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Bataan Memorial Death March Nutrition

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

The Bataan Memorial Death March isn’t your typical marathon; you need to treat the day respectfully by going in prepared. Not only do you need to be prepared with the correct gear, but you also need a nutrition plan.

Let’s face it unless you are running Bataan (in which case let me say – you’re a STUD) it’s most likely going to be a LONG day, anywhere between 6-11 hours depending on how fast you walk, how many breaks you take, and how long your rest breaks are. You’ll need to fuel your body properly so you don’t bonk.

What Is Bonking (AKA hitting the wall)?

In endurance sports such as cycling and running, hitting the wall or the bank describes a condition caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles. It manifests itself by sudden fatigue and loss of energy.

The following excerpt is from Demystifying the BONK by By Sunny Blende, M.S., Sports Nutritionist 

"Bonking can result from a combination of dehydration, low glycogen levels, gastric issues, training errors, and other blunders, and many of these errors may be related less to extreme metabolic reasons than just forgetting common sense. Heavy training and long races with under-fueling equals frequent bonking. Pay attention to your pre-race fueling and your during-race fueling. Start early, and don’t get behind. Concentrate on the following:

  • Fluid replacement drink that supplies some calories made up of maltodextrin or glucose polymers and some sucrose or fructose.

  • Have a carbohydrate/protein drink of approximately one part protein to 3 or 4 parts carbohydrate to start consuming after a few hours into the race.

  • Make sure your fluid replacement and gels have some Sodium (Na) in them. About 140 – 250 milligrams. You can supplement with salt tablets as the weather heats up.

  • Drink and eat at regular intervals. This cannot be overstated. Absorption is a delicate balance – too much or too little both present problems. Your body will perform best with a steady stream of liquids and calories."

My Two Cents

Below are a few things I’ve learned firsthand from doing Bataan annually since 2012 and having trained for and competed in multiple marathons, 50K, 70.3 & 140.6 Ironman triathlon(s).

  • Try to eat around 1,000 calories for breakfast. If you’re like me and have difficulty eating solid foods early in the morning. Drink your calories!

  • Set an alarm on your watch or phone to go off every 15-20 minutes to remind you to eat and drink.

  • Think small amounts… you want to graze all day without overstuffing yourself.

  • Don’t rely solely on packaged nutrition products. Keep real food (even junk food) on you. Some of my favorites are trail mix, Nutty Butters, Payday candy bars, and teriyaki beef jerky to name a few. You can see what I put in my pack here.

  • Don’t mix GU gels with cola (they have these at the midway food station); this can cause stomach upset. It can cause bloating and even vomiting.

  • Eat a variety of foods, but not too many. Grab some orange or banana slices at the aid stations.

  • Keep water on you at all times! Drink when that alarm goes off even if you don’t think you need it. You need it!

  • Consider keeping a flask of pickle juice on you. No, I’m not crazy. Pickle juice is like rocket fuel for the body when you’re feeling sluggish, and it helps you to keep from cramping. This was another thing I saw all along the 26.2-mile march, guys cramping up. If you’re drinking as much water as your body requires, you’re also flushing out your sodium and other electrolytes, which need replacing. “Those who drank pickle juice felt cramp relief 37% faster than those who drank water. Results show pickle juice can relieve cramps in just under a minute and a half. Drink 2.5 ounces at the onset of cramp.” — Dr. Oz

Please come by our Memories of Honor booth and pick up a FREE Fallen Hero Memorial Back Bib to wear on your ruck.

Have an AWESOME March!

Help us honor our fallen. Click here to learn how you can become involved with Memories of Honor.

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