When it comes to nutrition, elite Spartan racer Annie Dube follows an appealing path grounded in sound thinking. There can be a lot of noise when it comes to endurance athletics and nutrition, but Dube is gifted in cutting through it all with information that is profound yet comprehensible.
In other words, Dube’s nutritional philosophy doesn’t let sports nutrition science crush all of the fun out of it. (For contrast, try and apply the hard science baked into Nutrient Timing: The Future of Sports Nutrition, a book that seeks to tame the multiple nutrition-related variables at play within an athlete.)
While you’re gunning it through a Spartan race, for example, you have various increases going on in the body (increasing cortisone, blood flow to muscles, fluid loss, and muscle damage) and various decreases (decreasing insulin levels, muscle glycogen stores, and ATP levels). Your inflammatory system is turned on while your immune system is suppressed. The authors of Nutrient Timing offer a nutritional system designed to integrate with all of this stormy human physiology, whether it’s racing, training, or recovering.
Reading the book stirs up the question of how a professional endurance athlete could possibly juggle all of the macro- and micro-nutrient requirements as suggested by the Nutrient Timing prescription (including shopping, measuring, cooking, etc).
It’s dizzying. The one scenario that seems doable is to live at an Olympic Training Center where their staff of dietitians and cooks plan it all out and put it on your tray.
Rather, following Annie Dube’s nutritional philosophy seems like it might work just as well (and maybe better) without all of the fuss.
Elite Spartan Racer Annie Dube's Approach to Nutrition
“In my opinion, nutrition shouldn’t be overly complicated for most athletes,” Dube says.
Her exact prescription is just 22 words long:
“There’s no specific diet that is going to work for everyone, so eat what makes you feel good and avoid what doesn’t.”
As simple as Dube makes it sound, there’s a lot to unpack from those 22 words.
She underscores the fact of individual variation, and shines a light on the hormonal response to food: If you eat something and you feel good and energized, you’re probably eating the right thing. If you eat something and you feel lethargic or just plain bad, then then you should probably scratch it from your shopping list.
No Hard Restrictions, but Definitely Know What Doesn’t Work
“I eat pretty much everything and don’t really restrict myself from any types of foods,” she says. “I like to cook with mostly plant-based foods at home, but find that I feel best when I eat some animal protein a few times a week.”
Dube puts her own scientific research to work. Through trail and error, the elite athlete has realized that she performs better when occasionally including meat. And when things don’t work for her, she makes sure to keep them at a minimum, such as certain dairy products.
“I love pizza and wine, but I avoid those the day before a race now because I’ve learned the hard way that they don’t make me feel my best performance-wise,” she explains.
Nutritional Advice for New Spartans
Dube's experienced advice for those new to OCR is to keep the focus on eating healthy, and to not fret about calories.
“Don’t count calories if your goal is to fuel your body to perform at its best,” she says. “Focus on eating lots of wholesome nutritious foods and cook your own meals as often as you can.”
And don’t forget to enjoy yourself, she adds.
“Life is too short and food is one of the best parts of life, so enjoy it!” she encourages.
Here’s an example of how Dube practices her approach to food in a typical day.
How to Stop Overcomplicating "One of the Best Parts" of Life
- Espresso or pre-workout mix
- Honey Stinger waffle and/or banana with nut butter
“Usually I eat a more substantial meal if I’m doing a much longer run, but this is what I eat if I’m short on time,” she says.
Dube will have a coffee or oat-milk latte with one of the following:
- Oatmeal with lots of toppings (nut butter, maple syrup, raisins, walnuts, etc)
- Egg burrito with veggies
- Banana bread or pancakes (add protein powder to the batter) topped with nut butter and walnuts
Protein shake with:
- Plant protein
- Frozen banana
- Peanut butter
- Oat milk
“This is also a good nighttime snack or dessert," she says. "And I sometimes add more toppings, like berries or crushed nuts.”
A lunch bowl that mixes and matches items from the following::
- Base: quinoa, rice, sweet potato
- Protein: tofu, chicken, fried/hard boiled eggs, sausage, beans
- Veggies: bell pepper, carrots, leafy greens, onion, broccoli, tomato, avocado
- Sauce: lemon garlic olive oil, salsa verde, balsamic vinaigrette, sriracha
All sorts of good things go into Dube’s lunch bowl: low-glycemic and nutrient-dense carbs, lean protein, phytonutrient-packed vegetables, and monounsaturated fats in the sauce.
“I usually make some sort of bowl like this using whatever I have in the house," she explains. "They are quick and easy to prepare, as they're made fresh or prepped in advance and eaten cold or reheated.”
Plus, the convenience factor makes them perfect for after a long workout, when you're too gassed to exert effort on preparing a meal.
“I also love sandwiches!” she also says. “My favorite is probably fried egg, avocado, and tomato on fresh bread.”
Some of the options Dube keeps on hand include:
- A bowl of cereal
- Honey Stinger waffle or cracker bar
- Greek yogurt
Several of Dube’s favorites:
- Tofu fried rice with lots of veggies
- Thai curry with chicken/tofu, veggies, rice noodles
- Bean tacos with guacamole and roasted veggies
- Air-fried chicken thighs, sweet potatoes, and salad
“I have dessert most nights!” Dube says.
On the menu:
- Chopped fruit, such as berries
- Dairy-free ice cream
- A glass of wine
- Dark chocolate
- Protein shake