Preface: I don’t take any supplements whatsoever. No pills, no powders, no shakes, no drinks, not in training, not in competition, never, nothing, nil, nada. What you are going to read is therefor the complete story of how I physically fuel my body to do what I do. It’s not that I think they are bad or don’t work, it’s just that I never wanted to rely on anything to support me. I’m looking at a few organic products that intrigue me but I have to test them before I will even mention them on here. That being said…
If you ask 10 OCR athletes of similar skill about their diet, you will most likely get 10 different answers: Paleo, Keto, High Protein Low Carb, Low Carb High Fat, High Carb Low Fat, and so on.
Even though there usually is a consensus about minimizing fast food and sugar in your regular diet, there are plenty of quasi-religious dietary beliefs regarding nutrition out there. Don’t copy what somebody else is doing and expect the same results they might be getting. Finding out what works for you is a slow process and there are no short cuts. For me, keeping it simple has worked best.
I want to emphasize that you won’t find any instructions or mind-boggling revelations in here. There are people who do nothing but research and experiment with nutrition and those are much better resources than me. This is merely an athlete’s perspective.
Jump directly to one of the sections further down or continue reading:
The Daily Grind
I can only talk about what has worked for me within the possibilities and constraints of my lifestyle. I’m convinced that lifestyle is a crucial object of consideration when you re-evaluate the way you feed your body and your soul for several reasons. What you will find here are merely suggestions, I don’t mean to preach to or lecture anyone.
- Consistency: Whatever you eat, you will need to be able to remain consistent. Working overtime? Traveling a lot? Stressed out at home? Account for “life happening” and chose a way of eating that will fit into your life even when it’s not smooth sailing.
- Routine and Prioritization is your best ally. If you find yourself struggling with finding the time to prepare your food, try to create calendar entries with reminders in your smartphone. Nobody “has” time, you will need to “make” time. Nutrition is a crucial factor in how your body changes over time and in turn affects also your mental state. You wouldn’t pour cheap fuel into a high performance race car either, right? Family and friends want you to be happy, so they will eventually understand that you want to take the time to prepare and get quality food.
- Simplicity: We are all so out of touch with what’s good for us, that it’s a worthy investment of time and effort to re-connect with the taste of simple food. Don’t dip everything in ketchup or ranch dressing; don’t pour sugar or syrup in your coffee, just because that’s just what you’ve always done. Give your taste buds some time off from this constant over-stimulation and see what you really enjoy and what is just a habit.
Personally, I have the ability to eat the same food over and over and over for years, without ever getting tired of it. Thank you German Army for murdering my taste buds. Also, I don’t have much of an appetite in general and can miss a meal without immediate negative impact (which is really helpful at endurance events by the way). On average, my diet looks like this six out of seven days per week:
- Breakfast: Oatmeal with soy milk
- Lunch: Salad with either chicken or salmon (I’m incredibly lucky that my employer has a great cafeteria)
- Dinner: Five eggs sunny side up, four slices of pita bread with cottage cheese or hummus on it
- Snacks: Mainly cherry tomatoes, grapes, and baby carrots. Occasionally I also snack on trail or nut mix.
As with most things in life, nutrition is best kept simple. I see so many people trying funky diets and taking supplements of all sorts, risking their long term health for short term success and paying top $ for it while lowering their quality of life. I’m sure nature can provide something that works just as well but maybe not as quickly. Don’t take shortcuts. Hard right over easy wrong. #hardrightovereasywrong
- Hydration: So much coffee it’s not even funny plus every morning I place a 32oz Nalgene with water on my desk which I usually need to refill once before the end of the day. I also drink plenty of water throughout the day and during training. There’s Nalgene bottles at my desk at home, at the night stand, in my car, in my ruck, I always try to have water in arm’s reach.
I don’t even want to pretend I’m a machine that’s always eating clean. If I sum it up, I probably eat “bad” food often enough that I could fill a day with it. This bring me to my last and possibly most important point regarding day to day nutrition:
- Enjoy your food. Nobody can ever stick 100% to their meal plans and your diet will change over time as well. Eating should be a conscious act, you should appreciate being able to put food on your plate and being able to choose how little or how much you eat. I’m aware this sounds moralizing, but my point is this: Have a positive and healthy relationship with what you put in yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for falling off wagon, make note of the days that you were able to stick to your goals and give yourself some credit. This stuff isn’t easy or else everybody would be able to do it.
