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Nutrition for Adventure Racing: How to fuel your training

We are delighted to team up with David Dunne and Dr Sam Impey from Hexis to bring you tricks and tips on what to eat in the build-up to race day.

Adventure racing encompasses multiple disciplines such as running, cycling and kayaking, exposes you to challenging (but fun and scenic) courses, and will require some teamwork. 

The events themselves typically have three variations in format that are characterised by varying durations, for example Quest Kenmare provides competitors with the opportunity to take on the 28km Challenge, a longer 43km Sport, and for those that love their ultra endurance a 78km Expert race. 

However, no matter what distance you decide to go for, nutrition is going to play a vital role in supporting your training and preparation for the event, as well as your performance on the day itself.

Sika Cycle 2020

Let’s start by looking at your training and preparation for the event. Generally it is recommended to start preparing your body approximately 12 weeks prior to the event (you can access some training guides here to help guide you through). 

This 12 week training block may consist of an initial 4 weeks of base training to lay a solid foundation before things start to become more specific from week 5 onwards. During each of these weeks you’ll be training around 4 times per week (the week of the event you’ll likely taper and train maybe twice). 

That means you are taking part in 46 training sessions to prepare your body for race day. That’s a lot of work!

However, the mistake a lot of athletes make is waiting until race week to dial in their nutrition. Let me explain, we generally eat 4-5 times a day (3 main meals plus 1-2 snacks). That means that over the 12 week run into the event we actually have between 336 and 420 opportunities to influence how our body performs during, adapts to, and recovers from the training we are doing.

So with this in mind, tip number 1 is use your nutrition to compliment your training when you start your preparation for the event! (You can get personalised fuel planners tailored to the demands of your training from hexis).

By doing so you will:

Enhance the quality of your training sessions.

Amplify how your body adapts to the training.

Reduce your risk of illness and injury.

Improve your body’s ability to burn fuel effectively.

Needless to say all of the above will be very beneficial come race day!

Now that we’ve established that getting on top of your nutrition early in your preparation is important, let’s look a little more specifically at the different types of training sessions you’ll be doing, and how you should be adjusting your nutrition to their individual strains and stresses.

Endurance Sessions

The aim of these workouts is to develop your aerobic capacity and improve your tolerance for longer duration exercise. The workouts will typically be performed at a steady pace, and as you progress through your preparation will likely get a bit longer or you will be able to perform the same work a bit quicker. 

When it comes to fuelling and recovering from this type of training, it is really important to consider the intensity and duration of the exercise as this will have major implications on how you should be fuelling these sessions.


Higher intensity or longer duration workouts will require more carbohydrate and energy to fuel and recover from, whereas lower intensity and shorter duration workouts not so much, in fact over-fuelling may be detrimental. 

Below are some “rules of thumb” to help you refine this.


Low/Moderate Intensity, Short Duration, e.g. easy 30-60 mins running/30-90 mins cycling

  • If it’s a low intensity and short duration workout you will not require that much fuel and therefore sticking to a predominantly protein based meal with some veg and a smaller amount of carbs, e.g. an omelette with toast, will be sufficient to maintain and protect your muscle whilst still ensuring you can complete the work.
  • As things ramp up to moderate intensity you’ll need to increase your carb consumption. A traditionally “balanced” meal (medium carb) is best for this period of moderate energy requirements as it will provide a sufficient level of carbohydrate to fuel the work without running the risk of over-fuelling. Additionally it will still ensure you are getting enough protein and micronutrients to protect your muscle and immune system.

These medium carb meals are the best choice to recover from these sessions.

Low/Moderate Intensity, Long Duration

As the duration increases so will your energy requirements. These medium carb meals will help you prepare for the longer but less intense workouts. However, as you move to moderate intensity and long duration workouts, you’ll need to make the jump to fuelling this work with high carbohydrate meals to help improve the session quality, by delaying your time to fatigue and ensuring you body doesn’t run out of fuel for the volume of work it is putting in. 

It can also be good to practice some of your race day during workout fuelling strategies during these sessions, e.g. taking onboard gels, drinking sports drinks and eating energy bars (we’ll cover more specifics on this in a separate article).

Tempo/Interval Sessions

These workouts will help improve your anaerobic capacity and tolerance to high intensity work. This type of training is generally characterised by high intensity bursts interspersed with brief periods of recovery. As the intensity of these workouts is particularly high it is important to always ensure you are fuelling with high carbohydrate meals and snacks in the lead up to these training sessions.

Try these top tips before these workouts:

  • Eat a high carbohydrate meal that is lower in fibre but still contains a moderate amount of protein in the 3-4 hrs before this workout. Reducing the fibre content a bit makes it easier to digest, whereas keeping some protein will help maintain and protect your muscle mass. Try this Tortilla Pizza.
  • Follow this up with a high carb snack in the 30-90 mins pre training. Something like a banana, flapjack or even rice krispie bar will do the trick.
  • If your workout is 60 mins or less stick to water during the session but if it creeps above the hour and especially over 75 mins then bring a sports drink to sip throughout to keep your energy levels up.

Strength Training

These workouts will focus on developing strength and power and will cause microdamage to your muscles that will rely on protein to repair. Interestingly it can take 24-48hrs for your muscles to repair from the damage induced from a strength training session, so instead of focusing just on the immediate recovery window it is actually best to ensure a sufficient intake of protein consistently throughout the day.

Here are some top tips to ensure you are repairing your muscles and adapting to your gym work:

  • Aim to eat 1.6-2.2g/kg of bodyweight in protein everyday. For example, this means a 70kg person will need between 112-154g of protein everyday.
  • Distribute your intake of this protein evenly throughout the day, approximately every 3-4hrs. For most of us this means 20-35g of protein 4-5 times a day.
  • If you struggle to hit this target try introducing a recovery smoothie after your workout. Here’s a simple recipe for you to try. Recovery Smoothie.

Rest Days

Despite no training occurring on these days, periods of rest are crucial to ensure your body is recovering and adapting to the training. Even though your energy requirements may be lower it is important not to reduce your protein intake on these days as your muscles are still repairing. 

To get your rest days off to a great start we’ve pulled together this high protein recovery pancake recipe for you to try: High Protein Pancakes


To find out more about how you can get a personalised fuel plan, head to where they’re giving all Quest participants an exclusive 40% off using code ‘Quest 40’


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