Nutrition for a Spartan Endurance Event (HH, HH12HR and HH24HR) — before, during, after.

You just signed up for the upcoming Hurricane Heat HH12HR event and I know how excited yet scared you are. I know you can handle it physically; you are a beast!!! As a HH12HR veteran, a nutritionist, PhD in Cardio-respiratory Science, MSc in Human Biology & Anatomy and Physiology, and Spartan SGX coach I can clearly say that the nutrition part of the training is key to successfully managing, completing and recovering from the event.

 

Two to Four Weeks before the HH12HR Event

As you are training very differently from other people, i.e., carrying heavy loads for extended periods of time, doing extremely vigorous high-intensity circuits and hiking with loads for half a weekend, your body pretty much wears out. It is under constant stress and has very little time to recover. In order to perform well and allow your body to rest and rebuild itself, you must fuel it very carefully with the specific foods it requires. You may need to increase caloric intake compared to previous weeks, which should come from very high-quality macro-nutrients such as proteins, fats and carbohydrates (aka carbs).

High quality protein sources include wild caught fish (salmon, cod, sardines, herrings, mackerel), free range chicken and eggs, organic turkey, grass-fed beef, bison and lamb, as well as a reliable sources of seafood (to avoid heavy metal contamination).

You also need to consume good beneficial fats, especially for your long endurance training days: avocados, organic nuts (avoid peanuts as they may be very inflammatory and allergenic), olive oil, macadamia oil, avocado oil, organic nut butters, uncured sugar-free bacon, egg yolks, organic grass-fed butter, ghee butter, coconut oil, coconut butter and coconut full-fat milk.

Concerning carbs, you really want to focus on eating the starchy ones and the varieties that include a low glycemic index.  This will replenish the glycogen that you burn during your workouts: sweet potatoes, organic rice, organic quinoa, butternut squash, sprouted grains (avoid these if you are gluten-sensitive). I hope I don’t need to emphasize that huge loads of vegetables and fruits (5-10 cups a day is recommended) are going to benefit you even more, supplementing your tired body with vitamins and micro nutrients.

You want to have at least two meals (pre- and post-workout) that consist of all the macros: colorful salad, good source of protein and fat, and complex carbs. Yes, even if you work out in the evening, I want you to have that meal – you are burning calories after your workout, and your glycogen is used up during sleep.

In terms of supplementation – for me the important part was to keep my adrenals happy by supplying my body with B vitamins, selenium and magnesium. I tried to get them from food: yeast flakes, Brazil nuts, and green leafy veggies, respectively. Also, you may add glutamine and BCAAs for muscle recovery and rebuilding. A very good powerful anti-inflammatory supplement is turmeric – in either pill form or powder mixed up in warm water. Make sure that in both cases it comes with black pepper for proper absorption. Proper electrolytes are also crucial for your training and for the event itself. They can come from salt tablets, liquid version of trace minerals or electrolytes (which you can get in any whole foods store) or 1-2 tsp of Himalayan Salt added to your water one to three times a day.

I strongly recommend that you first test any carb gels, energy bars, and foods that you plan on taking for the event, during your longer runs or training sessions. You don’t want to end up having diarrhea during the event or being medically DNF’d due to GI tract issues.

 

Two Days before the HH12HR Event

During the last 4 weeks, you should already know which foods give you energy, which make you feel grumpy and inflamed, or bloated and sleepy. Make sure that, during the two days leading into the event, you completely avoid processed foods loaded with hydrogenated fats and processed sugars (this includes pizza, fries, fast food burgers, donuts, ice cream etc.). Sorry Spartans, but how you fuel your engines determines how they will perform during the event. Bad foods will definitely make your body unhappy and unready for 12 hours of extreme activity.

It is also very important to have extra starchy/complex carbs during those two days. ATTENTION: do not overload them in just one meal; eat them in an evenly distributed manner throughout the day. You don’t want to wake up on a race day with diarrhea, upset stomach, or other GI problems. Make sure you drink a lot of water and electrolytes.

