The Athlete Within

The Obstacle Course Racer’s Diet


With the craze in fitness comes a craze in nutrition.  If you’re not careful, you’re bound to fall into trendy traps that could lead you in a fatigued mess on the course or during training.  The latest fad is a low-carb and high protein diet.  I’m here to tell you that you can have carbs and don’t need all the protein!  If you’re truly an obstacle course racer or wanting to be one, optimal nutrition is a key factor to your success!

Most people love OCRs because of the high-intensity anaerobic challenges along the course such as rope climbs, bucket carries, and monkey bars to break of the monotony of running, but let’s face it — at the end of the day what are we mainly doing?  We’re running, walking, or crawling to the finish.  These two types of challenges in the race leave us with both an amazing anaerobic and aerobic workout.  During an anaerobic exercise (hill sprints, wall climbs, heavy weight lifting, etc.) we use carbohydrates as a primary source of fuel, while during an aerobic exercise (light jogging, walking, breathing) we use fat as a primary source of fuel.  Where does protein fit in?  Protein isn’t needed much at all during a race or a heavy training session.  Protein comes in after your workout along with more carbohydrates and fat to help growth and repair for muscles in junction with other functions for recovery.

So yes, this means you can eat carbs!  Why have carbs gotten a bad rep?  Because people are eating the worst kinds, and in god-awful amounts.  Sodas and other sugary drinks, refined breads, sugar coated cereals, chips, candy, and many other processed foods can lead to insulin spikes, weight gain, and not mention sugar addiction.  Yet a diet too minimal of carbohydrates can lead to poor performance (who wants that?), short-term memory loss, poor digestion, kidney problems, dehydration, and can potentially promote weight gain. So what kind of carbohydrates should you be fueling your body with and how much?  The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) for carbohydrate is 45 to 65 percent of your total calories in a day (Insel 164), which would around 260 grams give or take.  If you’re not sure how many total calories you should be consuming, I recommend downloading the MyFitnessPal App on your smart phone or creating an account with them online.  Examples of healthy carbohydrates are any vegetables or fruits (organic preferred), along with complex carbohydrates such as (again, organic preferred) whole grain breads, quinoa, legumes, brown rice, and sweet potatoes.

We can also eat fat! In moderation, fats are essential for most of your day-to-day activities, and somewhat in your workouts and races as well.  They are also responsible for a plethora of other important bodily functions such as aid in absorption of certain vitamins, help transfer messages from brain to body, and not to mention it makes every cell membrane we have in our bodies.  Ideally, we should be consuming 20-30% of our daily calories from fat.  Foods like avocados, fish, nuts, seeds, and certain oils are healthy options for fat.  Just don’t go overboard, 1 gram of fat provides 9 calories whereas carbs and protein only provide 4 calories per gram.

Protein is a food group that many people think they’re not getting enough of but are in many cases are getting too much of.  Unless you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, you’re probably getting an ample amount.  The RDA for normal adults is .8 grams per kilogram of body weight (that is pounds divided by 2.2)— but endurance athletes involved in heavy training require 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, and resistance-trained athletes may need as much as 1.6 to 1.7 grams per kg body weight. (Insel 246).  Percent in total calories can vary greatly depending on someone’s caloric needs, so just stick between 1.2-1.7g/kg of weight.  A long-term diet too excessive in protein is related with poor kidney function, mineral losses (and eventually osteoporosis), obesity, and heart disease, cancer, and gout.  Healthy forms of protein are fish or other extra lean meats, eggs, spinach, kale and other greens, chia, flax and hemp seeds, greek yogurt, almonds, beans, quinoa, and the list goes on.  If you’re strictly a vegetarian or vegan I recommend checking out an amazing site,

Now that you’ve got all that math down, there’s only one thing left to do, go grocery shopping!  If you have any questions feel free to send us a message at  we also provide assistance in a healthier grocery shopping visit and help get you started with a nutrition plan fit for your goals.  If there is one thing to remember for the OCR athlete its this: carbohydrates are our primary source of fuel during a race or workout, with fat coming in second when we are taking it easy (but who wants to do that?), and protein after to rebuild, restore, and recover.  Happy Racing!

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