Routeburn Classic Nutrition Summary


The Routeburn Classic 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 control, such as your nutrition. Through careful planning and management you can use the power of food and drink to your advantage throughout training and on race day.

To cover 32.2km over mountainous terrain, 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.

Getting your race build up right is essential, 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 Routeburn Classic. Cheers for dropping in!


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 carbs, low in protein, low in fat
  • Try to be consistent with this meal so that you know 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 your personal preference for the fibre content, glycaemic index, and liquid vs solid meals

Water: Your requirements vary depending on personal factors, the type of session, and your current hydration status. Aim to be well hydrated at all times; ensure your pee is clear or very pale yellow. If you are peeing frequently and remain thirsty, it may be that you have not been using enough sodium in your fluid, and you will benefit from adding some (a pinch of salt to every litre) or using an electrolyte containing drink.

Practise this routine before race day. The Routeburn starts at 8am, so you will need to be finished eating by 6am at the latest. Practise getting up early, having breakfast, and then chilling out until 8 before going for a run. It's certainly not normal practise so you will want to be confident in your routines on race day. Practise makes perfect.

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, and our Trailblazer Nutrition Package   will supply you with specific amounts personalised to your needs. 

In this package, 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 and electrolytes:

Controversey reigns in regards to hydration and electrolytes role during exercise. Trailblazer's nutrition package's will give you a clear understanding of what you need to do when training and competing in the Routeburn. Drinking to thirst is the most sensible approach, but a good nutrition plan can optimise this by reducing unecessary fluid, and preventing dehydration detrimental to performance and enjoyment.


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) may make a difference to your Routeburn 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). The Routeburn Classic covers a distance that sits in the grey area of whether or not carbo loading will help. I have provided some info below for those that are interested, but make sure you practise carbo loading before a long run if you do plan on carbo loading in the lead up to the race.

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 Package also includes a personalised carbohydrate loading plan.

The Classic 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  but what seems to work for most people is to sip on an electrolyte drink (no carbs) in the last couple of hours before the race. Having carbs in the final stages has produced mixed results and personalised advice is necessary.

The Race

Your race day plan should be an extension of what you have been doing in training. To finish the Routeburn, 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.

The Trailblazer Nutrition Package 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 hydration system that can carry at least 2 litres of fluid. Most runners will still need to drink at each aid station, and possibly refill their bladder at some point.

Aid stations

Current intel has three aid stations evenly spaced along the course of the Classic. Each one will contain water, Leppin enduro booster sports drink, and lollies. A special treat awaits at Falls Hut aid station, sliced up Em's Power Bars, if that doesn't keep you humming along, nothing will.
Aid stations are located at:
1. 3.5km. After a gentle climb you'll reach Howden Hut. Depending on how you are going, the temperature on the day etc, you may want to take a bit of fluid on board here.
2. 12km. McKenzie Hut, steady running in but a steep climb after. Take in a gel/bar as you approach, and wash it down with some water at the aid station
3. 23km. You're in the thick of tricky descent here, and nutrition may have been tough to take on board, there is no harm in using this aid station as a chance to slow up a bit, gather your thoughts, suck back some water, and indulge in a couple of slices of Em's Power Bars.

This is the last aid station before the finish line, so for most that will be at least an hour. Ensure you have sports drink in your camel pack and a serve of gel still to go, as this is where the going will get tough.
There are streams to fill up your camel pack at, but these don't have the carbs or sodium that Leppin Enduro and other sports drinks have, so consider this when planning your nutriional game 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. Include carbs, protein, and nutrients from fresh fruit and veges in these meals.


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 Routeburn 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.

The ordering process is super simple:

  • Fill in the order form
  • You will be taken to a payment page, where you can pay using your credit card, PayPal account, or internet banking.
  • Your plan will be sent within 5 days of receipt of payment.

Order your routeburn nutrition plan now