  • Water
  • Electro2 by Xact Nutrition (Electrolytes)
  • Cola
  • Coffee
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Xact Nutrition Fruit2 Energy Bar
  • Chocolate
  • Dates
  • Clif bars
  • Bretzels
  • Chips
  • Salted potatoes
  • Chicken broth
  • Vegetable broth
  • Toast with peanut butter
  • Eggs
  • Hummus
  • Cheese curds

Then one of the following items at a singular aid station

  • Ham
  • Rice balls
  • Brownies
  • Banana bread
  • Maple sugar cones

Endurance Events Catering For Diets

If we look at the above two ultra marathon food and aid station foods and drinks offered, nearly all (10 of the 11) drink options are vegan and 5 of the 11 are gluten free. With the UTMB it is a requirement that you are using your own drink bottles (usually the squishy type) and a folding cup (which is squishy/collapsible). This is great for those who have vegan and gluten free dietary requirements, when they're being offered a drink, they can accept knowing that there will be no cross contamination.

With the food, approximately half of the food is vegan and less being gluten free. One problem with the gluten free options is that none of them, the fruit for example, are packaged. This means that some people may touch and then leave the food option or rub against some of the food there and could contaminate other foods they haven't taken, which could ruin a race for others who pick that food up and make those who are celiac feel that they aren't being supported.


Cater For Gluten Free & Vegans and You Cater For Everybody

One of the main reasons that you should provide foods these diet types is that generally, everyone can consume these foods.

By catering for vegans you are actually catering and providing support for people who are lactose intolerant, vegetarians, flexitarians and omnivores. Most of these may run, cycle, swim and train with accidently vegan sports supplements.

By catering for gluten free and celiac diets you are catering for those who have dietary issues and will get gut issues during a race if they consume gluten.

If we look at gluten free, celiac and vegan diets, even though the majority may not have these specific needs for a race or endurance event (vegan endurance athletes are actually increasing). Those on the diet or who have these specific requirements can be catered for and there are also options for others as well.

If you don't cater for these diet types, then you are limiting who can compete and be supported by your aid stations.

Vegan Energy Food Choices

Out of the 122 (time of writing) energy gels in the food discovery database, 102 of them are vegan. Out of the 341 energy bars, 200 of them are vegan. 

Of the 463 energy bars and gels, 334 of them are gluten free, thats nearly 75% of the database and energy foods for endurance athletes being fine for celiac.



Celiac And Gluten Free Diets

What are the basics of celiac and gluten free foods? From the Coeliac website:

  • Gluten is found in the grains wheat, barley and rye.
  • On the gluten free diet you can eat many foods including meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, rice and potatoes.
  • You can also eat gluten free substitute foods and processed foods that don't contain gluten.

For those with autoimmune issues, covering celiac and gluten free requirements isn't as hard as you think, there are plenty of food options out there and you can make some people who may be partaking in one of your events very happy.

We have added a list of every gluten free food item below, this automatically gets added to and updated as we add more foods to the database that comply with this diet.

Imagine that someone who is celiac and or gluten free reaches in to a bowl of m&m's, that could have someone who ate a sandwich earlier or handled fruit or got passed another food that would trigger the autoimmune disorder and that would kill a race for those participating. They literally can't take this risk.

The same goes for those on a vegan diet, of which you will find a much higher percentage. If they accidently have dairy, meat or any animal product in a sweet that is advertised as vegan or a soup which has milk or dairy in it, it would give them an upset stomach if they were lucky and stomach issues for a few days afterwards if they had a larger reaction and could potentially finish their race early too.

For those participating, if this food type isn't covered for, those with the disorder will struggle and most likely have to do the entire event self-supported. Even though it is rare, with only about 1% of the population being diagnosed (celiac).

You may find that a few have participated in your events through the years and they completely self-supported and took food and drink from crew they had to have with them. Especially for the longer distances where they can't physically carry the amount of calories they need throughout a race on their back.


Environmental Friendlier Foods & Drink

A great consequence of providing mostly vegan and gluten free vegan foods at your events will drastically drop your environmental impact of your event.

You may have people flying from abroad, driving their car across country with only them in it, these are things more or less out of your control.

By choosing and supplying these foods, that is within your control and here are a few facts that hopefully shed a bit of light on your choices.

By supplying vegan and gluten free vegan options you are helping with many aspects of climate change and resources used on the planet, such as land use, water, greenhouse gases produced, deforestation and much more than we have shared above.


But, What Do Competitors Want

Out on recce runs, long distance hikes, multi-day hikes, overnight camp trips, cycling events, open water swimming and many other endurance sports we have heard many many requests for foods when the person is tired and hungry.

