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5 Nutrition Tips For Ultra OCR Training

Firstly, I'd like to note that I'm not a Nutritionist or Registered Dietician. I'm not telling you what, or how much, you should be eating. I'm going to talk about what I ate leading up to my first Spartan Ultra and first Spartan Elite Podium (Mill Spring, NC - 2019). I also talk about some general information regarding nutrition that's widely accepted. As you read this article, just keep in mind that nutrition, just like programming, isn't a one-size-fits-all item. Everyone is different, so their needs are different.

1: Caloric Needs

I have a very fast metabolism. Because of that, I need a lot of food to sustain myself in normal life. Once you add 30-50 miles of trail running and 2-4 strength workouts per week on top of an already fast metabolism, the number of calories I needed to consume was extremely high. I was eating between 4,000-5,000 calories per day. No matter what, if you are scaling up your training as your prepare for an Ultra, and the volume is getting high, you're going to need a lot of calories. Without the proper number of calories, you may see unhealthy weight loss. At the very least, you'll see a decline in performance over time as your body is starved of it's caloric and nutrition needs.

2: Macro Breakdown

You'll see a million different theories regarding what percentages of Fats, Proteins, and Carbs you should be eating. There are so many factors to consider with your macros. What's your goal? How often do you train? What type of training are you doing most? Are you increasing volume, decreasing volume, or maintaining volume? How does your body handle greater and lower values of each macro nutrient? For me, my body has always performed extremely well, and felt very good, on a high carb diet. That being said, I've also had some testing done to determine how well fat-adapted I am, and the results were very good. As a result, I eat a good chunk of healthy fats. In the end, all of this is going to vary from person to person. I ate a lot of lean meats, oats, nuts and seeds, a fairly wide variety of vegetables, and I'd mix in several different fruits. In the end, my diet was ROUGHLY (I didn't strictly monitor it day by day because I've developed a good overall sense of what's in my food after years of practice) 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat.

3: Quality of Food

I've seen hundreds of posts on social media regarding HOW people get the calories they need for their training. A lot of people, unfortunately, are reaching their calorie needs by eating a lot of junky foods. I get it. I do. It's hard to eat many thousands of calories worth of healthy food each and every day. It can also get a bit pricey depending on where you live and shop. I know. My bank account knows. That being said, the quality of your everyday workout performance, the quality of your recovery, and the quality of your race day performance will all be far better if you can get the necessary calories and macro nutrients from healthy sources. Cut out the candies, sodas, snacks, etc. Eat real foods. As much as possible, make your own meals instead of buying pre-maid meals. Your body will thank you, and it will show up on race day.

4: Nutrition Discipline

It's okay to slack on your nutrition for a meal here and there. Special occasions exist for a reason. That being said, the more disciplined you are on sticking with proper nutrition, the better you will perform every single day. As an example, when I first decided to tackle OCR competitively, I was already many many years behind the top athletes in the sport in the volume of endurance training they'd done compared to me. I had almost no running background, and almost all of my prior training was in strength training. I had to seize every possible opportunity I could to close the gap between myself and the OCR athletes taking podium spots. As a result, I ate as healthily as I could possibly afford. I stuck to the basics. I ate food that was extremely nutrient dense, and I regulated everything very carefully. I was so disciplined with my eating that my wife (then girlfriend) often made remarks about the food I ate...apparently I didn't properly convey my reason for eating that way! Oh well! The point here is that the athlete who is disciplined with their nutrition will go ahead of the one who isn't. I can't over emphasize the importance of consistent, proper, nutrition.

5: Hydration

Wait, hydration isn't a part of nutrition. I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about. Ultra training, by nature, requires a lot of time to be spent in training. Obviously, the more time you spend training, no matter what the weather conditions, the more the need for proper hydration is important (it's always important, but you know what I'm saying). For myself, I tried to drink at least 100oz of water every day. On days when I would do multi-hour trail runs, I'd have about 1.5 liters of water in a camel back with me so I could stay hydrated. Typically, all of my best race and training performances have happened in very hot or humid environments. Maybe my body handles cooling efficiently? I don't know. What I do know is that I am always trying to stay properly hydrated. Even a very slight percentage decrease in your hydration levels can lead to massive decreases in performance levels. We're looking for increases in performance, so stay hydrated! I'll even throw in a nice tip for you here. If you're going to be racing in hot and humid environments, train in hot and humid environments. Practice your hydration (safely) in those environments.

I credit a lot of the work I did with my nutrition on my 3rd place Elite finish at my first ever Spartan Ultra. Getting your nutrition on point is one of the very best things you can do as you begin training for Ultras!


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