How Ultramarathon Runner Courtney Atkinson Fuels His Gruelling Training Sessions | Men's Health Magazine Australia

How Ultramarathon Runner Courtney Atkinson Fuels His Gruelling Training Sessions

We caught up with one of the fittest outdoor guys in Australia, currently preparing to tackle the notorious Red Bull Defiance event in Far North Queensland.

Courtney Atkinson already has a storied career in the world of endurance.

At age 17 he had already won his first international triathlon race in Holland. Leading into two decades winning races across the globe including a couple of Olympics Games appearances in the green and gold. You’ll still find him tackling and winning some of the toughest and unique multisport and trail running challenges around.

We caught up with one of the fittest outdoor guys in Australia, currently preparing to tackle the notorious Red Bull Defiance event in Far North Queensland.

After a 2-year hiatus thanks to Covid, Defiance will be held this year across three days. Athletes will be pushed to their mental and physical limits during the race on August 27 and 28 which will take teams through some of the toughest and most beautiful terrains Australia has to offer.
Teams of two will cover over 150km of track, river, and ocean via trail running, mountain biking, rafting, and kayaking for their chance to be crowned champion.
No stranger to pain, Atkinson is the man in the know when it comes to preparing for these tests of fortitude, sharing with MH the food he uses to prepare for such monstrous events.

In the past, my day to day never looked the same, but I now I’m facing the same challenges as many others. I’m in front of the laptop way more than usual working from home – editing, mentoring athletes on video calls, emails, digital marketing with the outdoor style brands I work with. But I still need to be training morning and night!

All types of activity demand carbohydrates, whether walking, working out in the garage or sending it on the MTB. But Guess what? Your brain also needs it! Which is why when we’re all spending more time in the home office, I’m also focused on making sure I’m snacking during the day but being conscious of what’s the optimal amount of energy to do what I need 100 per cent without stacking the calories.

These are my 5 go-to snacks to get me through my days right now which are all around 500kj… that’s if you stick close to the all-important portion size!

1. Home-made trail mix

Our favourite mix at the moment my wife makes with love includes pretzels, dark chocolate drops, mixed nuts, plus some red liquorice.

When: This is my go-to when I get really hungry but not ready for a full meal.

Why: It’s got it all and tastes good as well. The combo of salt and sweet hits the spot. Great sense of fullness from a variety of sources, a mix of carbs, fat and the liquorice to add a bit of fun. Covering all basis here which is why we take this out with us on day-long adventures. When at home it’s just important to watch the portion. A handful is probably a good rule of thumb to keep to a snack size.

2. A slice Of Brumby’s sourdough with a good spread of Vegemite

When: This is normally a mid-morning snack especially when I’ve had a big long run early in the morning and then stuck in front of the screen.

Why: Have you ever tasted sourdough! Mmmm. I know bread sometimes get a bad wrap but I’ve personally never had problems and sourdough’s longer fermentation process should be better for good gut health. And do I have to explain vegemite being an Aussie? Full of B-Vitamins and if you are sensitive about the salt there’s always the reduced salt version or Peanut Butter.

2. Fresh Fruit

Usually an apple or few small mandarins.

When: Anytime I’m out poking around the fridge procrastinating

Why: Should be common sense from the old food pyramid you saw in your school PE classes. The goal is to eat a plentiful share of fruit and veg daily. No excuse needed… if you arm is being pulled towards the Tim Tams pivot to the fruit bowl instead.

3. Afternoon pick-me-up/pre-training

When: About 2-3 pm when my brain is about fried for the day

Why: I need something to help me refocus for that last part of the day in front of the computer that also works as a pre-training snack. My personal go-to is a can of Red Bull because of the combination of caffeine and simple sugars. The science says that 75mg or a standard cup of coffee you’d make at home is the minimum amount of caffeine you need to get benefit, so getting about the same caffeine from a 250ml can is the right size for me at this time of day. Added to the fact that the glucose sets me up with energy to hit the ground running (literally) when I head outside.

5. Two rice cakes with ¼ of avocado

When: This is another mid-morning favourite to bridge an early breakfast to lunch

Why: Super quick and easy to make – major tick of approval from me. I pair the rice cakes with the good fats from the avocado which helps keep the hunger monsters at bay until lunch.

Then don’t forget water!!! Easily forgotten but most important. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

So that’s some ideas around quick snacks I grab when at home. But when it comes to my complete nutrition needs balance & moderation is my goal. My fridge is full of colour. Quality fresh and wholesome fruit, veg and meats. But there’s also room for treats. They damn taste good, but the key is to be decisive on portion size.

RELATED: The 20 Min Gym Workout That’s The Equivalent Of Competing A Triathlon

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