Food For A Multi-Day On The Cheap


Multi-day racing is booming and the selection and variety of races increases, year-after-year! Last year I attended multiple races that lasted several days and each of those races had a very unique difference to the others. For example, the heat, humidity and technical terrain of Costa Rica at The Coastal Challenge was in many ways compensated for by the race being fully supported. At Everest Trail Race, the mountains, the altitude and semi self-sufficiency was compensated for by food being provided each morning and each night.

Read a related article, Top Tips to Multi-Day Racing HERE

Marathon des Sables though, like races such as Grand to Grand, 4Deserts such as Atacama, Gobi and the Sahara all operate a self-sufficiency policy. The only items provided are water and a cover for the night.

So, everything must be carried (read an in-depth article here) and that includes food for the duration of the run. In many cases, a minimum calorie requirement is specified for each day, at Marathon des Sables for example, it’s 2000 calories.

Calories are important at a multi-day race, not only do they allow you to perform but that also enable you to recover and importantly, food alters your mood. As many runners say, you only have three things to do at multi-day: Run, eat and sleep. So, food becomes very important.

Needless to say, calories, how many calories and how those calories break down (carbohydrate, fat and protein) is very individual to the person who will consume them. A female 5-feet 5-inches weighing 50kg is going to need less calories than a male 6-feet 2-inches weighing 80kg! It will also depend on the objectives of said runner. Are they looking to race and make an impact at the front or are they looking to complete? Also, how the runner uses calories depends very much on how they have trained their bodies when running. Utilising fat as a fuel source is essential for multi-day running.

Food is important!

Many dehydrated food options exist that are specifically designed for multi-day racing. Some are tasty, some are not and nearly all are expensive.

With this in mind I asked the question, ‘How cheaply can one put food together for multi-day race?’

I am sure it’s a question many ask and while the balance of carbs, proteins and fats may be compromised in the list below. It just shows how effectively your local supermarket can fulfil your multi-day food needs.

I shopped with the intention to purchase food for just one day. I didn’t tally weight or calories as I shopped. I purchased on impulse keeping these points in mind:

  1. Taste.
  2. Variety.
  3. Carbohydrate.
  4. Fat.
  5. Protein.
  6. What would be easy to cook.
  7. What would I want to eat?
  8. Treats?

It wasn’t scientific! I purchased Noodles, Cous Cous, Peperami, Nuts, Dried Fruit, Porridge, Soup and so on…

I spent £13.50 and I accumulated 2582 calories for a weight (in original packaging) of 775 grams.

See table below:



2582 calories is probably a ‘typical’ daily requirement for many a runner at a multi-day race. The minimum 2000 is a little too light for many. If you think about the weight of 775 and then multiply that by days (six), that gives 4650 grams. If one trims the packs or re-packs into different bags or vacuum packs, additional weight can be saved. I trimmed just the original packing and resealed and I instantly saved 75 grams. That alone would save you 450 grams over six days.


Food samples purchased:

You can download the list of food and breakdown HERE

You may be asking what point am I trying to make with this post?

Well, it’s quite simple. Multi-day racing does not have to be complicated and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Yes, the balance of carb v protein v fat may not be ideal in the above example, however, I could survive on the above!

Think outside the box and customise your food needs to you, your taste and your budget. I personally would tweak what I have above and add a little more savoury/ protein and reduce the simple sugars.

Enjoy the process.

Why not join our Multi-Day Training Camp in Lanzarote with 2015 Marathon des Sables ladies champion, Elisabet Barnes. The camp takes place in January each year. 

Information HERE




3 thoughts on “Food For A Multi-Day On The Cheap

  1. Pingback: The Ultimate Equipment Guide to Desert Multi-Day Racing – Hints ‘n’ Tips | – Photography, Writing, Talk Ultra Podcast

    • Anna, the total budget spent for all items was under £15. If you look at one typical dehydrated food packet, they usually cost £7/8 each. Money isn’t everything but sometimes the supermarket is great for making what many make complicated, quite simple. I added Bounce Balls, Naked Bars etc just prove that you can still have ‘brands’ but not a great deal of expense.

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