Competing in a mud run is a fun way to flex your athletic skills and bond with friends and strangers alike. But no matter what distance you’re participating in, proper nutrition is critical for fueling success — not only on event day, but also during training and especially in the days leading up to your event.
So what should you eat before a Tough Mudder to make sure you have the stamina you need to power through those obstacles and get across the finish line? Here’s what to eat at every stage of your mud run training to ensure optimal performance on event day.
What to Eat While You’re Training for a Tough Mudder
When you’re training for a mud run, “carbs are king,” says Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., senior fitness and nutrition content manager at Openfit.
Carbohydrates should always make up the bulk of your calories, but they’re especially important in the weeks and days leading up to your event. Of course, you also need to make sure that you’re getting enough protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals to help your body recover from and adapt to your training.
How much is “enough” of each macro- and micronutrient? There’s no single answer that works for everyone — it depends on a number of factors, including your gender, fitness level, training frequency and intensity, overall daily activity level, and body composition. It also depends on whether you’re trying to lose, gain, or maintain your weight during your Tough Mudder training.
That’s why the Openfit TOUGH MUDDER T-MINUS 30 Nutrition Plan and Training Guide breaks down how many calories and nutrients you need based on your personal goals, so you know exactly what you need to eat before your mud run.
What to Eat in the Week Leading up to a Tough Mudder
Carbs are a must throughout your Tough Mudder training, but they’re even more important in the days leading up to your big event.
“Your muscles run on carbs — glucose, specifically,” Thieme says, adding that glucose is stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver. “If you don’t start the event with your glycogen stores topped off, you’re not maximizing your chances for athletic success.”
Thieme recommends “carb loading” — aka eating more carbs than usual — in the three days leading up to your mud run (woohoo!). Most people have enough glycogen to support about 90 to 120 minutes of hard exercise, but during intense training, like the type you’ll likely be doing in preparation for a Tough Mudder, it’s hard to tell whether your stores are topped off. Carb loading, aka glycogen supercompensation, helps ensure that they are, so you won’t “hit the wall” while trying to climb over one.
Pasta, potatoes, fruits, veggies — these are all good choices when carb loading. The key is to eat enough to feel full but not stuffed, and to include about 20 grams of protein per meal. For example, you can have a bean and rice burrito with a side of guacamole and salsa for lunch, followed by a shrimp and brown rice stir-fry for dinner.
What to Eat on the Day of Your Tough Mudder Event
About three to four hours before the official event starting time, eat a small (about 300 to 500 calories) carb-rich meal to top off your glycogen stores. “Also try to get some carbs into your body at least an hour before you start the course to top off your glucose,” advises Thieme.
And don’t forget to drink water before the event — you can seriously hinder your performance if you go into a Tough Mudder without the proper hydration.
“Most people go through their days slightly dehydrated,” Thieme says — and at no time is that more of a problem than during an event like Tough Mudder. “Even slight dehydration can have a significant effect on athletic performance.”
Start hydrating at least two hours before the event starts. You should pee at least once in the few hours leading up to the event, and you’ll know you’re hydrated if your pee is clear or pale yellow.
What NOT to Eat Before a Mud Run
You’ll face enough challenges on a Tough Mudder course without worrying about tummy troubles — and using the bathroom isn’t exactly easy when you’re caked in mud — so steer clear of high-fiber foods in the hours before you line up.
And to keep from feeling fatigued midway through the course, you may also want to avoid eating anything high in protein and fat the morning of the event. “They’re slower to digest and will just weigh you down,” Thieme says.
Ready to take on a Tough Mudder? TOUGH MUDDER T-MINUS 30 is the 30-day training breakthrough designed to get you in crazy shape so you can crush your Tough Mudder and have the body to show for it.