The Ultimate Tough Mudder Meal Plan
Taking on your first Tough Mudder or a similar adventure racing event? Here’s how to eat to get in the healthiest shape of your life so you can train tough, recover quickly, and lose heavy body fat that will undoubtedly slow you down on race day. This Tough Mudder meal plan is loaded with fresh whole foods to fuel your endurance running and strength training sessions as you tackle this tough event.
Here’s the truth about training for an obstacle course race like the Tough Mudder. Your training is going to be different from anything you’ve tried before. It’s not your average, “go for a run” workout and on the flip side, going to the gym for a few reps and sets on the leg press and row machine aren’t going to be much help either.
You’re going to expend way more energy than that. Which means you’re going to need tons of food. Here’s a step-by-step Tough Mudder meal plan that will get you to the race, through the race, and beyond.
Getting Started With Your Tough Mudder Meal Plan
Go “Whole” As Much As Possible
Let’s clear the air from the start. Your Tough Mudder meal plan does not have to be a miserable “dieting” experience. I wouldn’t even call it a diet. Think of it as a style of eating that will supercharge your obstacle race training gains and maximize your recovery time. At the same time you’ll get the weight loss and health benefit side-effects that you’ve always wanted. It’s a powerful formula.
But in order to take advantage of the benefits from this meal plan you’re going to want to kick as much processed foods out of your daily meals as possible. This includes products like protein shakes and nutrition bars. Your Tough Mudder meal plan is essentially made up of nutrient dense foods that make recovery time quicker a whole lot faster. You’ll be loading your meal plan with powerful vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that decrease inflammation, enhance performance, and boost healthy cell activity.
Remember, your workouts won’t just be an everyday jog through the park. Training for an obstacle course race requires some serious effort. You’ll be training for endurance and for strength. You’ll be over-loading your muscles with grueling muscle building exercises and pushing your cardiovascular limits.
The nutrition philosophy behind this meal plan is the following: The faster you can recover between workouts, the more intense you can train. The more intense you train, the quicker and greater results your will see. These results ultimately lead to Mudder domination.
And before we break down your food sources and the amount of protein, carbs, and fats you’ll need in your diet, here’s a quick piece of advice that will save you from some immediate frustration. Don’t feel like you have to have a perfect diet from day one. To cut all processed foods out of your diet at once may be more of a challenge than the Tough Mudder itself. That’s why I recommend you pack as much whole foods as possible in your meal plan so avoiding processed foods eventually becomes easy.
Carbs Are Not The Enemy
A true Tough Mudder meal plan does not shy away from carbs. As stated above, it’s consuming the best carbs for your training performance and recovery that really matters. When training for a Tough Mudder your stored energy is going to unavoidably drain. When this happens it’s essential to refill those energy storehouses with glycogen.
But what is glycogen, you ask?
Glycogen is your new favorite energy source and it is only produced through carbs… hence why carbs will not be the enemy in this meal plan. You want to load 50-60% of your total calorie intake with carbs when training for an obstacle course race of this measure. That’s a lot of carbs!
Keep in mind though, your food sources should be whole food, complex carbohydrate selections such as sweet potatoes, oatmeal, brown rice, whole grain breads, and quinoa. These nutrient dense carbs will supply you with long lasting energy to help you power through your workouts and the rest of your day without the up and down crashes or drawn out fatigue from yesterday’s training session.
What About Protein And Fat?
Recovery cannot be stressed enough when training for a Tough Mudder. Without great recovery you’ll feel exhausted, sore, and de-motivated to workout. So it’s important to fill your meal plan with amino acid packed protein sources such as chicken, fish, beef, tuna, eggs, and some dairy products.
A quick briefing on amino acids: Amino acids are the building blocks of protein that will help your muscles repair quickly and with new strength. These building blocks can only be found in animal products such as meat and dairy.
Warning: We highly recommend avoiding the hyped-up amino acid supplements. They are usually laced with additives and ingredients that are not specialized for endurance training. Stick with whole foods, making sure you get 20-30% of your calories from rich animal protein sources.
And finally, let’s talk fat. Fat is the ultimate form of long lasting energy that with some selections can be packed with Omega-3 Fatty Acids. These are crucial for reducing inflammation for fast recovery and improving cognitive ability. Load up on fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel, add in avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, or grass-fed beef, butter, and cage-free eggs.
Nuts such as macadamia nuts, almonds, and pecans are also packed with healthy fats. Load your cabinets up with unprocessed almond butter or peanut butter (choose the nut butters that have the oil resting at the top of the jar).
Post Workout Grub
Consuming the right kind of snack post workout will help you recover quickly and gear up in advance for tomorrow’s grueling training session. Within one hour of your workout, fill your stomach with protein and carbs. Forget the fats and high fiber foods (i.e. green leafy vegetables) for this post-workout snack. Instead consume a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein.
