By: Mike Roussell, PhD
Rucking doesn't just rely on physical strength and mental grit—it also demands smart nutrition. To fuel your body for the miles ahead, you need strategic snacking that goes beyond grabbing a random granola bar. This means understanding what your body needs and when it needs it. So, let's unravel the science of sustenance for rucking, and explore power-packed snacks that provide sustained energy, muscle recovery, and optimal performance.
Carbs Power the Way
While protein is vital and often the first thing we think about regarding physical strength and performance, carbohydrates are the primary source of energy during sustained intense physical activity. Carbs are burned more efficiently than protein, providing the energy you need to keep moving. Easy to digest energy bars, dried fruit, or whole grain crackers/pretzels can be excellent sources. I always keep a small bag of “treat” snacks like Swedish fish - these fast digesting sugars can also act as a morale boost when the miles start to become a slog.
Even slight dehydration can dramatically affect your performance and recovery. Many ruckers underestimate their fluid needs, especially in cooler weather. In addition to water, consider bringing electrolyte packs or sports drinks to replace electrolytes lost through sweat. When working hard, you should aim to drink ~1L of water per hour of training/rucking.
Fats Sustain Your Effort
Fats provide long-lasting energy, making them a great addition to your rucking nutrition strategy. The longer your ruck grinds on, the more your body will look for fat to fuel its efforts. Opt for snacks like nuts, seeds, or nut butters, which provide fats that will sustain your performance and support good health.
Power with Protein
While rucking is primarily fueled by carbs and fats, protein when paired with carbs can help accelerate muscle refueling. Protein also can help blunt excessive muscle breakdown that could occur during long rucks. Consider packing jerky which provides high quality protein while also providing the key electrolyte sodium to help stave off dehydration.
Be Mindful of Fiber
While fiber is essential in a balanced diet, too much fiber during a ruck can lead to digestive discomfort. The key is to eat foods that are easily digestible. Pack snacks like a banana or a low fat granola bar that offer a moderate amount of fiber but quality carbohydrates.
Remember Portability and Convenience
When selecting snacks, consider practicality. Rucking requires on-the-go foods that aren't messy, easily crushed, and provide fuel for not alot of bulk or weight. Make sure your choices are durable, lightweight, and easy to eat while on the move.
Here’s the food/snacks that I always have in my Rucker when going out for 2hrs or more.
- 4 electrolyte packets (enough for a friend if needed)
- 50g of carbs worth of powdered sports drink
- Snack size baggie of swedish fish
- Small bag of beef jerky
- Dr. Mike’s Trail mix (4 parts shelled pistachios 2 parts dried goji berries; 1 part pumpkin seeds; 1 part cacao nibs)
- 3L Water Source (just for water)
- 2L backup Water Source (if hot out)
- 1L Nalgene bottle (for mixing electrolytes)
The right fuel can make all the difference in your performance and enjoyment of long distance endurance rucks. The better your fuel the more suck you’ll be able to embrace.