So you’ve signed up to do a Tough Mudder, paid your registration fee and started training in earnest – fine work. But if you want to conquer 16-20km of mud-splattered obstacle course, what you do in the kitchen is just as important as your hard work in the gym.
The good news? Fuelling your body to tackle the likes of Electroshock Therapy and Balls To The Wall doesn’t have to mean endless chicken breasts and a KitKat amnesty – all you need to do is give your body the nutrients it needs to train, recover and perform. Here’s how it’s done.
Eat more calories than you burn
Unlike a marathon, triathlon or any other kind of endurance event, a Tough Mudder features obstacles that require serious upper- and lower-body strength. You can certainly develop this in the gym, but all your efforts will be wasted if you’re not eating more calories than you’re burning to give your body the fuel it needs to get stronger and build new muscle. Using SmartBand Talk from Sony, you can track how many calories you’ve burned during the day – then combine this with a calorie-counting app such as MyFitnessPal to create a highly effective tool for keeping track of your nutrition.
Recover with protein
Protein plays a crucial role in building lean muscle and repairing existing muscle tissue after your gym sessions, which is vital if you want to develop the strength required to tackle challenging obstacles like the Tough Mudder Hero Walls. Aim to eat a 20-25g serving – think meat, fish, dairy and eggs – with every meal (yes, including breakfast), and include an extra serving immediately after each of your workouts – a shake is usually the most convenient way to get this.
Eat for better sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for proper recovery if you’re training hard for a Tough Mudder. But achieving quality kip can be tough, especially if you’re time-poor (or addicted to watching DVD box sets or checking social media when you should be unwinding before bed). To enhance your chances of enjoying peaceful, recovery-enhancing slumber, try consuming a tryptophan-rich drink or snack before bedtime. This amino acid has been found by numerous studies – including a recent one from Louisiana State University that analysed cherry juice, which is high in tryptophan – to improve quality of sleep by increasing the production of sleep-inducing brain chemicals serotonin and melatonin. If cherry juice isn’t your thing, you can always swap it for a more conventional bedtime drink such as tryptophan-rich milk. Make sure you’re feeling fresh for training or race day with SmartBand Talk from Sony, which tracks your sleep cycle and wakes you up at the right time using Sony’s smart wake-up alarm, so you wake up feeling fully rested.
Avoid processed foods
Nothing will hamper your progress more than over-indulging in processed sugary or carb-heavy foods. ‘Eating the refined carbs and sugars found in processed snacks, baked goods and fast foods will sap your energy levels and cause fat-storing blood sugar spikes, neither of which is conducive to quality training,’ says nutritionist Laurent Bannock (guruperformance.com). ‘To make matters worse, these foods typically contain high levels of man-made trans fats which will make you feel even more lethargic and boost your levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad one). Focus instead on eating a diet based around wholefoods with plenty of fresh meat and vegetables.’
Don’t fear fat
‘Eating foods high in fat will make me fat’ is an easy assumption to make, but while it is true that at nine calories per gram, fat is more calorific than carbohydrate or protein – which only contain four – the reality is that fat can actually help. The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that naturally occur in foods such as oily fish, nuts, seeds, olives and coconut oil play a key role in boosting your metabolism, improving hormone synthesis and boosting levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. Don’t be fooled by the apparent benefit of ‘low-fat’ food options either. ‘Most “low-fat” foods have been highly processed to remove the fat, and they tend to be packed with extra salt and sugar to enhance their flavour in its place,’ says Bannock. ‘Instead, focus on avoiding processed junk foods, which are high in unhealthy man-made trans fats.’
Fuel your training with caffeine
For an extra pre-workout boost, try adding caffeine to your nutrition regime. An analysis by UK researchers of 40 studies on caffeine and performance found that it significantly improves endurance by an average of 12% by stimulating your nervous system. But how much should you take? ‘A rough guide is to have 5mg for every kilogram of your bodyweight around 45 minutes before a training session or event,’ says sports nutritionist Matt Lovell (kineticasports.com). And if you’re not a fan, fear not – research from Canada found that taking caffeine supplements in capsule form was significantly more effective than drinking it via coffee (not to mention the fact that you’ll avoid the risk of liquid-induced indigestion).
Top up your glycogen on the hour
Whether you’re running 20km in preparation for a Tough Mudder or tackling the event itself, it’s important to keep your body properly fuelled once you pass the one-hour mark. ‘Your muscles can only store a limited amount of glycogen,’ says endurance coach Alex Ritson (bodytypenutrition.co.uk). ‘You’ll be fine just sipping water for the first hour, but from that point onwards you should aim to consume 30-60g of carbs per hour, depending on how hard you’re pushing yourself.’ To help you stay on top of this, every Tough Mudder course features five hydration stations offering water and carb-rich MET-Rx energy gels, a form of easily consumable quick-digesting energy that a study from Edinburgh’s Napier University found could increase endurance by up to 45%.
Lose the booze
Cutting back on your alcohol intake will have a huge impact on your attempts to get in Tough Mudder-ready shape. In addition to adding thousands of nutritionally empty calories to your eating plan, regular boozing stimulates your appetite when you’re at your weakest – would you find a doner kebab appealing otherwise? There’ll be plenty of time to enjoy a post-event pint at the Tough Mudder finishing line, when you’ve earned it. And if work or social commitments force your hand during training and you have to drink, opt for a glass of red wine, which research from the Institute of Genetics, Molecular and Cell Biology found can actually help enhance muscle endurance thanks to its resveratrol content. Just try and stick to two glasses max, after which the negatives outweigh the positives.
Find out more about XperiaZ3 from Sony (opens in new tab)and its benefits for your Tough Mudder preparations.
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