Some OCRers will tell you that their failsafe race-day fuel is nothing but a guzzle of water and a gulp of air — these folks are of the mind that an empty stomach makes them faster, lighter, more agile, and aggressive on the course. Though the desire to eat a pre-race meal can be a highly individual matter, there’s no getting around the fact that for a taxing event that can go on for over an hour (hello, Tahoe World Championship), you’re gonna need something in your belly to pull you through.
The only walls you want to hit when tearing through a dirty, dusty, and muddy Spartan are staple obstacles like the Wall Climb and the Inverted Wall. And attempting a grueling day of dashing over hurdles, squeezing under barbed wire, and hanging from cargo nets without gas in the tank is one sure way to crash and burn. Fortunately, properly fueling up with food (and drink) on race day is a pretty straightforward affair — just make sure you have a mix of carbs and protein.
“Carbohydrates give your body and brain energy, and protein helps sustain that energy,” says Jessica Crandall Snyder, RDN, CDE, NASM, a registered dietitian and trainer at VitalRD.com.
Snyder, who has run a few Spartan races herself, says pairing carbohydrates and protein has recently been shown to provide better long-term energy for events like OCR. Start with a breakfast that’s around 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates and at least 5 to 15 grams of protein, Snyder says. Get your carbs from fruits, whole grains, and dairy, or starchy vegetables like potatoes. Protein typically comes in animal products such as meats, eggs, cheese, and dairy. (Greek yogurt and ricotta cheese are good choices.)
Proper hydration is also a key component of your race-day fuel. Even a 1 to 2 percent decrease in your hydration levels can hinder performance, studies show.
“I encourage water as a primary source of hydration,” Snyder says. “However, if you’re going to be doing more than 60 minutes of activity, it’s important to think about electrolyte and carbohydrate replacement. Lean on alternative fuel sources such as an electrolyte/carbohydrate beverages or coconut water.”
Drinking plenty of water pre-race is essential, but make sure you hydrate well the night before, too. Nix the alcohol and go easy on caffeine, which can mess with your stomach.
Whatever you decide to eat and drink, don’t wait until race day to see how it works for you.
“I have tried so many things that either didn’t agree with my stomach or didn’t really fuel me well enough, so be sure to test drive your meal," Snyder says.
Snyder prefers a sweet potato hash with eggs, black beans, and diced tomatoes or an almond butter, banana, and Greek yogurt bowl before her Spartans. We asked other OCR junkies what they nosh on for their race-day fuel and got loads of ideas. Take a look and find inspiration for your next performance-boosting meal!
Spartans' Race-Day Fuel of Choice
If it’s a long race, oatmeal with peanut butter, nuts, and raisins, and a boiled egg and a banana. — Isaura Zavala, Chicago, Illinois
An oat pancake … Just oatmeal, three eggs, and a little syrup in it. It works well. — Tanya Stevens Pence, Hartland, Michigan
Waffle, oatmeal, and sometimes a bagel. Just before loading in the box, I’ll have a banana and a 32-ounce Powerade with Pedialyte powder. — Matthew Brian Smith, Monroe, North Carolina
One egg with an extra egg white over easy, fried with cheese and avocado on wheat bread. — Ronnie Bustos, Madera, California
Three hours before the race, I’ll have my oatmeal concoction, which includes oats, ground flax seeds, blueberries, a scoop of protein powder, cinnamon, and almond milk. Then an hour before start time, a banana with Gatorade. — Wayne Macio
Overnight oatmeal in a Mason jar, cold or heated up. Oats, almond milk, a tablespoon of peanut butter, and maple syrup topped with sliced banana., plus a cup of coffee. — Lisa Campbell, Ottawa, Ontario
I typically make some kind of muffin that includes, oats, Greek yogurt, and berries. — Sara Stoner-Delatorre, San Diego, California
For Supers, it’s a piece of toast with peanut butter. Two hours before the race, I’ll have an apple, and about 30 minutes before, a pre-workout drink. — Aaron Hammer
A bagel with peanut butter, egg whites, and a banana! I eat half the bagel and the eggs early, and then the other half and the banana 1 to 2 hours before start time. — Logan Marcocci, Owego, New York