Eat Dirt

A complete nutrition strategy for Tough Mudder events

Turkey Sandwich

Turkey Sandwich    Photo: FotoosVanRobin on Flickr

Tough Mudders start in waves of about 500 people that take off every 15 to 20 minutes. You could start as early as 8 a.m. or after 1 p.m., depending on the event and the number of entrants, so plan your pre-race meal(s) according to your start time. The last thing you want is to bonk, cramp, slow your team down, or join the 22 percent of contestant who don’t finish.

South Carolina-based certified nutrition specialist Laura Wooten has helped dozens of people create nutrition strategies for mud runs. Below, she outlines a plan that will keep your hunger from becoming another obstacle to overcome.

3 Days Before the Race
Dial in your nutrition 72 hours before the race starts. This means getting in small quality meals every two to three hours that are low in fat and contain protein and carbs. “Eating small meals consistently throughout the day prepares the body better than the old-fashioned carb loading the night before,” Wooten says.

Ideal meals include a turkey sandwich with low-fat cheese, mustard, lettuce, and tomato, with fruit on the side, or a cup of whole grain pasta with a cup of vegetables and a teaspoon of olive oil. Don’t forget to stay hydrated. Two to three hours before a workout, Wooten recommends drinking 60 ounces of fluid. Take in another 16 ounces of water or a sports drink 30 to 60 minutes before working out. Then drink another 8 to 16 ounces 15 minutes before exercising.

Morning of the Race
Wooten recommends starting your day off with a light meal, like a small banana, and a bagel with a tablespoon or two of peanut butter. “Nothing too heavy or that will push through your digestive system too quickly,” she says. Eat your meal one and a half to two hours before the event, and stay away from fiber and too much protein, which take a long time to digest. If you start in the afternoon, plan meals like the ones you’ve been eating for the past 72 hours, swapping a higher protein pre-event lunch, like a turkey sandwich, for a meal like the breakfast outlined above. 

During The Race
“It’s a little harder with this type of race to keep fuel on you,” Wooten says. “But it’s very key with an event that’s two hours or more to take in electrolytes and liquid and refuel that body for the last half.” Tough Mudder provides at least three water stations on their courses. If you think you’ll need something to keep you going in between, consider bringing a gel or two in a pocket. Wooten recommends taking in a few sips of electrolyte-rich fluid every 15 to 20 minutes of exercising, but realizes that may be difficult at this type of event. If possible, aim to take in a gel or two every hour after the first hour of the event. Determine the amount of fuel you’ll need by experimenting with gels and fluid intake during your training.

After the Race
Wooten says to make sure you replenish your carb and protein stores by eating a small meal that contains carbs and a high quality protein for muscle recovery. A glass of milk, a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread, or nuts and raisins will do the trick. Other protein options include chicken or tuna. Within 10 to 20 minutes of finishing, Wooten recommends getting in 10 ounces of fluid, preferably from a drink that will help replenish carbohydrates and electrolytes, like Propel or G2. That 12 ounces of Dos Equis counts toward your fluid intake, though Wooten won’t recommend beer as a recovery drink. “Fluid intake is key,” she says, and leaves it at that.

To contact Wooten, go to

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