Food is Fuel: How Nutrition Played a Role in My GORUCK Experience

Story and Photos by Melanie Mituta


Ruck•ing /verb/ To put on a weighted backpack (ruck) and go for a walk or hike.

I spent this past Veterans Day in Ann Arbor, outside in the freezing cold from 9 p.m. until 9 a.m. with a bunch of weirdos for the GORUCK Tough Challenge.


Yes, we call ourselves weirdos.

How else would you describe a group of individuals who pay to carry a heavy ruck on their back for 12 hours as they are led by military Special Forces through a series of vigorous physical challenges?

The looks and questions I get from my family, friends and strangers when I explain what this event is are priceless. I used to be one of those people who thought it was utterly crazy to sign up myself up for a strenuous event like this.

However, here I am today, with three GORUCK events under my belt – and that’s just this year.

What people don’t realize is there’s more to it than the physical aspect. In those 12 hours, strangers become teammates and teammates become friends.

You learn to how to lead and how to follow, working together to accomplish the goal that lies in front of you. The GORUCK community is filled with positive, inspiring and amazing weirdos in which I am honored to be a part of.

So how does one prepare for an event like this?

Physical training is very important, but nutrition plays an even bigger role to aid in strength, stamina and mental clarity to survive those 12 nighttime hours.

As a Central Michigan University dietetics student, I received an abundance of helpful information about proper nutrition so that I could perform this event to my best ability. 

Leslie Hildebrandt, professor and dietitian for CMU athletics, developed the Fuel Up to Fire Up sports nutrition program for us Chippewas. Her goal is to educate the athletes on proper nutrition and good dietary habits to achieve their maximum potential.

As a mentee for this program that she started, I learned that you eat to perform.

Conveniently placed the week before my GORUCK event, CMU’s Student Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (SAND) had a guest speaker, Lisa McDowell, dietitian for the Detroit Red Wings. She mentioned that diet, hydration, recovery and sleep are most important when putting your body to hard work.

Prior to the event, I ate plenty of vegetables (salads, soup, broccoli and cauliflower), quality protein (chicken and salmon), slow-release carbohydrates (brown rice, millet and whole grain bread), fruit (smoothies) and limited my fat intake (sunflower butter and olive oil dressing).

Fuel while Performing
During the event, I had to give my body exactly what it needed in that moment: the preparation was over. I consumed Smartwater and Gatorade (for electrolytes), Cliff bars, Gatorade Performance bars, Gatorade energy chews and beet juice. Beet juice was my latest addition. At the SAND meeting, McDowell mentioned that beets are high in nitrates which are beneficial for athletes because they help oxygenate muscles, reduce fatigue and reduce recovery time.

I had to carry everything in my ruck, so I packed accordingly.

The Outcome of the Event
Like my last GORUCK event, it took me about 2 whole days to recover and to walk like a normal human being again. The day I returned home, my legs gave out on me when I was walking down the stairs – I slid down a flight and I couldn’t help but laugh because I was the one who did this to myself! 

As proud as I am being a rucker, I am just as proud being a Chippewa. It’s remarkable that I am able to apply what I’m learning at CMU to the craziest of real-life situations.

I highly recommend everyone check out Fuel Up 2 Fire Up for fabulous nutritional advice and updates on our Chippewa athletes!

And, for those of you interested in being a weirdo like me, I dare you to join GORUCK.