- What does a man who runs obstacle course races for a living— including one that lasts 26 hours long—eat to keep himself fueled? Hunter McIntyre told us—and spoiler alert: He's definitely not skimping on bread.
Take one look at Hunter McIntyre, and you might guess that he’s a Crossfit athlete or perhaps a professional weightlifter or even a personal trainer. You would likely assume that there’s no way that this 6’ 2”, 195-pound man would excel in an endurance event.
You’d be wrong. But then again, pretty much everything about professional obstacle course racer McIntyre is atypical. Back in 2011, when McIntyre was an aspiring personal trainer and model, he entered his first Spartan race in 2011 and finished ninth overall. He turned pro a few years later, and now he competes in obstacle course races all over the world, and is a two-time winner of Steve Austin’s Broken Skull challenge.
After completing a workout at Tone House in New York City, complete with plenty of hops, sprints, sled drags, rope swings and more, the competitive obstacle course racer, sponsored by Spartan and Second Skin apparel—a new private DICK’s Sporting Goods brand tailored to high-intensity athletes in the world of obstacle course racing, CrossFit and triathlon—broke down how exactly he fuels himself.
Sports Illustrated: I’m interested in your eating habits as a professional obstacle course racer…
Hunter McIntyre: I’ll tell you one right now, and I’m sure no mother wants to hear this, but I never eat vegetables. I don’t think anyone got a gold medal from eating vegetables, but maybe I’m wrong. Here’s the truth: I train so hard that a lot of my nutrition has to come through drinks like these [Honest brand] teas. You get dehydrated so much as an athlete, these honey teas are filled with natural honey and they have a lot of sugar in it, but after that workout we just did right now, you’re moving so much and you’re sweating so much, I have to drink like 10 of these [teas] a day to get my nutrition back in me and get the fluids back in there.
SI: [Reading the label of ingredients aloud] Vitamin A, Vitamin C, OK…
HM: It’s not the best thing in the world for you, but I’m pretty clean. I’m not the type of person who’s going into twinkie boxes and eating only candy bars, but I try to eat really dense food. In the morning when I wake up, I’m popping a ton of eggs and making a smoothie on top of that, and I’m not the person who runs from bread. I think bread is God’s gift to the earth.
SI: Walk through your breakfast for me.
HM: Probably six eggs, whole—none of that egg-white bull. I cook them sunny-side up or scrambled if I put avocados and stuff on them. From there I’ll take 2-4 pieces of toast and cover them with peanut butter and honey. I like Dave’s Killer bread…I’ll put a couple of the eggs on top of that and I’ll eat it all together.
SI: Any spices on top of your eggs? Sriracha?
HM: No, I’m very plain, very basic, but I want to up those skills. So after breakfast I go and train for a couple of hours, and I’m going to have a bunch of these [Honest] teas right here, and I’ll have a big shake: 2-4 bananas, a bunch of dates, a bunch of honey in there, a couple scoops of protein. I’m sponsored by a company called Elite, and they have white protein, but it’s more of a mixture of slow digesting protein and fast-digesting protein, so basically it hits all of the targets and fuels me for the rest of they day. It’s science.
From there, I try to have a pretty solid meal at lunch. I usually go to a grocery store like Whole Foods, and I take two big scoops of rice, two big scoops of protein like pulled pork, fish, chicken, whatever. Chicken’s really hard to eat sometimes, it’s like Styrofoam. Then I’ll have a bunch of those [Honest brand] teas, kombuchas, chocolate milks, it sounds ridiculous. Then I gotta nap—that hits you like a rock. Then I wake up again, train again, and I’m drinking usually some kind of tea and I’ll put some salt in it, or I’ll use Skratch or some kind of supplement. If you’re working out at that kind of level, you’re just burning and burning and burning. Right after that, another one of those big super shakes, and then at dinnertime, I always like to eat lamb. I’ll have a pound or two of lamb, and I’ll get two or three sweet potatoes and I’ll put peanut butter and honey in them. I bake the sweet potatoes — I don’t have a microwave, I don’t think microwaves are good. Sorry if anyone likes microwaves. Then at nighttime, if I’m really pigging out, I have raw goat’s milk and chocolate and honey. I’ll take these big raw scoops of honey and put it on chocolate and just go to town.
SI: Do you make your shakes yourself or do you buy them somewhere?
HM: There’s a place in Malibu called SunLife that’s really, really good, they have the best shakes. And then I’ll steal the recipes and I’ll make them at home.
