No matter what training plan you undertake, it goes without saying that your nutrition needs to be on point – especially when training for the Spartan Race.
Without a good diet your body will not recover properly from the rigors of your training regime or adapt and improve from it either. If you want to thrive on the Spartan race course of your choice then you need to eat accordingly – like a warrior! That does not mean you will be ‘dining in ****’ every night like one of the 300 of the movie of the same name, you are going to tackle what you eat with common sense and a sprinkling of science fact – with the help of f!
Spartan Race & Calorie Intake
A fact you may or may not know about your body, whether you are working out, sleeping, or playing Xbox – your body is expending calories. How active you are in your everyday life will directly influence how many calories you burn every day, so in order to maintain optimal function it stands to reason that you need a specific number of calories in order to survive and thrive.
The bad news is we do not come with an instructional manual that dictates our exact calorie intake, the good news is that scientists created a formula that we can use to find out our Basal metabolic rate or BMR (how many calories we expend doing nothing but maintaining basic function) and how to multiply this depending on how active we are as individuals. Let me introduce you to the Harris Benedict formula:
Men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 x Weight in KG) + (5 x Height in CM) – (6.8 x Age)
Women : BMR = 655 + (9.6 x Weight in KG) + (1.8 x Height in CM) – (4.7 x Age)
So for examples sake, a 30 year old man who weighs 80 kilos and is 2 metres tall will have a Basal metabolic Rate of 1,958 calories a day. This is the minimum amount of calories the man in the example needs to maintain normal function while doing nothing. In order to find out how many calories are required to maintain normal function and support activity you use one of the following multipliers :
Sedentary BMR x 1.2 (little or no exercise, desk job)
Lightly active BMR x 1.375 (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week)
Mod. Active BMR x 1.55 (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week)
Very Active BMR x 1.725 (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days/week)
Extra Active BMR x 1.9 (hard daily exercise/sports and physical job)
If we take the man from the previous example and say he is Moderately Active (does sports or moderate exercise 3-5 days a week), we will multiply his BMR of 1,958 by 1.55 and discover that this Gentleman needs 3,035 calories to sustain himself every day.
Spartan Race: Quality Calories
The phrase “you are what you eat” carries a lot of weight in the Fitness industry, the quality of what you put in your body effects the quality of what your body becomes. To simplify :
“What you eat in private, you wear in public”.
Not only this, but if you think of your body as a car engine, you are not going to get mile upon mile of quality performance from that engine with third rate fuel.
So you will need to take greater care how you get your daily intake of calories; 3,000 calories of pizza and cola is going to have a completely different effect on you to 3,000 calories of lean protein, unrefined carbs, fresh vegetables and water. Now we are going to get down to the nuts and bolts of what will help you get the best nutrition while you train, as well as giving you a point in the right direction of a sustainable lifestyle change you can keep long after you have crossed the Spartan Race finish line.
I am not going to insult your intelligence by telling you what carbs, fats and proteins do within your body or why you need them and this is not going to be an exhaustive guide of every possible food out there that can help improve your diet. Common sense should prevail here. The best food you can eat is the food that has been manufactured the least, it is that simple. Here is a gentle push in the right direction as far as what each macronutrient group has to offer :
- Fish is a great source of protein and highly bioavailable to humans, especially if it is from the oily fish group that includes Tuna, Salmon, Mackerel, and Trout. These are high in Omega 3 that is vital for sustaining normal metabolism and homeostasis, as well as being a great anti-inflammatory (something anyone training will find useful).
- Beef contains high amounts of protein as well as a natural supply of saturated fat which enhances the immune system and helps maintain optimal cellular function and liver function.
- Chicken is a highly bioavailable source of protein and amino acids as well as saturated fat. Eggs from organic chickens are the most bioavailable source of protein from animals as well as being high in Omega 3.
- Sweet potato is the king of starchy foods, a great source of fibre and complex carbs. It has the highest nutrient content of any potato or staple food such as rice, wheat or soybean. Plus they are delicious no matter how you prepare them. Eat the skins to boost testosterone.
- Quinoa has earned itself a reputation as a superfood in recent times, and quite rightly so! Sometimes known as “The Golden Grain of the Andes”, Quinoa is a gluten-free and easy to digest grain which is also one of the only plant sources of a complete protein. It is also a great source of calcium and other minerals.
