by Carrie Adams

Photo courtesy Nuvision Action Images, Brent Doscher

Spartan Races are grueling endurance events designed to push you physically and mentally through obstacles and trail running.  Fueling your body for a long distance run on Spartan Race day is a critical part of being successful and kicking ass without cramping, fainting, and letting the Spartans with pugil sticks take you out before you cross the finish line.

For Spartan events, I recommend the same kind of preparation I use for full and half marathons.  A few weeks before your event, work as many raw veggies into your diet as you can.  This helps clear out your intestinal walls of build up so you can effectively absorb the good stuff when you really need it.  Additionally, eliminating dairy from your diet helps avoid excess mucous build-up, which can interfere with effective respiration while you run.

On race day, you can get off to the right start by consuming the proper amount of fluid and glycogen (sugar) stores that you will just maintain as you race.   I always tell people that you want to be done eating two hours before your event.  Just be mindful of when your wave starts and plan accordingly.  Eating too close to an event can lead to an upset stomach or can negatively interact with your body’s natural insulin response.  Get to bed early so you can get up and get prepared–there’s plenty of time to party AFTER you run.  For each city that hosts a Spartan Race I have created smoothie recipes that are the perfect pre-race fuel.   Look for those a day or two before the event.

Additionally, for those of you racing the longer Super Spartans and the infamous Death Race, your body burns through your glycogen stores after about two hours of strenuous activity so you’ll want to refuel about every 60—90 minutes to avoid a crash.   Four to one carbs to protein is generally a good combination.  The carbs help you maintain the glycogen stores you are burning, while the protein protects your muscles from being used as a back-up fuel source and stays in your system longer.   Death Racers, well, you’re in a whole different realm of nutrition during your event.  As with other ultra-events, you’ll need to add some healthy fat sources when the carbohydrates are being burned through faster than you can replace them.

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There are a lot of race energy sources—gels, Clif Shot blocks, energy drinks, powders you add to drinks, Sport Beans.  They are easy to carry and easy to eat on the run.  There are caffeinated and non-caffeinated versions.  For me, a little caffeine is a great boost to my waning energy levels so I go for the caffeine.  I love Sport Beans personally and there are a lot of flavors to choose from.  Have some fun and pick out something you like and bring it with you on race days.

Eat when you need it.  If you are starting to feel like your energy is dropping, then pop some nutrition.  Your body can recover glycogen stores within fifteen minutes so you’ll recover fast if you stay ahead of the curve.

Hydration is also different for everyone, but there are some basic rules of thumb. Spartan Races don’t always have water stations.  That’s part of the challenge–so plan accordingly.  There’s no rule against bringing your own, and for longer Spartan Races or as the temperature heats up, don’t hesitate to bring what you need to get through the race.   I like to drink a good 16—20 ounces of water an hour before race time so it’s not sloshing in my stomach during the race.  This technique ensures that your tissues are well-hydrated but your stomach is empty.

A good nutrition plan leading up to an event and maintained throughout a race goes a long way in building and maintaining energy stores that can ultimately help your performance, endurance, and recovery on race day.   It’s one piece of your training program that, with a little investment and preparation, can yield major results.  After the race, be sure to eat a four to one carb to protein ratio to replace the calories you’ve burned.  This does two things – the carbs replenish your glycogen stores and the protein repairs and limits damage of skeletal muscle.

Beer may be considered a carb, but before you hit the bottle, have some solid nutrition to make sure you don’t further dehydrate.  A really easy version of this is a large Gatorade with a scoop of whey protein powder.  I like fruit punch Gatorade with vanilla or berry whey protein.  They also make really good recovery drinks that you can bring with you.  Get it in your system within 15 minutes or so and you’re all set.

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