 

One Day before the HH12HR Event

This day is the most important of your last 4 weeks. Whatever damage and lack of nutrition you allowed into your workout routines and lifestyle cannot be reversed by just one day of proper fueling; however, if you find yourself in a less than ideal situation, make sure you eat a very good breakfast, lunch and dinner. All meals should consist of good sources of protein, fats and carbs, as well as vegetables and fruits. Try to avoid too many fibrous vegetables 5-6 hours before the event. If you wish to eat them, put them in a smoothie for better digestion. Hydrate and drink more electrolytes than during the previous days. You may have up to 2 cups of black coffee; however, more can cause you to crash in the middle of the event. I wouldn’t suggest taking any pre-workout supplements, thermogenic pills, energy drinks or foods that you already know will make you feel bad.

My favorite breakfast consists of oats with coconut milk, shredded coconut, pecans, blueberries, a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of Himalayan salt. For lunch, I eat a huge salad with green leafy veggies: spinach, kale, and sunflower seeds, beef burger and baked sweet potato with coconut oil. For dinner (the last meal before the event), I like lean ground turkey with a large sweet potato, coconut oil and banana with cashew or almond butter. Avoid too much protein, it can cause slower absorption of the carbs and fats, which you need as fuel for the event.

 

On HH12HR Event Day

There is just one rule I follow on event day and I strongly suggest you do the same: START EATING EARLY AND EAT OFTEN. Do not wait until you start feeling weak, lightheaded or begin cramping before you put some food or electrolytes in your stomach. If you do, it is already too late. Start as early as 30-45 min into the event, and keep snacking every 30-45 min. I always keep carb gels, nut butter pouches, carb chews and energy bars in different pockets and whenever it feels right, I reach for one.

My great invention during the last event was protein waffles (made from protein pancake ready mix bought at a supplement store) with some nut butter and jelly. I ate them during down times, and the rest of the time, I had other snacks to chew on. For electrolytes, you may want to take tablets every 1-2 hours, and make sure you drink lots of water with them.

You may need to test many options a long time before the competition in order to find the right foods for event day. They must be portable, easy to store, carry and grab during the very uncomfortable conditions of the event. Store them safely in multiple Ziploc bags – I had to eat some chews mixed with mud because I failed to do this…oh well, the things we will do to perform better!

 

After the HH12HR Event

You did it! You survived and I am sure you don’t want to look at carb gels or chews for the next several months. It is ok, because now all I would like you to do is eat very very well (don’t overload again, it may cause you to have a stomach ache). Post-event meals should have all sorts of veggies (the more the better, the more colorful the better), huge amounts of protein (yes, grass-fed beef or bison burger or steak is allowed), some nice quinoa salad or rice with veggies, maybe sushi. Splurge but do it intelligently and properly. You may think you’ve earned the donut, but your body will shout for help!!!

During the next two days, I personally suggest taking lots of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods: tart cherry juice, coconut water and oil, blueberries, pineapple, green leafy veggies, tomatoes, fatty fish such as salmon, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, beets or beet juice, turmeric, ginger and bone broth. Hydrate very well, too! Add lots of magnesium and electrolytes into the diet. And go to bed – sleep is the best remedy for anything!

 

The HH12HR was the biggest challenge, the best life lesson and my proudest moment. I spent at least 5 months before the event researching and studying proper foods, testing them on myself during workouts and eventually preparing a plan that would help my body perform well, feel energized during the cruel sufferfest tasks, finish injury-free, and recover properly. I have coached Spartans and other endurance athletes for over 2 years as the owner and head Spartan SGX coach at beYOUtiful , LLC.

 

Izabela Chrobak​

Sport, Healthy Lifestyle and Motivation Coach

Founder of beYOUtiful, LLC

Spartan SGX Coach

NASM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)

NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist (FNS)

PhD in Cardiorespiratory Sciences

MSc in Human Biology, Anatomy and Physiology

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