Last updated on April 28th, 2021

Fueling for Spartan Beast

I get a lot of questions about fueling for longer races like the Spartan Beast.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, IF you have an ideal performance diet and show up to a race with a full supply of glycogen, it only provides about 1,400 to 1,800 calories of fuel. During steady exercise at moderate to high intensity, you can burn through that in less than 90 minutes.

The fastest finisher in the open division for the 2016 Beast at Owl’s Head was 4:01:46. The fastest finisher in the elite heat was 2:59:23. Hundreds of racers took over 7 hours to complete the race.

YOU NEED FUEL FOR A SPARTAN BEAST. I repeat, you NEED to carry fuel and hydration for this race.

3+ hours is way too long to rely on a few water stations and your breakfast.

Many athletes do not consume an ideal diet to begin with, and if you’re not paying attention to your food and fluid intake in the 4-hour window before your race, you are going to be starting without a full supply of glycogen.

For an event like the Spartan Beast lasting more than 2.5 hours, you need to seriously consider your nutrition strategy and aim to consume 80-90 grams of carbohydrates and drink according to thirst.

You could start with 30-60 grams of carbohydrates for the first few hours, but you also don’t want to get too far behind in replenishment. You will finish the race having burned way more calories than you can eat regardless, but you don’t want there to be a massive discrepancy and end up bonking.

Ideally, you should have been testing out nutrition strategies during your long training days leading up to this race, so that you know exactly what works for you. You should not be trying new foods and strategies on race day.

Night Before Spartan Beast:

  • Keep dinner as “clean” as possible – nothing deep fried, breaded, creamy etc. Aim for 2-3 cupped handfuls of carbohydrates, 1-2 palms of protein, 2 fists of vegetables and 1 thumb of high quality fat (avocado, coconut oil). I personally eat vegan the night before a race, so the protein I am consuming is plant-based.
  • Consume 2 cups of water at bedtime

Morning of Spartan Beast:

  • Consume 5-10 ml of fluid / KG body weight slowly over the 2-4 hours before the race starts
  • Eat at least 2 hours before race time so you have time to digest. Breakfast should mostly be easy-to-digest, low fiber carbohydrates such as:
    • ¼ – ½ cup white rice mixed with 1 tbsp. nut butter + a glass of fresh orange juice
    • Oatmeal with banana + glass of apple juice
    • Toast with nut butter and jam + fruit + glass of juice
    • Chicken noodle soup + bread with coconut oil + tart cherry juice (this is my go-to!)
  • 30 minutes before race starts, consume 30-50 g of carbohydrates (a banana or an Endurance Tap, for example)
  • To check your hydration status, monitor your urine colour before the race. It should be pale yellow, not completely clear

During Spartan Beast

  • Aim for 30-60 g of carbohydrates per hour until 2.5 hours into race, then switch to 80-90 g of carbohydrates for remainder of race in the form of gels and whole food. You can also include a sports drink formula in your hydration pack throughout the event for a steady flow of low amounts of carbohydrates so that you don’t need to eat as much
  • Drink according to thirst, and include a mix of electrolytes and carbohydrates
    • Mix water with fruit juice
    • Ultima Replenisher (electrolytes only, 0 g of carbohydrates)
    • You could also use an essential amino acid formula mixed into your water to help prevent muscle protein breakdown as your glycogen stores become depleted

You can check out my Ultimate OCR Fuel List here.

After Spartan Beast

  • Consume a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein within 2 hours of crossing the finish line for optimal recovery
  • Include some sodium in meal immediately after race
  • Re-hydrate slowly by consuming as much as you feel comfortable with and continuing to drink water in divided doses until you are fully hydrated (pale yellow urine)
  • Consume normal meal (1-2 cupped handfuls of carbohydrates, 1-2 palms of protein, 1-2 fists of vegetables, 1-2 thumbs of fat) in your following meal

Let’s Keep The Conversation Going

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  • Melissa Boufounos

    Melissa Boufounos is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist who specializes in sports nutrition. She helps competitive athletes simplify their fuelling plans with flexible eating strategies so they can maximize their performance potential without counting calories, tracking macros or giving up their favourite foods.

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