Obstacle Course races like the Spartan Race, Warrior Dash and Savage Race require guts, determination and a desire to test your limits… well…and you have to love the mud! Preparing for these kind of endurance races takes a good amount of training, but as it gets down to the wire, most people are just not sure what to eat before a race. It comes down to fueling your body in a way that will last you through the OCR itself and will leave your body in a position to begin recovery as soon as you leave the course. Here are my pre-race eating strategies to keep you going strong!
What to Eat Before a Race: 4-6 Weeks Out
The real prep begins in the weeks before your Obstacle Course race. Eating a balanced, healthy diet with a balance of protein, carbs and healthy fats will ensure that you have the strength and stamina to train for your event. I recommend a nutrition plan that is comprised of 40% complex carbs, 30% protein and 30% healthy fats. It is important to keep those foods as natural as possible. Lots of fruits and vegetables, slow digesting complex carbs that aid in your energy, lean protein to help with muscle building and retention and healthy fats for endurance.
What to Eat Before a Race: Night Before
You definitely want to have a high carb meal to fill your liver with glycogen but don’t make the mistake many endurance athletes make and fill up just on a huge plate of pasta. Protein is critical to slow down the digestion of those carbs and to even out your energy levels. You also do not want to introduce foods that you usually would not have. The ideal pre-race dinner would be a small steak or large chicken breast, mixed veggies and a cup of brown rice. Avoid veggies that cause bloating and gas for you.
Don’t forget to hydrate! Being well hydrated for the race really starts in the days before hand. I recommend a gallon of water each day leading up to the race. Going into a race like the Spartan Race dehydrated sets you up for a rough ride the day of the race.
What to Eat Before a Race: Race Morning
As soon as you get up, you want to have a balanced breakfast that includes protein, slow digesting carb and a bit of healthy fats. My go-to Race Day Breakfast is ½ cup oatmeal (before cooking), 1 scoop Ultimate Muscle Protein, 1 medium size banana and 1 oz almonds. Some other good pre-race meals include a whole grain bagel with almond or peanut butter and a banana or toast with Greek yogurt and almonds.
You also want to continue your hydration by drinking 16 ounces of water immediately upon getting up and continuing to drink water throughout the morning. If your race begins later in the day, you will also want to have something light within 2 hours of the race itself. For me, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an apple makes the perfect pre-race snack.
What to Eat: During the Race
Depending on the length of your race, you may or may not need to eat on course. For races less than 2 hours long, I do not recommend eating during the event unless you tend to have low blood sugar. For short races (less than 2 hours) like the Spartan Sprints, I rely on the water stations set up throughout the event.
For longer races, like the Spartan Beast or Spartan Ultra Beast, on course nutrition is critical to keep you motoring through. You will need to pack along water and anything that you would like to eat to be sure you have it with you for the event. I use a hydration pack like the CamelBak Rogue Hydration Pack.
What I love about this pack, is that I can slip a few Energy Gels in the pouch part along with a little towel for when I get mud in my eyes. Trust me, it will happen! Fuel-wise, this is the one time I use simple carbs. GU Sports Nutrition Energy Gels are a great option for a burst of simple carbs, some amino acids and caffeine. If the course offers any fruit along the way, grab a banana, but I don’t carry them with me because they will inevitably get smashed.
What to Eat: Post Race Nutrition
Post race is the time to focus on recovery and repair. My go to post race nutrition drink is 2 scoops of Beverly International’s Glutamine Select within 15 mins of the race. As I come off the finish line, I like to have a banana with a tablespoon or two of peanut butter. Within an hour or so, you also want to re-fuel your body with a mix of protein and carbs. I find a grilled chicken sandwich and a sweet potato to be a great option after a race. Avoid the tendency to eat crap and drink a post race beer. You might be ready to celebrate but those foods will certainly not help you with proper muscle recovery.
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