If you’re training for a Spartan race or another fitness event and want to set a personal record and perform at your best, it’s wise to eat a diet for performance while training. If you’re not sure what to eat, here’s where to start.
“Nutrition can be the single most important weapon to successful training and a successful race,” Spartan SGX coach Matt Bouback says.
Bouback, founder of Power Combat Fitness, is an expert in fitness nutrition, and recommends that Spartan racers who are interested in improving athletic performance, getting faster, lifting heavier, or running farther should clean up their nutrition at least one month before a race.
But what does it mean to eat a diet for performance? Should you cut out carbs? Should you eat keto? How much protein do you need?
To help you perform your best in any athletic event, follow these four performance diet tips during your next training block.
Tips to Eat a Nutritious Diet for Performance During Races
1. Balance your macros
Performance diets will vary based on individual goals and volume of training (among other factors), but consuming a macro ratio of 50% carbs, 30% protein, and 20% fats is a good place to start. The key word with all foods is “quality.”
Quality carbs: Focus on consuming whole grains such as quinoa (which should always be soaked), rolled oats, sweet potatoes, and fruits such as oranges and blueberries.
“I always recommend exceeding daily recommendations in vegetables such as broccoli because of their low glycemic index and fiber content,” Bouback says.
Quality protein: Solid protein options for optimal athletic performance include beans, soy, eggs, cheese, milk, seafood, and white-meat poultry.
Quality fats: Unsaturated fats sources you should seek out include avocado and nuts such as peanuts, hazelnuts, cashews, and almonds, as well as olive, flaxseed, and canola oil.
2. Don’t skip meals
The biggest mistake people make before a race is not matching their volume of training with their nutritional needs. Bailing on breakfast is not the type of performance diet that will help you set a personal record on the race course.
“Your metabolism is like a fire, and in order to keep it burning you must constantly feed it just as you would with wood on a real fire,” Boubeck says. “Someone working toward performing their best at a Spartan race will need to understand that eating more of the right foods more often will help support their workouts, recovery, and performance.”
3. Stop buying processed foods
Out of sight, out of mind. If you don’t have processed junk food in your home, it will be much easier to stick to your performance diet while training.
“Chips and many other processed foods are useless to the body,” Boubeck explains. “Start by cleaning out the pantry and getting rid of anything and everything that does not help support your goals. By no means do I say, ‘Don’t have something every so often that you enjoy,’ but I do mean to stop buying crap.”
4. Plan for your goals
Remembering why you’re training for a Spartan race and revising your daily meals to fit your performance diet are equally important steps to managing your nutritional intake.
“Some people are getting off the couch for the first time, and taking them from this comfort zone to a race course is overwhelming,” Boubeck says. “Those people are also committing themselves to a healthier lifestyle, which means they’re accomplishing two goals.”
A month should be plenty of time to commit your physical training and your performance diet and prepare you to perform your best at the race.