Motatapu Series Nutrition

Trailblazer Nutrition is the official nutrition information provider for the Motatapu Series. Read the below article written by our nutrition experts and Motatapu finishers for a comprehensive review of the nutrition involved in completing this tough event.


The Motatapu is a special event for many reasons, and it will be all the more special if you achieve your goals. Lots of things will need to fall into place to have a successful event, so it is important to control the things that you can, such as nutrition. Through careful planning and management you can use the power of food and drink to your advantage throughout training and on race day.

Whether you are running, walking, or cycling up this mountainous valley, you are going to need every ounce of “fitness” possible, so when you train, it needs to count. To get the most out of your training and maximise fitness gains, you will need to make sure you are optimally fuelled before, during, and after each session.

A carbohydrate loading plan will make a huge difference, and you will need an individualised race day nutrition and hydration plan to navigate the slow grinding uphills, the steep declines, the aid stations, the mental highs and lows, and those leg numbing river crossings.

This article will explain everything you need to think about for training, competing, and racing the Motatapu Marathon.  You can skip to the sections most relevant to you by clicking on the below section headings, or read through the whole article at your leisure. Cheers for dropping in!

Nutrition for Training

Nutrition for Recovery

Carbohydrate Loading

Race day Nutrition

 Nutrition for Training

To get the most out of the effort you put in during training, you need to be optimally fuelled at all times.

Pre-training meal

Food: This meal is most important on long training days (>2hrs), but not as important for your shorter, high quality sessions.

  • Have 2-4 hours pre-exercise.
  • It should be high in carbohydrates, low in protein, low in fat.
  • Try to be consistent with this meal so you can be sure you will tolerate it on race day.
  • The overall carbohydrate content is most important (especially for performance and body composition management), but varies for each individual. Also consider the fibre content, glycaemic index, and liquid vs solid meals.

Water: Fluid requirements have been overcomplicated by sports drink marketers, in the lead up to a training session or on race day, simply drink to thirst. It pays to start well hydrated, so ensure good access to water the day before as well.

During training

Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are the body’s petrol, which is burnt quickly during exercise. For optimal training quality we need to top up our tank as we go.

We can get carbohydrates from sports drinks, sports gels, or whole food. During exercise, carbohydrates are most easily absorbed in sugar form (as opposed to starchy carbohydrates) although some ratios of sugar types work better than others.

Individual carbohydrate requirements vary greatly, and nailing a plan that works for you can have a huge impact on training quality, and can then be applied to your race day. Current recommendations are 50-90g of carbohydrate per hour so, for a three hour training run, you may need anywhere from 150-270g of carbs – not a particularly useful guideline! Fortunately a dietitian can work out your exact requirements with the right information, the Trailblazer Nutrition Plan will supply you with specific amounts personalised to your needs. 

In the Trailblazer Nutrition Plan, I convert this carbohydrate/hour data into practical food, supplement, and drink recommendations by taking into account your hydration system, training goals, preferred supplements, and the course aid stations.

You are unlikely to tolerate the amount of carbs you require on race day when you first start training, so build your way towards your goal rate over your training programme.

Hydration: Drinking water will not aid performance in training sessions with a duration less than 60-90 minutes (depending on conditions and session type).

Individual requirements for fluid vary greatly and depend on a variety of personal characteristics, the environment, and the training session. Drink to thirst, but learn what this is during training so that you can predict what you will drink on race day. This is important because you will need to know how much fluid to carry in your camelpack, and also how much carbohydrates will be contributed by the sports drink you carry. A personalised plan is a good way of working this out.

Electrolytes: The latest evidence suggests that their role in exercise has been overplayed. Do not rely on electrolytes to prevent cramp (training well and pacing yourself on race day is more important), and due to their presence in sports drink, gels, and foods, are not something that you need to consider.

Unless you have clinical issues or an inadequate diet, it is very unlikely that you will have problems with any electrolytes.


Perhaps the most important aspect of training is the recovery. This article I wrote on recovery nutrition for the Iconic magazine can teach you more about what you need to think about to boost recovery and get the most out of your training.

 Carbohydrate Loading

A personalised carbohydrate loading plan (which you have practised before hand) will make a huge difference to your marathon success. Research shows that by following a carbohydrate loading protocol, athletes can run about 20% further (if you could run 35km before you hit the wall, after carb loading you could run 42km). Could be worth looking into eh?!

For a successful carb load, you need to eat 8-12g of carbohydrate per kg body weight in the three days leading up to your event. So, a 70kg man needs to eat 560-840g of carbs per day. This is a large range, and whatever end of the scale you are at, this is a lot of carbohydrates! 