SI: So you buy one shake a day and make one shake a day?
HM: Sometimes. I end up being out on the road a lot. I live in my car, because I have my own home gym, you go work with a coach, you go train with a training partner, and the next thing you know you’re not at home for mealtimes. I try and be responsible and have those lunch boxes, but it never ends up filling me. I do have a nutrition coach and I have to hit certain numbers.
SI: What kind of numbers are these?
HM: Macros. Carbs / protein / fat. Right now on a low day, I’m at 4,000 calories, and I can get up to about 7-8,000 calories. I had all of these testings done. If I sit on a couch and don’t move all day, I burn 3800 calories a day. That would be almost a pint and a half of ice cream. It adds up fast. I get to be a little piggy, it’s fun.
SI: Do your supplements make up for the lack of vegetables?
HM: I go to some of these smoothie bars and they’ll have vitamin shots, they’ll have wheatgrass shots. I’m not somebody who’s void of nutrients. To me, cooking broccoli isn’t something I’m into. I don’t get it. I read this book called the Maximus Body, this guy [Bobby Maximus] is awesome, he’s the head trainer at Gym Jones. And he talked about if he eat ‘clean’ to hit his numbers, he’d have to eat 6-8000 calories a day because of the amount he works out. That would be 10 lbs of chicken and 10 lbs of broccoli. No one can do that, and you still wouldn’t hit the numbers. You really do have to cheat a little bit. I’m not telling anyone to eat candy, but it is a different kind of thing when you’re training this much, you have to fuel the fire. I know when I get older I’m going to have to become more mature about this and take care of myself but as of right now, the fire’s hot, I’m putting logs on the fire.
SI: Describe your ideal cheat meal.
HM: I would have a Guinness or a cider beer, and those are really fun just to kick things off. Then I’ll get buffalo wings, but I don’t like buffalo sauce, I like getting the sweet teriyaki sauce instead. From there, I’ll get a gigantic steak, like a porterhouse, a fatty one. Get some sweet potato mash in there and a bunch of sautéed mushrooms. And then I’ll have one of those baked cookies with ice cream on top in a skillet. I’ll probably have a glass of wine with my steak.
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SI: What’s the longest race that you do? When you’re racing, how to do you fuel yourself?
HM: The hardest race I do is the world’s toughest mudder, and it’s 26 hours long. I absolutely hate it, but it’s one of [Spartan’s] pinnacle events and it’s at the end of the season, so it’s really hard to say no because you have nothing to do for six months after. How do I fuel for that? You try to eat somewhat healthy in regular life, but this right here is anything goes. Fluids are big with lots of calories in them. I try to have things that are crunchy and savory, I try to have things that are very sweet, I try to have things that are very solid, and I try to have things that are very chewy.
I know it sounds ridiculous, but you need to have this plethora of things to eat because you experience these emotional waves throughout the race and you need to be able to calm yourself down. When you’re in that low area, thinking that you don’t really want to be here right now, and someone hands you a sour patch kid and you start to chew on it, you start to laugh and you throw one at your friend, it lifts you up. Then the next lap, you’re feeling like crap and someone hands you some kind of bacon butter ball, it’s like “oh, this is so savory and delicious,” and it’s amazing. At this point in time [when we’re racing], we really get to cheat and have fun. In the middle of the night when we’re freezing cold, someone on a random lap will surprise us with pizza and it’s melting-hot warm, and you take it and smear it all over your face. You’re so tired that you can barely walk, but getting that piece of pizza is an incredible experience. So by the end of the thing, food is the last thing that you want to have but people are shoving it into your mouth. We set timers on our watches, every 10 minutes you have to have a sip of fluid. It’s a very thought-out plan and it’s very precise. You struggle but you get away with it and it’s very fun.
SI: If there was a sandwich that was named after you, what would that sandwich be?
HM: It doesn’t have to be named after me… it’s called the Cluckin' Russian. It was my brother’s 30th birthday and we both grew up in Westchester. We rented a sports car for the day and we just drove straight up the highway to where we grew up and got the Cluckin' Russian [from Cameron’s Deli in Cross River, NY], which is chicken cutlets, thousand island dressing, bacon and muenster cheese. It’s cooked just so perfectly that it melts in your mouth. It’s the best. You can call it the Hunter McIntyre sandwich or you can call it the Cluckin' Russian, it’s just so good.