- Oats are a versatile carb source, high in soluble fibre, and famed for their ability to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. They also can turn a protein shake into a quick an easy post-workout meal when added to the mix with whole milk and a ripe banana.
- Oils such as Olive Oil, Flaxseed Oil, and Walnut Oil should be used daily to help promote function in the body thanks to their Omega 3 content. Coconut oil is potentially one of the most powerful natural anti-viral and anti-bacterial food sources on the planet and should definitely be on your grocery list. Make sure your oils are cold pressed and unprocessed where applicable.
- Although technically a fruit, 75% of the calories in Avocados come from monounsaturated fat. These green gods of the plant world are high in fibre, have more potassium than a banana, and are rich in vitamins B, E, and K. Avocados also lower LDL cholesterol levels and help raise helpful HDL cholesterol levels.
- Dairy products such as Whole milk are a good source of saturated fat and calcium, not to mention protein! It will help improve you immune system, lower your LDL, and potentially lower your risks of tumours, cancer, heart attacks and strokes. Make your protein shakes with this, not water.
Fruit & Vegetables
- Bananas are great in your post workout shake or first thing in the morning as they are an easy to digest, High GI food that replaces your glycogen stores efficiently.
- Berries like Strawberries and Blueberries should be a staple of your diet. The former are high in zinc and vitamin c and will help your immune system and testosterone levels. The latter will help fill you up as well as being an excellent antioxidant.
- Kale is a type of cabbage that thinks it is a superhero! It is high in beta-carotene, vitamin K, Vitamin C, and of course Calcium like other leafy greens. It also a source of indole-3-carbinol (which boosts DNA repair in the body’s cells as well as blocking cancer cells) and Sulforaphane, another chemical with potent anti-cancer properties. Make sure to steam, not boil, in order to preserve all these elements.
- Red Peppers of the Capsicum variety are a solid team player in any diet. One red pepper will give your daily allowance of Vitamin C in one hit, or to be more precise – nearly 300% of your daily allowance! Chopping one of these bad boys up and eating it throughout the day will do you the world of good.
- Asparagus is a vitamin rich powerhouse of a vegetable, home to vitamins A, C, E, and K, the mineral chromium, and the anti-carcinogen glutathione. If that wasn’t enough, you can add that 50% of asparagus is made up of protein. It is the plant that keeps on giving!
Spartan Race: Supplementation
Getting effective Post-workout nutrition when time is of the essence can be a problem. Finding a good protein shake brand can help with this. Aim to find one that has been cold-processed and has as little additives (such as Aspartame) as possible. Blend it with whole milk, oats, banana, and ground flaxseed to help aid your growth and recovery and fill you up until your next meal.
Spartan Race Nutrition Tips
- Get a daily Protein intake of 1.6 grams per every kilogram you weigh. This is the recommended amount for adult endurance athletes and adults building/maintaining lean muscle mass. For example, if you weighed 80 kilos your intake would be 128 grams a day.
- Get the majority of your high GI carbs such as fruit or white potatoes into your post-workout meal (within 15 minutes of the end of your workout). Your body is primed to use these carbs to replace your glycogen stores that have been depleted during your training and as such this is the best time to favour high GI over low GI.
- Stay Hydrated and drink plenty of water.
- Cut out and avoid bread and wheat products from your diet due to their poor nutritional value, undesirable insulin response, and potential to bloat you out or cause leaky gut. Do the same with refined processed sugars and also refined carbs such as white rice and white pasta.
Spartan Race Split: Divide & Conquer
To get a rough idea of the sort of portion sizes you should aim to eat for a meal we are going to use a bit of visualisation. Imagine your dinner plate and now divide it in half, now divide one of those halves down the middle to make two quarters. 50% of your plate is going to be used for fresh vegetables, leafy greens and salad, 25% is going to be used for lean protein from fowl, fish or cattle, and the last 25% is going to be used for unrefined carbohydrates. Aim to make this a model for your meals.
Do your best to make sure you eat clean, unprocessed food wherever you possibly can – whether it is for a main meal or snack. Spread your calories evenly across the day and do not skip breakfast, make time to prepare your meals and plan in advance what you intend to eat on each day. These are habits that are worth getting into, not just to prepare you for your Spartan Race, but also for a long and healthy life.