When you’re planning your fuel strategy for your next obstacle course race (OCR), keep in mind that you’ll burn more calories than you would in a steady race like a marathon. This is because of the heart rate spikes caused by the obstacles (or penalties). If you’ve raced before, you know exactly what I’m talking about!
I’ve mentioned before that I’m always shocked when I see people lining up at the start line without any fuel or hydration. During steady exercise at moderate to high intensity, you can burn through your stored glycogen in less than 90 minutes, so if you’ll be racing for longer than an hour, or there’s even a chance you might be, I always suggest carrying fuel.
I’ve covered Food and Fluid Strategies for OCR Athletes before, but I still get questions about how to fuel for a race on a regular basis, including what specific nutrition to bring on course, so I’m going to share a list with you of Nutritionist approved foods for your next long distance OCR.
Of course, all you’re really trying to accomplish is getting enough carbohydrates per hour to not hit the wall. But, as a Holistic Nutritionist, I look for the most natural options possible that aren’t full of low-quality ingredients and heavily processed sugars (or artificial sweeteners). For more on deciphering labels, use this list of best to worst sugars.
Ultimate OCR Fuel List
Below are the foods I most commonly recommend to my clients, including approximate amount of carbohydrates they pack. Just because you don’t see a food listed here, doesn’t mean it’s “bad”. I just might not know about it, so if you have ideas, I’d love to hear them!
This list is also mostly whole food options, with less reliance on bars and gels. Again, more of a personal choice that aligns with my core values.
- Banana – 29 g carbohydrates
- Endurance Tap – 29 g carbohydrates
- Larabar – 28 g carbohydrates
- Organic baby food pouches – approx. 20 g carbohydrates
- Cooked potato (or mini potatoes) with coconut oil and salt – 20 + g carbohydrates
- Natural PB + honey (or jam) on sprouted whole grain bread/wrap – 30 + g carbohydrates
- Cup of berries – 12 g of carbohydrates
- Cooked brown rice – 1 cup has 45 g of carbohydrates (Look up a recipe for rice balls or just eat it straight)
- Pitted Medjool dates (4) – 72 g of carbohydrates
- Glass of juice (such as orange juice) – 30 + g of carbohydrates
- Clif Bar – 43 g of carbohydrates
- A few packets of mustard (for cramping)
- Pickles or olives (mmm, salt!)
The Clif Energy Bar is one I only really recommend for long distance events like the Beast, Ultra Beast or 24 hour events when you need to be taking in that many carbohydrates. I’m not a huge fan of all the ingredients, especially the soy, and they’re very high in sugar so I definitely do not recommend these as a regular snack or for shorter events. But, they are higher in sodium and provide a decent amount of protein for true endurance races.
If you’re looking for electrolyte options, my personal favourite is Biosteel. Ultima Replenisher and Nuun are also decent options for electrolytes without the carbohydrates, but they start getting into some of the sweeteners I’m not a big fan of. Again, very common for endurance sport products, but I personally try to avoid those ingredients during shorter distance races. Side note – never put a Nuun tab directly in your mouth thinking it will dissolve. I made that mistake once during an Ultra Beast, and let me tell you, it was not fun!
Another option for the really long races is Gu Energy Labs Roctane Ultra Endurance Drink Mix because it contains 60 grams of carbohydrates, 250 calories, BCAAs and sodium. Again, not a fan of the maltodextrin and fructose, which are known to cause digestive discomfort in many athletes, but this level of fuel is important for a Beast, Ultra Beast or 24 hour event.
As I continue to research products, and as new products come on the market, I will try to update this list. And of course, if you have any suggestions, I am always interested in hearing them. They may even spur a healthy discussion about the ingredients.