Here’s an example: The perfect post workout meal may look like 25g of lean protein from an 8 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast and 75g of a fresh fruit salad or brown rice mixed with chopped carrots, celery, and plump raisins to sweeten things up a bit.
If you’re an early to
rise workout person then come home to one whole, cage-free egg and a few egg whites along with a whole grain english muffin layered with all natural honey spread and maybe a cup of fresh squeezed orange juice.
Pack those carbs in post workout and don’t flake out on the protein. Amino acids and glycogen will work hand in hand to quickly maximize your obstacle race training progress.
One Month Before Your First Tough Mudder
At this point you’ve been training for 4 weeks and it’s time to take a quick inventory on how your body is feeling and performing. If you are continuing to make progress with your Tough Mudder training then there’s no reason to slow yourself down by making any changes.
Haven’t you heard the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” As much as that quote makes me think of a Southern mechanic, layered up in overalls with his head buried in the front end of a pickup truck engine… there’s some serious wisdom here.
Now, on the flip side, if you feel yourself slowing down, you’re taking more time to recover, or you are losing motivation with your training then it may be time to increase your carbohydrate intake a bit. 4 weeks of intense obstacle race training can catch up to you and in order to propel your momentum forward for another 4 weeks of training, you’ll want to add more food to your diet.
This will help you recover quicker and “over-fill” those energy storehouses of yours that have been depleted.
If need be – search out a favorable multi-vitamin to supplement with your Tough Mudder meal plan. Although whole-foods is our highest recommendation, in a case where you are struggling to train with intensity, a multi-vitamin can provide massive nutritional performance benefits.
There’s no better time to discover your best race day fuel than now. Before your longest training session of the week, experiment with different pre-race foods. Try a bowl of oatmeal with some peanut butter and banana or whip up a homemade egg english muffin with a slice of cheese.
Also experiment with pre-race beverages. The safe bet is to stick with water but you can also test a sports drink, homemade electrolyte drink, or even coffee to see which has you performing better through your long training sessions.
If you plan on eating a banana, drinking gels, or any other type of sports drink during your race (which you should highly consider), test it out on one of your pre-race trail training sessions, just so you know your stomach can handle it. Whatever you do, do not skip out on your pre-race meal. You’ll find yourself running on fumes just a couple of miles in.
2 Weeks Before The Race
At 2 weeks before the race, you’ll want to slowly decrease the intensity of your training and at the same time, continue to load up on carbohydrates. This is where you begin to really over-fill those glycogen stores so you can have more than enough energy to power through the Tough Mudder come race day.
Continue to eat healthy carbohydrates, just like you’ve been doing up until this point. You do not want to make dramatic changes by adding in cakes, white bread, chips, etc. This can negatively effect your last 2 weeks of training and ultimately send you a few steps back on race day.
Another important note: Bring your carbohydrates up to 70% of your calories and lower your protein intake to 15-20%. Making this slight change to your Tough Mudder meal plan will help you quickly over-fill your glycogen stores so you can dominate your quickly approaching obstacle race.
Hydrate Like A Boss
The week before your race is the time to hydrate up. Drink at least 64 oz. of water each day leading up to your race and avoid drinks that lead to dehydration such as coffee and alcohol.
Night Before Your Tough Mudder
Stuffing yourself with a bowl of pasta and a plate of breadsticks is not going to benefit you the night before your race. Actually, you’ll wake up feeling sluggish. Save your biggest meal for lunch time the day before your Tough Mudder or similar adventure race. This will allow you extra time to digest all of the extra carbs you’ll be consuming.
Again, this isn’t a time to stop off at the local bakery and pick up a dozen donuts after an afternoon of endless soup, salad and breadsticks at Olive Garden. Continue to eat the foods that have gotten you to where you are now. This will also keep you from experiencing digestive issues the day of the race.
Finish off the night with a smaller meal, still with a moderate portion of carbohydrates and protein. Some great options include a homemade stir fry with brown rice, veggies, and chicken or a lean cut burger on a whole grain bun with a small salad on the side.
Day Of Your Tough Mudder
Get an early start to the morning before the race to make sure you get a some proper fuel in for breakfast. Again, this is not a time for changes. Stay consistent with your best pre-training foods that you’ve experimented with and don’t eat too much. You don’t want to be going to the bathroom or battling digestive issues half-way through your race, do you?
Hydrate by sipping down a few cups of water and eat something light such as blueberries, bananas, whole grain bread with honey, or oatmeal with dried fruit and some almond butter. This will get a few more extra carbs in your already stacked glycogen stores to fuel your race.
And lastly, bring some form of fuel with you out on the course. Gel packs, sports drinks, a banana, or a few fig bars will do the trick to help you replenish your carbohydrate stores throughout the race. There will also be refueling stations throughout the course that you can take advantage of to stay energized.