Adventure Race Nutrition Guide
Tackling your first Tough Mudder or a similarly epic event? Here’s how to eat through each stage of training.
GETTING STARTED: 3 MONTHS BEFORE THE EVENT
THINK REAL, NOT PROCESSED
Training diets don’t have to consist solely of powdery shakes and pre-packaged bars—in fact, they shouldn’t. “I was once a big protein drink guy,” says Andy “Mustache Man” Thom, a certified personal trainer and Tough Mudder spokesperson with 14 Mudders under his belt. “I’d always eat the bars and stuff like that, then I started to lean away from that stuff—and I think eating more real food helped my performance.”
Going cold turkey on processed food is difficult for most of us, if not downright impossible, so start by making small changes each week. “Think of it as adding healthy food to your diet, not subtracting bad food,” says Thom. “Start by eating more vegetables each day. You can still have pizza, but throw in a salad with it. Eventually, you’ll start losing your taste for crappy food and adding even more healthy food.”
BALANCE YOUR DIET
“As you work out, your levels of glycogen—stored energy—decrease,” White says. “You need foods that will serve as a constant energy source, particularly for days when you’re doing double training sessions.” He recommends getting 50 to 60 percent of your total daily food intake from carbohydrates, focusing mostly on complex carbs such as quinoa, whole-grain couscous, oatmeal, brown rice, and whole-grain breads and crackers. “Include these at each meal for long-lasting energy throughout the day,” White says.
Protein is also important for rebuilding muscle after tough workouts and helping you feel satiated. Aim to make it 20 to 30 percent of your daily food intake, ideally from lean sources such as chicken and fish.
Finally, make healthy fats about 20 percent of your daily diet. “Good fat sources are any type of nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, peanut or almond butter; oils such as olive, canola and coconut; avocados; and fatty fish like salmon. These are some of the cleanest fats athletes can take in,” White says.
REFUEL AFTER WORKOUTS
The right kind of snack can help speed your recovery and prep your body for the next training session. Within 45 minutes of your run or strength workout, have a small meal that includes both carbs and protein. “Try for a 3-to-1 ratio of carbs to protein, or about 75g to 25g,” White says. To sneak in a serving of greens, try Thom’s favorite post-workout shake: in a blender, toss a couple of handfuls of dark, leafy greens such as kale, collards or spinach, a spoonful or two of protein- and nutrient-rich seeds such as hemp or chia, one banana or other in-season fruit, and a dab of honey.