Chewing for success

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How chewing your food can help your running performance

We all know eating during an ultramarathon can be challenging and affected by many different factors including altitude, environmental conditions, effort levels and running speed.

What if we told you there’s one simple thing you can do to help your stomach process food during a race?

Chew your food.

Now, we’re not saying this will solve all gastrointestinal (GI) issues.

Nutrition strategies are personal, practiced in training, and based on your needs, preferences, and race-specific demands.

However, you can put your mouth to work. Chewing is a tool you are in control of and when it comes to racing, you want to focus on what’s in your control.

Why chewing is important

Your digestive system is a powerhouse that kicks in the moment you start eating. Chewing breaks down food efficiently making it easier for your stomach to digest.

Saliva production increases to help you swallow, digestive enzymes are produced and contribute to the breakdown process, and hydrochloric acid created in your stomach further assists digestion.

If you don’t chew your food properly, you can experience gas, bloating, headaches, and lowered energy levels, which is the last thing you want when racing.

Additional benefits to chewing

Chewing boosts nutrient absorption, ensuring your body gets more nutrients from the foods you eat.

This can be critical during an ultramarathon, particularly if you’re struggling to eat, because you want to get the most nutrients from what you do eat.

The act of chewing is essential for a runner to facilitate the absorption of food.

– Corinne Fernandez

Let’s consider your mental game too.

Food is fuel. Chewing signals to your brain that you’re eating. In a race, this simple action can be incredibly powerful because you can use it to distract any negative thoughts you may have about energy levels.

Quick tips and summary

  1. Bring awareness to chewing your food in training and it will quickly become a positive habit when racing.
  2. Take small bites of food as this makes chewing easier.
  3. Try switching between sips of water and bites of food.
  4. Give yourself time to fully chew each bite until it has lost its texture and is small and soft enough to swallow.
  5. A great tip when you’re in the pain cave is to eat something and use positive self-talk to tell yourself:

“By chewing I am helping my stomach digest this PB+J sandwich so it can provide me with energy to keep running.”

Drop us a message we’d love to hear how you get on!


Fernandez, C. (2022). Nutrition for Track Running and Ultra-Running: Practical Recommendations. In: Canata, G.L., Jones, H., Krutsch, W., Thoreux, P., Vascellari, A. (eds) The Running Athlete. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Thank you for reading.   

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