Racing, Endurance, Training
To provide a bit of background: I’m familiar with endurance events outside of the running world, thanks to GORUCK and SEALFIT. These events favor strength over speed with painful amounts of weight and physical training. I credit Spartan Race with showing me how the game changes when you throw running in the mix: the HH12HR is ever changing and full of surprises. Every now and then I like to combine rucking/running events back to back, like doing an HH12HR and a Spartan Race Beast without rest in between. However, I haven’t done an Ultra Beast or a full Marathon… yet. My competitive racing has happened at or below half marathon distances.
Clif, Clif, Clif
Hi, my name is Fabian and I have a problem. It doesn’t matter if I am running an OCR, hauling a ruck up a mountain, or refuel afterwards: Somehow I always have a Clif product in hand. No, I’m not getting anything from anyone for promoting Clif.
For endurance events, Clif Bars are my happy food (okay, bacon and beef jerky might beat them in taste) and I can happily munch on them for several days. I can only recommend trying different varieties to find the one that tastes best for you, there’s plenty to choose from.
For racing, Clif Shot Bloks are my single source of energy. Same as above, try different flavors, you can often find them in the Open heats at Spartan Races – give them a try! During Elite heats, any outside assistance is prohibited and would lead to a DQ, so no Shot Bloks for competitive racers here unfortunately. Solution: Run a lap with the open heat after you’re done with the Elite, have some fun!
To refuel, Clif Protein Bars help me not to order everything off the menu at the next restaurant immediately. Okay, that might happen anyway…
When I do endurance events or anything at a 13.1 or over distance, I carry salt capsules with me. About every 60 min, depending on weather and level of exertion +/- 30min, I will take one of these along with my Shot Bloks. Before I ever started doing this, I have only cramped a single time in all of the events that I have done and that was just a very very mild and brief occurrence. So even though I am not at risk of cramping at all, I still take counter-measures. In hot weather, it also helps to keep a balance in your body since you will consume a lot of water. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, as the saying goes.
I usually use Succeed S!Caps without caffeine, since I don’t like to have caffeine in every single item I use (often my Clif bars or bloks will already have caffeine in them).
Plenty has been written about the effects of Chia seeds, thanks to the book “Born to run” by Christopher McDougall. Healthy nutrients aside, if you mix them into your 32oz Nalgene daily, the week prior to and the day of your event, it will significantly help your body to stay hydrated. Never put them into a hydration bladder though , since the seeds can clog up the drinking valve.
Depending on the distance and type of event, the hydration system I use will change.
Camelbak Octane XCT (old model): I’ve only used this pack at the Tahoe World Championship Beast and I soon came to regret the decision. It was nice to be able to store my gel blocks but since I didn’t carry anything else with me, it was overkill. More space results in more weight results in a bulkier pack results in less agility through the barbed wire crawls and possibly other obstacles. However, for long training runs in more deserted areas and back-country, I would bring this pack and throw in some 1st aid supplies, my phone, an ultralight rain jacket, stuff like that.
Salomon S-Lab Sense Set Hydration Vest: This was my solution to what I’ve experienced in Tahoe. Very lightweight, minimal storage, ergonomic fit, perfect to bridge longer segments between supply stations. It takes some practice to efficiently handle the water bottles and I have yet to try this vest in a race setting, but so far I’m impressed with the quality of this Salomon solution.
For endurance events, I always use a bladder with a 3L capacity in my ruck’s hydration compartment. Usually I also carry an additional bottle of Chia water or something similar in my ruck as a backup hydration source. I’ve had bladders or hoses or valves slowly leak for miles without noticing it, and if you are currently carrying another person or a log, you might not be able to pay attention to your water levels. Once you’re “black” on water (=out of water), you still need to be able to stay effective until you can reach a place to re-supply. Two is one, one is none.
Sometimes it might even make sense to roll up a smaller, lightweight bladder (like the Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir LT 1.5L) and bring it with you. If you bring a small, wide mouth Nalgene and you have consumed the water in it, you can also use that one as waterproof storage for smaller items, if necessary. I like to have my backup items with more than a single purpose, so they are not dead weight if my main item works well during the event.
As main bladder, I would always choose a Source product. They are sturdy, good value, and have great customer service. The detachable hose and big opening makes them quick and easy to refill. I like their WLPS 3L Low Profile best.