Balanced, wholesome nutrition is important no matter what your lifestyle may be. A quality diet, rich in real, unprocessed foods will enrich the lives of everyone, active or not. When it comes to physical performance however, quality nutrition becomes even more crucial. If you expect the best performance from those muscles, you’ll need to fill up with the best nutrition.
If you’re training for a challenge like the tough mudder you will be consistently testing your physical limitations and pushing the body just a little further than it wants to go. In order to progress, your body will need nutrient dense food in sufficient amounts. Ignoring or underestimating the value of diet during training will leave you exhausted and at a stand still.
Nutrition for the Tough Mudder Training Period
The staples of the training period diet should be the same as any other time, assuming you adhere to quality nutrition all of the time anyway. Optimal choices from all three macronutrients are of the biggest concern.
Carbs will add fuel to your training fire when. A quality carbohydrate rich diet will keep your muscle glycogen levels topped up, meaning you’ll be ready for any tough physical challenge whenever it pops up in your training.
Just like everything else, your carbohydrate selections need to be clean and real. There’s no room for sugary, processed breakfast cereals or bagels. Raw fruits, vegetables and whole, unprocessed grains will offer the best nutrition and quality energy to your training. These are all rich in fibre as well, which will keep things moving and flowing the way they should.
Variety is key if you hope to enjoy the benefits of all kinds of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins while keeping boredom at bay. Choose a wide range of fruits like apples, berries, oranges and bananas. Add in colourful veggies like orange and yellow peppers, leafy greens, eggplant and tomatoes.
Once you have loaded up on these important staples, throw in some whole grains like wild rice, oats and barely. Quinoa, which is technically a seed, is often considered a whole grain and can be prepared as such. Another bonus of quinoa is that it is a complete protein, meaning you get more bang for your buck.
Avoid any processed or refined grains as they offer far less fiber and are nowhere near as nutrient dense. This means boxed, convenience and refined, white foods are literally off the table.
Your muscles are going to need plenty of protein to recover from the beating of your tough mudder workout plan will be putting them through. Round after round of snatches, push presses, squats, pull ups and swings will take their toll on your whole body, making it imperative that you refuel with quality protein a.s.a.p.
If you’re a meat eater, stick with the leanest sources as possible. Chicken breast, extra lean cuts of beef or bison, fish and seafood are among the best choices. While fish like salmon is higher in fat than most, it is still a great option since those fats are the heart healthy Omega 3’s we so desperately need.
If meat is not your thing, load up on eggs, egg whites, quinoa, beans and high quality vegetarian or whey protein powder.
Twenty to thirty grams of protein per serving is sufficient for muscle repair and recovery. There is no reason to consume excessive amounts since the body will only process so much at one sitting.
Once considered a four-letter word, we know understand how important fat is to the human body and brain. Again, this doesn’t imply that twinkies and French fries are appropriate options.
Foods that are rich in Omega 3’s like nuts, fatty fish, avocados, olive oil and flax are all excellent choices. Notice how they are all real, whole foods as well. Nothing packaged, wrapped or boxed.
Enjoying raw nuts as a snack, eggs at breakfast, salmon for supper or a bit of ground flax in your post workout shake. These are all great, tasty ways to consume enough healthy fats in your day.
The Post Workout Meal for Tough Mudder Training
Yes breakfast is important but the post workout meal is even more so. Not only do you need to be very aware of what you’re consuming after your tough mudder training, you need to pay attention to the timing as well.
Ideally you would complete the post workout meal within sixty minutes of your training session. This will allow those much needed nutrients to be shuttled and transported to their appropriate homes in the quickest and most efficient way possible.
Immediately after a tough workout, think of your body as being in a state of desperation. It is starving for nutrients to replace what has been lost. Hormonally, everything is set in place to receive and utilize those nutrients as best as possible. Assuming your choices are appropriate, your muscles will work with those hormones to complete the recovery process to their best capacity.
Fuel up with twenty to thirty grams of quality protein and forty to sixty grams carbohydrates, preferably in liquid form to get that nutrition in as fast as possible. Avoid adding any fat to your meal, as this will slow the digestion rate. You want fast acting nutrition.
The Day Before
To successfully complete a tough mudder challenge, your body will require a lot of energy in the form of stored muscle glycogen. This comes in the form of carbohydrate. The day before the race will be spent enjoying your normal, balanced diet with a special emphasis on carbohydrates.
This is the time to add in a few extra servings of your carb rich favorites like fruit and whole grains. Aim for seven to ten grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight. This will ensure that on competition day, you’ll have lots of fuel in the tank.
Race Day Nutrition
On the morning of the big day, make sure you start with another carbohydrate loaded meal. This will top up the tank and replace any glycogen that was lost while your were sleeping. Pair your carbs with a lean protein and try to avoid too much fat in the pre competition meal since you’ll want to digest that breakfast as quickly as possible.
During the event it is crucial to stay hydrated and your best option may be sports drinks. Not only will you get the water you need, you’ll replace those important electrolytes while adding carbohydrate back as it’s lost through exertion.
You should be well hydrated before the event of course, but make sure you are drinking at every moment of opportunity during the race and again once you cross the finish line as well. Nothing will halt your progress during the competition like a Charlie horse in the calf caused by dehydration.
Feeling sick, lethargic, crampy and exhausted will seriously thwart not only your physical performance, but also your enjoyment of the day you’ve been looking forward to. Proper, sound nutrition is paramount when it comes to putting your body through something as tough as a tough mudder.
Train hard and eat well for an optimal performance during your tough mudder challenge.
Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Certified Turbulence Trainer