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As an OCR athlete, you’ve no doubt considered experimenting with how food enhances and informs your performance. One approach that’s probably on your radar for its performance-enhancing powers: Keto. At its base, it means loading up on fat and protein—like seafood, meat and chicken—while keeping carbs under about 20 grams a day. This forces your body to turn from burning glycogen (energy from carbs) for fuel to torching stored fats (a process called ketogenesis). Benefits of interest to Spartans range from losing fat while keeping lean muscle, boosting endurance, and improving mental clarity and function.
That all sounds wonderful, but for those of us who can’t cook, damn near impossible. After all, it’s infinitely faster and easier to toss a carby handful of pasta in a pot than to sit down to a fillet of salmon or perfectly roasted chicken. Until now. Good news is, you can enjoy the performance-surging benefits of keto without tending the stove, thanks to the beauty of meal delivery. Specifically, Fresh Meal Plan delivers delicious, keto-friendly breakfast, lunch and dinner options, like Mojo Steak and Eggs and Chicken Piccata, right to your door. No meal planning, no calculating macros, no supermarket and zero cooking. Just choose the number of meals you want each week (10 is most popular), heat and eat. Want more strategies for going keto when you’d rather spend your time on the course rather than in the kitchen? Try these.
5 Things OCR Athletes Should Know About Eating Keto
#1 Keep Calories Up
Spartan races require high energy, so don’t skimp on the calories. “To recover properly and maintain high performance, you need adequate fuel to replenish amino acids and other metabolites,” Shawn Wells, LDN, RD, CISSN, FISSN. The proper amount can vary depending on your age, gender, and activity level. Check out a guide like this one from Health.gov to get a feel for your caloric needs. Then fill them easily by scanning the options on Fresh Meal Plan, like Philadelphia Cheesesteak Casserole or Loaded Beef Chili. They’ll keep you under 10 grams of carbs per meal but still pack in plenty of calories.
#2 Be patient
Keto isn’t something you start the weekend before a race. It can take up to a month for your body to switch to burning fat from carbohydrates. “Athletes following the traditional high-carbohydrate diet should be aware that it takes time to become fully ‘fat-adapted’ or ‘keto-adapted’,” says Wells. This period may see performance drop some slightly, as your body begins to initiate the metabolic pathways responsible for fat metabolism.
#3 Choose Fats Wisely
Realize that even though you’ll be using fats for fuel, you can’t just binge on bars of butter all day. The types of fat you choose are important. Ideally try to go for fats from natural sources. Not all fats are equal because they differ in their stability depending on their structure, says Wells. Foods consist of three main types of fats: saturated fats, the most stable (ghee, grass-fed butter, cream, coconut oil); monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocados, nuts); polyunsaturated fats, the least stable (fatty fish, grass-fed meat, pastured eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetable/seed oils, algae). Try to replace most foods high in unstable polyunsaturated fats with those higher in saturated fats and monounsaturated fats to reduce inflammation that can arise from polyunsaturated fats oxidizing in the body.
#4 Monitor Salt Intake
As a Spartan, you’ll be sweating a lot, whether in the gym, running trails and of course, on race day. So, it’s important to be mindful of your electrolyte balance—the amount of salt and magnesium in your body—to prevent dehydration. “Hydrating is not all about water,” says Wells. “It’s also about the balance between electrolytes and water in the body as it helps prevent cramping, feeling fatigued and getting headaches.”
#5 Consider a Curated Keto
Approaching keto using a “cyclical ketogenic diet” approach is likely optimal for an OCR athlete, says Wells. This means cycling your carbohydrate intake, consuming more carbs on higher energy-demanding days and fewer on rest days or days of low energy expenditure. During low-intensity training sessions, such as long runs, it’s fine to exercise with no carbohydrates stored, as you would during a normal ketogenic diet. But for high-intensity sessions, eat 15–30 grams of carbs before working out to meet the high energy demand of the session. “Research calls this a ‘train-low, train-high’ approach,” Wells says.
Be sure to monitor your energy levels, because training in an under-fueled state can cause serious hormone imbalances and put your performance at risk in the long run. This is also where a meal-planning service like Fresh Meal Plan can help. FMP offers a variety of dishes, including paleo, keto, and vegan, that can keep you fueled on a more cyclical plan. Need to bump up carbs a bit before a race but don’t have time to get your meal together? Go for something like the Tex-Mex Scramble with 40g protein and 25g carbs or the Italian Turkey Burger with 36g of protein and 29g of carbs. You can use the energy you would have spent obsessing over macros for conquering your race!
Want a taste of Fresh Meal Plan?
Try this delish dinner—one of their many keto-approved meals.
Keto Korean Beef With Cauliflower Rice
4 servings; 297 Calories per serving
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 pound lean ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup organic gluten free soy sauce
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups cauliflower rice
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook and stir ground beef and garlic in the hot skillet until browned and crumbly, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Combine soy sauce, coconut sugar, ginger, and black pepper in a bowl; whisk until well combined. Pour over ground beef; simmer until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes.
- Serve over cauliflower rice. Sprinkle with green onions and sesame seeds.
Want to make cauliflower rice? Grate cauliflower using a coarse grater or the grater disc in a food processor.
Per Serving: 297 calories; 19.1 g fat; 8.9 g carbohydrates; 22.4 g protein; 68 mg cholesterol; 982 mg sodium.