Personalised advice from a dietitian who can work out your exact requirements and make a menu to match can be very useful. A Trailblazer Nutrition carbohydrate loading plan works out your specific carbohydrate requirements, and provides a menu plan with actual food quantities so you can carbohydrate load effectively. Each Trailblazer Nutrition Plan also includes a personalised carbohydrate loading plan.

The Motatapu is on a Saturday, so you will need to start carb loading on Wednesday. Your final meal on Friday is important so plan this in advance. If you plan on eating out, book a restaurant early so you are not eating a large meal at 9pm. Choose a restaraunt wisely, think about a meal high in carbs e.g. pasta: Italian, or rice: Asian.

If you cook your meal yourself, make sure you take, or your accommodation has, appropriate cooking facilities and that you will be able to start cooking early in the evening. My favourite quick and easy carbohydrate the night before an event is couscous, all you need is a large bowl and kettle to boil water. Get involved!

 Race day

Pre-race meal

By now you should have practised your pre race meal many times, and have a routine that you are familiar with and confident will provide you with the necessary fuel for a large exercise effort. The race starts at 8am, so you need to have finished eating by 6am!

Race build up

There are various recommendations for what nutrition you should have in the race lead up. Personalised advice is necessary.

The Race

Your race day plan should be an extension of what you have been doing in training. To finish an event such as the Motatapu marathon, knowing the following is essential:

  • How much fluid you need per hour, and every 15 minutes.
  • How much carbs you need per hour.
  • How much carbs your drink will provide.
  • How much carbs your own gels/food will provide, and when you need to take them.
  • How much carbs and fluid you need from each aid station.

A Trailblazer Nutrition plan provides all this information for you in an easy to understand way, and links this with your training plan so that you can build towards this during training.

Hydration system

I strongly recommend training and racing with a camelpack that can carry at least 2 litres of fluid. Most runners will still need to drink at each aid station, and possibly refill their camelpack at some point. A Trailblazer Nutrition Plan will work out this for you, and find the optimum balance between self fuelling and using aid stations.

Aid stations

There are four aid stations evenly spaced along the course of the marathon. Each one will contain water and Powerade, and the last will contain muesli bars.

Aid stations are located at:

1. 10km. You've been undulating up until now, from here the long slow uphill grind will kick in.
This shouldn't be the first nutrition you take. Ensure you have been having some carbohydrates and fluid before this point.
2. 18km. You're nearly halfway up the slow grind, keep on taking on board fuel.
3. 27km. Sweet, you are nearly done with hills, you are approaching the big descent and the creek crossings get serious!
Watch your pacing along here, it’s consistently downhill but you still have 15km to go so don’t get carried away. Remember to stay well fueled, its actually a bit harder to fuel yourself on the downhills so take your opportunities on the flats.
At the next aid station you may be approaching new territory in terms of distance travelled. Keep on chugging back fluid and fuel, this is where you will reap the benefits of diligent eating and drinking early on in the race, and can expect to start passing people who haven’t read this article!
4. 36km. You're nearly there, if you've done the training and you've managed your nutrition well, you can turn on the after burners from here. Try to take down some of the folk doing the miners trail.

It is best to wash down gels with fluid, so take this into account in your fluid and nutrition plan.

    Post Race

    For most of you, it’s game over, the moment you cross the finish line nothing else matters. However, with a little effort, you can save yourself a lot of pain over the next few days.

    Following a personalised recovery plan will reduce muscle soreness, restore muscle integrity, fill up your fuel stores, and re-energise you faster. I can make you a personalised, one off recovery plan that you can use in training and on race day, and the Trailblazer Nutrition Plan also features a personalised recovery plan.


    There won’t be many people the world over who deserve a celebratory drink more than you once you have crossed the finish line, so feel free to celebrate responsibly. Be aware that alcohol dehydrates you, so avoid drinking alcohol until after you have completed your rehydration plan. Alcohol can also distract you from your recovery meals and snacks, so plan these in advance.


    Well done on reading this far! Hopefully by now you will realise the importance of planning your nutrition for both training and race day and will formulate an individualised plan well in advance. Because the amounts of the key nutrients (carbohydrates, protein, water, and electrolytes) vary for each individual, a personalised plan can have a huge impact on your success and enjoyment of running a marathon.

    If you think that you will benefit from a personalised nutrition plan, Trailblazer Nutrition can quickly create you a comprehensive nutrition plan specifically for the Motatapu that is completely personalised to your training and race day needs.

    Each plan comes with the Trailblazer Guarantee, and as these testimonials show, is highly recommended by those who have used them in the past.

    You can read more about our plans here, or simply order your Trailblazer Plan here.