Hunter McIntyre doesn’t give a damn about your research-backed macronutrient ratios, or your categorical aversion to carbohydrates. And he certainly doesn’t share your fear that an extra pint of lager is gonna blur your six-pack. He stands as a living monument to how the road less traveled can pay big dividends for the physique-minded. He is—and, to some extent, always has been—a nonconformist whose fitness and fueling philosophies have catapulted him into the top echelon of all endurance athletes alive today, all while keeping his V-taper on point and his body fat at a very Olympia-like 6%.
“I wake up every day and beat the crap out of myself,” he says.
Mud on McIntyre
One of the world’s most accomplished and active endurance athletes, 28-year-old McIntyre is best known for his prowess on the Obstacle Course Racing circuit, thanks in part to NBC’s televised broadcasts of Spartan races that brought mud, sweat, and spears into living rooms everywhere. From Spartan to Tough Mudder and everything in-between, McIntyre has shown himself to be highly adept at running, jumping, swimming, crawling, climbing, throwing, diving, scaling, pulling, pushing, and carrying things. You know…all the stuff the human body was built to do.
Yet, he still ends up looking like a guy who snuck in to the course. The physique antithesis to wispy runners, McIntyre doesn’t fit the endurance mold—physically, that is—and he knows it. In fact, he loves it.
“Endurance sports encourage being more of a slightly built man,” he says. “I stand 6’2”, 215-lbs in the off-season, and I’m 190 in-season. I’m constantly fighting a battle of what training will keep me looking, feeling, and performing like a man. I train to win and train to look good, and that takes balance.”
After winning a race a few years back, he coined a phrase that surely drove the gel-swilling, shin-splint-afflicted masses insane: “Biceps win races”.
“I had just won a big race against a guy I’d been chasing for years,” he says. “I won it on the hoist and pummeled it. It was my biceps that got that thing up. When I got across the finish line I flexed this big, front double biceps pose and thought, ‘My biceps won that race.’”
Vanity used to be a full-time pursuit for McIntyre, who spent time as a male model before growing dismayed at how shady the industry can be.
“I grew up reading these magazines,” he recalls. “I used to take these cutouts of Greg Plitt from the magazines and use them as inspiration. I used to contact all the cover models and say, ‘What do you do? How do you do what you do?’ No one wanted to share their story, and I said f–k it. I get how some people don’t want to associate themselves with a certain kind of magazine or whatever. But I obsess over it. In a way, it got me where I am today.”
You might never share the same race space as McIntyre, but if you ever spoke to him you would know what it’s like to struggle to keep pace with him. Without taking a breath, McIntyre can go from talking about this morning’s workout to the contents of his 700g carbohydrate breakfast to his “side job” of coaching lacrosse at Pepperdine. He is three scoops of pre-workout, personified.
Not a minute is wasted in McIntyre’s training day. Here’s how he manages to get it done.
“My natural clock wakes me up around 5 or 6 in the morning. I try to wake up, eat, and get my first workout going between 7 and 9, then I go at it again at 3 or 4 in the afternoon. I always get in two two-hour workouts a day. If I add a third, it’s just wherever it falls. But I think you need to wake up and get moving. Time is always against you. The more people who are awake, the more people there are standing between you and what you want to get done.”
On the weekends, McIntyre tackles SealFit’s Kokoro, an elective, 50-hour gantlet of physical and mental strain in which nearly half of its participants wash out or get injured or both. He sees workouts as things to be “smashed” or “pummeled” or “crushed,” and aims to do just that each time he hits the iron or unracks his road bike.
In the weeks that followed this interview, he was slated to tackle five grueling races in six weeks, including the Spartan World Championships. He’s particularly excited about a new event on the calendar, Tough Mudder X, which is touted as the world’s toughest mile: “1 mile. 10 obstacles. 10 workouts. $25,000.”
“I am the reigning champion from 2017, so in 2018 I’ll have a huge target on my back,” he says. “It brings together huge cash prizes and great athletes from American Ninja Warrior, Olympians, high-level OCR athletes—it’s not an easy day.”
But every action has an equal and opposite reaction. And for McIntyre, that means an off-season during which his 12-workout weeks and competition-heavy calendar give way to an intentionally indulgent lifestyle.
“I have a very exciting off-season of drinking, traveling, and having a ball,” he says, joyfully. “Then I get to enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas, then it’s back to focusing. I’m not trying to encourage anyone to be hooligans or anything, but it’s important for hard-training athletes to go off and have vacations and drink beer and eat ice cream sundaes. I do it for a few weeks, then I look at myself and say ‘Hunter, you’re disgusting’ and I get right back to it. I need that slingshot effect where I go really far, then whip it back. I need to be ashamed of myself at times.”
Maybe there’s something to the McIntyre Method: train with purpose, eat with pleasure, play like you mean it. Leave the weakness, gimmicks, and excuses where they belong.
In the mud.
Eat, run, play: McIntyre’s unconventional approach to sports nutrition
On calories: “I’m not trying to give the world cavities and diabetes, but if you’re training hard you need to be crushing calories. You can’t eat a bunch of red meat when you train like this, so I would save it for the end of the day.”
On carb shaming: “On any given day, I’m taking down half to a full loaf of bread, a lot of honey, a lot of jam. I probably drink 50oz of juice a day. There’s probably 500-700g of carbs there.”
On dessert: “I’m eating ice cream and all that stuff, and I’m around 6-7% body fat. I have to eat this kind of food. Here’s the reality: The world’s best marathoners are eating Twinkies. I was eating asparagus and sweet potato. So I changed it up and haven’t looked back.”
On fats: “Fat’s gotta be in your diet, too. I don’t do a bodybuilding diet. I’m high in everything. I take down about a jar of peanut butter a day. I try to eat coconut oil—I spread it on my toast. I eat a lot of ghee.”
His secret weapon: “Goat’s milk. I’ll drink a liter of raw goat’s milk with dark chocolate and honey. Raw goat’s milk, if you’re trying to gain weight, that’s the ticket. It’s smoother than any milk you’ve ever tried. It’s delicious. It’s almost sweeter than regular milk, it’s just a different smell than regular milk. Before bed, I’ll take down a whole liter. I’ll look lean and mean the next morning, too.”
Bottom line: “I’ll eat this way, I’ll look great, and I’m bending barbells. If you’re heavy-hitting, hard-working, and wanna make big gains, then this is for you. If the fire’s hot enough, it’ll burn anything.”
McIntyre’s sample upper-body workout
McIntyre uses a combined strength and conditioning approach on his upper-body weight-training days. All workouts should be “smashed,” taking an hour or less.
1. Front-Carry Sandbag Sprints
Sets: 5 Reps: McIntyre will vary the length of his sprints but always goes for max speed. Rest: As long as necessary to ensure maximum recovery.
2A. Bench Press
Sets: 3 Reps: 8
Sets: 3 Reps: 8
McIntyre works up to max weight on each successive set, aiming to reach failure on the eighth rep.
3A. Double Kettlebell Clean
Sets: 5 Reps: 10
– superset with –
3B. Double Kettlebell Row
Sets: 5 Reps: 10
*** McIntyre uses the same weight for both exercises.
4A. Dumbbell Pullover
Sets: 4 Reps: 15
Sets: 4 Reps: 15
5A. TRX Atomic Pushup
Sets: 4 Reps:15
5B. Abs Roller
Sets: 4 Reps:15
**** McIntyre incorporates isometric holds as desired on his abs roller sets.