Here are just a few of them:

Marmite wraps, margaritas, crackers, rice balls, salted potatoes, pasta, ginger ale, coconut water, melon, pie,

Marmite Wraps

Love it or hate it, it's salty and in a wrap we think endurance athletes love this stuff because of it's savoury taste.


This drink can be made without alcohol in a large 20L container and then you can add the tequila afterwards and this way the athletes can have it virgin or with extra booze.

The great thing about them is that they can be served cold, they contain salt (electrolytes), acidic and most importantly, has booze in it, perfect for a final checkpoint and aid station on an event.


Easy to grab a few and if you're fuelling your event with energy drinks, powder and energy gels, it would be nice to have something more dry.

Rice Balls

Are simple, shouldn't upset your stomach and can be stuffed with many different fillings like peanut butter.

Salted Potatoes

A good source of electrolytes and a savoury ball that can be slowly eaten from hand, if you're deep in to a race and consuming just energy foods, it would make a nice change.


The same with potatoes but it would be harder to eat this whilst on the go.

Ginger Ale

We've heard that ginger is a wonder food and can completely quell gut issues that you may be having.


Solutions to Running A Food and Aid Station

Contamination and Germs

Placing a hand sanitiser at the entrance of each aid station for those picking food would only add a few seconds to the aid station routine but potentially save many a competitors race who comes in behind who has more of a chance of catching something that ruins their race.

Food and Drink Placement

It's great covering as many nutritional and diet requirements, but if everything is placed randomly on a table, how are athletes who are rushing in to aid station areas meant to understand what is where and what they can have.

The quicker this is able to be understood the better for everyone. The last thing you want is vegan, celiac or other diet types mixed in with meat and dairy.

You also don't want athletes guessing if something is of a particular diet type, "Do these sweets have gelatine in them?"

Start with foods that everyone can consume in an order so that packaged food, gluten free vegan food, then vegan food, vegetarian food and the rest in that order.

Aid Station Staff

Making staff and volunteers wear gloves, and giving out specific dietary food types or drink types. Someone can give out drinks, others working on specifically handing out gluten free food, someone on vegan food and others on the rest.

With this approach you are limiting the cross contamination issues you may have in the race.

Food Choice and Packaging

So how can events get around these dietary problems and what foods are available for those with these requirements?

Just having a few things that are certified gluten free (in the US that means less than 20ppm) and in packages to prevent cross contamination, perks if they were also soy free for those who also have thyroid issues.

The second most important part of covering the needs of celiacs is how you layout your aid stations. If you put these foods separately at the end of a table and make sure that all of these food options are in packets, they would not need to worry about cross contamination and they would be able to snack at the food stations.

One more thing to add to this is having alcohol and hand sanitizers right next to the aid stations, this would mean that those who do worry about cross contamination could use these before grabbing food items, it may not totally resolve contamination but may help somewhat.




Alternatives To Non-Vegan Food

Most of the foods given out at food and aid station resupply areas are cured meats, cheeses and soups. It might not be too hard to replace these foods with vegan alternatives.

Vegan sausage rolls can be bought frozen, cooked in a few minutes and will last the entire day.

There are a number of vegan meat alternatives which you should see to your right.

As we add new foods to the database, if they tick the boxes they will automatically appear here.

Packaged Gluten Free Endurance Foods

Here we have a list of gluten free and celiac safe packaged foods that can be used at aid and food stations for every athlete competing and taking part in your event.

This list has hundreds of suggestions that can be bought in bulk and includes some of the following food types:

  • Energy bars
  • Protein bars
  • Energy gels
  • Waffles
  • Flapjack and oat bars
  • Puree food and baby food
  • Chocolate bar
  • Jerky and meat bars
  • Freid snacks
  • Nut bars
  • Cookies

There are potentially more food types out there that we may have overlooked but every option here can be layed out on your aid station food table at the beginning with a gap between each item so that when they are picked up and handled by the competitors and event staff there will be a very small chance of cross contamination.

Them being in the packet means that when they are picked up by gluten free, celiac athletes, they know that the contents are safe to eat and that the event has supported them.

Packaged Gluten Free And Vegan Endurance Foods

You can't really get much safer than this, having any of the follow gluten free and vegan foods on your aid station food tables means that the vast majority of competitors will be able to eat and refuel at your event.

Every single food item here is both gluten free and vegan, so you'll be making some people who aren't used to refuelling at aid stations, very happy!

This also opens up the door to more fuelling options to every other competitor and race athlete who has entered your event. As people who don't have any intolerances or specific diet requirements can also fuel off of any of the following options.