Experience From - Unknown , Karl King , Bruce Aldrich , Ray K. , Doug McKeever , Will Brown , Douglas Spink , Steve , John Davis , Earl Blewett


I recently tried a primarily liquid food intake in the Ruth Anderson 100K. I very rarely run lap courses, and this seemed an ideal time to experiment the non aid station foods. At 355 calories/can the higher calorie version of Ensure seemed tailor made to provide the majority of the approx. 450 calories per lap to maintain energy equilibrium, so I tried chugging a can per lap (interspersed with Metabol), ate a small amount of solid food, and relied on the Gatorade (or whatever) for the rest.

Basically, it went down well (as does Metabol), I had no problems even bolting it down (but I've never had a problem holding food down), and I felt that my energy production remained more even than usual. The one thing that I did experience was a mild case of the runs, necessitating some discomfort and a stop in the porta-potty every 9 miles or so for the first 50 miles. After that, everything cleared out, and while I continued to use the Ensure, I had no further problems for the last 12 miles.

I had a number of other factors which could have contributed to this (stresses moving an aging parent, sick kids, etc) so it is pretty hard to pin down the causative agent. Anyone else had experiences that might provide a clue as to whether the Ensure was a factor or not?

Karl King

Mark Donaldson asked about Ensure. I have heard of some people using it with good results, especially in 100's.

Certainly, any meal replacement is better than going hungry when the body is in need of calories, but Ensure was never intended for use in ultras. On the plus side, it contains fat and protein which are frequently under used in long ultras. On the negative side ( in my opinion ) the ingredients are the lowest quality examples of carbo, fat and protein that one could find. Check out similar products for higher quality ingredients, and consider some of the products which are intended for endurance athletes and contain fat and protein with carbohydrate. Their are such products in the market, and they are formulated for endurance use.

Bruce Aldrich

Ultra runners and Triathletes have been using this stuff for years now. My experiences have been all positive. Where else can you get 355 calories in a mere eight ounces? This stuff works great for lots of people in endurance events. Vitamins? Yes, it has them all, but who cares in an endurance event? "Boost" is another packaged food supplement drink that works well. Boost is something like 12-14% fat, while Ensure is 33% fat! I've been using Ensure for three years now. Boost has been on the market (West coast) for less than a year. My body/performance can't tell the difference between the two, though the literature would favor the lower fat beverage. Unfortunately, Boost has only 240 calories per eight ounces. Ensure and Boost come in a variety of good flavors. During a multi hour or multi day race, it sure is nice to have a little variety! To your/our health. Drink up.

Ray K

I tried Ensure 15+ years ago when I taught a student whose dad worked for Ross Labs, the maker, I actually lugged a suitcase of it to England for a 6 day in 1984. It works but so does a lot of other stuff, it, like any high calorie stuff can come right through you, causing problems relating to an earlier string. As far as calorie per ounce though not much beats Kayro syrup- straight out of the bottle.

Doug McKeever

Chuck Zeugner wrote:

"Lately discussion has turned to the need for protein, and fat in addition to carbohydrates during long runs and races. Has anyone experimented with the various meal replacement products (some of which are now being marketed as diet supplements) such as Sustical or Ensure? I think that just having a few cans to keep in a drop bag would be convenient. Certainly it would be easier than mixing powders. I know they taste chalky, but then again so does almost every other engineered food."

I read about Ensure as a race food in Bob Boeder's book about the grand slam (which I happened to do the same year, 1994, as he did) . I keep a can of Ensure Plus (the high calorie kind...about 340 cal/can) in each drop bag for a 100 miler). I can slam it down my gullet in a hurry when nothing else sounds too appealing. I swear by the stuff!

Will Brown

I drank one can of Ensure Plus every 10 miles in a 100 (my first). I liked the taste of the stuff, even near the end. I felt I was getting reasonable nourishment from it, but there was a side effect that was not present on long training runs. Excessive flatulence. Very excessive flatulence. It didn't happen when I switched to CLIP, so I deduced it was the Ensure.

Douglas Spink

I first used Ensure during the 1996 Ron Herzog 50k (in which I DNF'd after getting waaay lost in snowy conditions and meeting Mr. Hypothermia). I actualy carried 2 cans in my pack, so when I got famished I just chugged 'em down. Never had stomach problems, but then again I could eat a rotten salmon and not have stomach problems!

Some tips: buy Ensure Plus (more calories) or, better yet, Ensure High Protein. The latter carries 12 grams of protein per can-woohoo! In comparison, a big scoop of pure whey protein mixed in water has about 18 grams, so the Ensure does pretty well in that area. Plus, the Ensure has the full suite of basic vitamins and minerals, which can't hurt.

It carries 6 grams of fat, but most of the fat seems to come from vegetable oils, so it is not as digestable as MCTs. Heck, it even has a bit of choline in it, which helps in maintaining acetylcholine levels in the brain. The carbs come from straight sucrose, which could result in a little bit of a crash but nothing I'd get too worried about. 31 grams of carbs total.

But those flavors-uugh. I can do vanilla, but the berry and chocolate ones make even me gag. My recommendation: put them in the arsenal, but don't rely 100% on them for protein on a long run, as after several cans you might find them suddenly unpalatable. Then again, you might not.


During Angeles Crest I drank Equate, a generic brand drink similar to Ensure. I found it worked really well, in addition to gettin alot of calories it was very easy, even soothing on my stomach in the later stages, which I thought was a big advantage. It didn't have any of the negative side effects mentioned in other posts. It also tasted pretty good, like chocolate milk almost.

John Davis

I have found that it smooths out the blood sugar levels very well, does not have a dominant flavor (I use vanilla) so does not get old before 30 miles, is easy to drink from bottles (sip, sip, sip), is easy to mix (I do 1:1 water). It has a milk taste which may turn some off but I have found a cold glass of milk (is it the fat?) settles the stomach very well at 40 miles. In warm weather, I will work on a water bottle and an Ensure bottle about equally. As a back of the pack (caboose club) member in good standing, I have found that one 8 ounce can will take me about 13 miles. The first few miles are run on the breakfast just completed. Thus Sunmart was conducted on two cans and the last of the drink was finished about a mile out of the finish. No feeling of blood sugar variation, no significant slowing other than due to lack of training, easy recovery after. Tossed in a few of Karl Kings salt Caps and the water/Gatoraid and you have the total food intake for 7 plus hours. I use the plus vanilla stuff which does not seem to have any bad taste problems for me.

Since it is a drink, it fulfills the needs for non-solid foods which Jim O'Brien endorses. Since it tastes a little like a milk base with some fat, it sits very well on a bouncy stomach. I have had no complaints and cannot think of anything I would change at this point.

I am now finding the grocery stores are marketing house brand duplication of the Ensure at significantly lower prices.

Earl Blewett

The ensure works well for me when I have a terrible time eating food, such as on the bike in the hot sun. I originally used it for Ironman and have since started using it very successfully in runs 50+ miles. I was able to drink it and keep it down when it was so hot at the AT100 last year.

I still try and eat real food but a tin every 8-12 miles really helps. I've run 50 and 100 milers, a 100K and Ironman distances without a drop in energy at the end. Still slow but that's OK.