Anyone who has served in the military knows that the military loves their ruck marches. You see them with every assessment and selection, training pipeline, and standard military training course (Basic Training, RANGER, Airborne, Air Assault, you name it!). Performing your best during the ruck march is a staple for tactical athletes, and preparing for it nutritionally should be taken just as serious as getting after the ruck itself. These snacks are some of the best fuel-on-the-go options I've used during TACP prep, Ranger School prep, and completing the Norwegian foot march that kept me performing mile after mile.
Here’s some extra Sciencey stuff if you’re interested ⬇
Carbohydrates (aka carbs) are your body’s ideal energy source. During high intensity and prolonged training events such as ruck marches, ideally you want to take in some high glycemic carbs. This is because these are easily digestible, spike your blood sugar faster and higher than low glycemic carbs, and are usable by your muscles and brain as fuel. Notably, your body can absorb roughly 30-60 grams of carbohydrates every hour, and even more if you mix fructose (sugar in fruits) and glucose (found as table sugar and in processed snacks) due to our bodies having different, dedicated ways of transporting and absorbing each type of sugar. As always, make sure you maintain good hydration throughout the event with water and electrolytes.
Number 5: DRIED FRUIT
|Dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries, or some dried mangos are great options that are easy to carry in a bag and are loaded with fructose and glucose. A serving suggestion would be to eat 1-3 handfuls of dried cranberries throughout the hour to keep your energy levels up.|
Number 4: FRUIT SNACKS
|Fruit snacks, such as the Mott’s or Welch’s brand fruit packs, are great because they are individually wrapped for convenient carrying in your pants cargo pocket, and each pack contains 11-20 grams of carbs. These are tasty and easy to eat! A serving suggestion would be to eat 1-2 packs over the course of an hour.|
Number 3: GUMMY BEARS
|These are great for rucking because they are 100% glucose and easily absorbed by the body. About 13 pieces will have about 100 calories and roughly 25 grams of carbs, so a handful each hour would be good to hold you over! *Note: Do not get the sugar free ones that have malitol as they have been known to have horrible taste and can have an extreme laxative effect – aka you’ll have to sh*t during your ruck…not good!|
Number 2: STROOP WAFFLES
|Tasty and convenient, Stroop waffles pack a whopping 21 grams of carbs per package. These come in a couple of flavors and are simple to carry and eat as they are individually wrapped. Most notable brand would be the “Stinger” waffles and they sell these at Wal-Mart, Academy, and Target. Eat 1-2 of these each hour and you’re golden.|
Number 1: GEL PACKS
|Probably the easiest and most convenient way in my opinion to get in some calories, sugars, electrolytes, and even caffeine in some packs, gel packs are a top-notch choice for intra-workout support. Some brands I’ve used and had good experiences with include some of the following (note I am not affiliated with any of these brands): Huma Plus Chia Energy Gel (my favorite as it has a 2:1 fructose to glucose ratio), CLIF SHOT Energy Gel, GU Energy Roctane Gels, Gatorade Endurance Energy Gel, and Frog Fuel (used during the last hour of rucks due to beta alanine, citrulline, and caffeine content).|
NUTRITION BEFORE AND AFTER YOUR RUCK
The night prior you want to make sure you stay hydrated with electrolytes and water. Also, eat a dinner with high carbs, lean protein, and healthy fats. The morning of the ruck, or within 1-2 hours of starting, eat a light meal consisting of carbs and moderate protein – this could be oatmeal, peanut butter, banana, or a bagel, to name a few. During the ruck, you want to avoid fats and high protein snacks as these will increase calories burned and slow down the absorption of carbs; stick to the snack items listed above if you want to crush your time! Post ruck, I highly recommend you continue to walk around (slowly) and drink some fruit juice to restore muscle glycogen (stored form of glucose), as well as eat something with protein in it. An example of a post ruck snack could be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a banana with peanut butter.
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Author: Todd Duquette, BSN, RN, NASM CPT, NASM PES, AFSPECWAR