Camille Herron is a five-time world record-holder who most recently broke her own world record in October at the 24-Hour World Championships in France. The ultrarunner says she eats healthy most of the time, but her pre-race (and sometimes mid-race) meal of choice isn’t typical. “Taco Bell makes me happy,” she says.
Herron adds, “I eat pretty healthy normally, but ultrarunning is all about what you’re craving, and at 2 a.m. in the middle of an ultra, I was craving Taco Bell.”
She says the Taco Bell consumption all started in high school. “When I was in high school I would run the 4 x 800m and the mile. In between races we would go eat at Taco Bell after the 4 x 800m and I would come back and run the mile. Taco Bell kind of became my thing–it has always worked for my stomach.”
There was another time when Herron was still a marathoner and she had Taco Bell before a great race. “I didn’t have a car, and I ended up eating Taco Bell before running a great marathon. I just started eating it regularly before marathons and continued through to the ultra distances. It’s become a pre-race meal and it’s what saved me at the 24-Hour World Championships.”
Herron goes on: “Ultrarunning nutrition is more about what you’re craving than consuming foods you “should.” At the World Championships in October I was craving mashed potatoes, so someone mixed me up insta mashed potatoes. I think the body is looking for comfort food. It’s really just about what makes the runner happy.”
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Cam Levins is another great example of a runner who used unconventional (seemingly junky) food to fuel a strong performance. Levins drank Black Cherry Lemonade en route to his Canadian marathon record, because he likes the taste, and because it met the carbohydrate requirements for his race. Trent Stellingwerff, physiologist and Director of Performance Solutions at the Canadian Sport Institute, says “The basics of sports drinks are having a glucose-fructose blend, and being sure that the athlete enjoys the taste, to prevent flavour fatigue.” Stellingwerff also highlights the importance of practising with the drink beforehand.