Whether you’re training for an obstacle course race or preparing your body for another competitive athletic event, there are three crucial times that you need to fuel your body for energy when training. Understanding this will not only maximize your workout, but also help you feel better throughout the day (as well as prep you to crush your future workouts, too). But don’t just take our word for it.
Honey Stinger, the leading producer of organic honey-powered energy fuel, wholeheartedly advocates for the importance of these three critical moments in anyone’s workout — and so do their athletes.
Here, we break down when and how top obstacle course racing athletes supercharge their bodies for training — enabling them to race all of the way to the winner's podium.
What to Eat Before, During, and After a Workout
1. When You’re Preparing to Work Out
Many people overlook fueling before they workout. But, as Canadian runner, climber, and Spartan World Champion Ryan Atkins points out, preparation is key.
“When you fuel before a workout, you're starting with topped off energy and glycogen stores,” Atkins explains. “Also, you can spike your glucose at the right moment to have the highest energy for high intensity or races."
While some might get away with skipping their pre-workout snack if they're planning on a light training session, the back-to-back winner of the Spartan 2018 and 2019 Ultra World Championship claims that it’s critical before any workout lasting longer than 45-60 minutes.
“Sometimes you can do fasted workouts, but I do these sparingly — two to three times per month,” he says. “For higher-intensity workouts or anything long, you want to start with your tank full, so you can push longer and harder and get more benefit from your workout”.
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2. When You’re Working Out
During intensive exercise, your body is working on delivering the required nutrients to your muscles. Because of this, you're not using energy for digestion, and this can make it harder for fuel consumed during training to move from the stomach to the working muscles. The solution? Small, easy-to-digest snacks or liquids.
Trail-runner and OCR athlete and coach Colleen Wire knows a thing (or seven) about the importance of keeping the fluids coming during training.
“I don't fuel during workouts and races that are shorter than 60 minutes,” Wire says. “My focus there is on speed and intensity.
“Hydration, however, is one of the most important concerns for runners. I will add a hydration aid to my water — especially during intense workouts or races, or when it's hot and humid — to replenish electrolytes and essential minerals like sodium and potassium.”
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3. When You’re Recovering From Your Workout
Athletes — especially endurance and obstacle course race athletes — who don’t refuel after a workout may find themselves fatigued and faint as dehydration and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) set in. This is generally because they haven’t replenished the body's glycogen stores that were used up as fuel during exercise.
“Obstacle course racing is a unique sport that requires speed, strength, and endurance," Wire explains. "Carbohydrates are your fastest source of energy during intensive training or races, but they are also stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver, which gives your muscles a reserve of energy during long events.
“Runners who train hard most days of the week will likely be doing so with glycogen stores that are never fully replenished, so refueling with carbs can help prevent a fall in the level of glycogen stores over weeks of intense training.”
“Carbohydrates are KING," he says. "Look at getting mostly liquid or simple carbs, as well as some electrolytes. Prepare your post-race or workout food before the workout, so that it's easy to get once you finish.”
Next to carbs, protein should be your next priority.
“Protein is essential because endurance training breaks down muscle tissues,” Wire says. “Refueling with protein helps you repair muscle damage acquired during intense training sessions, as well as help build new muscle to help you climb up steep hills and carry heavy objects.”
Wire replenishes lost nutrients no longer than half an hour after her training.
“I aim to refuel within 30 minutes after my workout with a healthy snack containing complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats,” she says. “I am a huge fan of Honey Stinger's Nut and Seed bars for that purpose.
“It's also important to consume water or an electrolyte drink post workout to replenish what was lost during the workout."
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