With competition in full swing, it can sometimes be hard to think about eating anything other than what’s fast and easy and right in front of you. But with the amount of training you may be doing, it’s important to eat well to maintain strength and energy so that you can perform your best on the competition floor. This month we’re featuring an article by Melanie Bussiere of New Again Fitness on the subject of pre-competition nutrition.
Whether you’re starting to train for a marathon, or anticipating a major sporting competition, there are a few things to consider when it comes to pre-exertion eating habits. The meal before an athletic event must take the individual’s needs into account, strategically providing the right amount of liquids and calories to keep the athlete hydrated and fueled.
The benefits of well-balanced pre-competition sustenance also include: settling the stomach by absorbing gastric juices, preventing hunger throughout long, strenuous events, and preventing the onset of hypoglycemia. If you understand your body and follow good consistent workout nutrition in daily life, this will also prove vital for making it through the big championship without injury or severe resource depletion. Start carbo-loading a few days before your event, and build your carb intake around your workouts, packing most of it in when you need to refuel after exercise; your muscles need to maintain enough long-term glycogen stores to prime you for extreme athletic events.
The amount of food you load up on on the day of the event will depend on logistics like the timing and length of the event (for instance, for a morning event, you will want to focus your carbo-loading strategies around dinner the night before), but in general, a substantial pre-sporting meal should be given 3-4 hours to digest before the exercise begins. The carbohydrates you consume will serve you best if they are low to moderate on the glycemic index, as this will help you steer clear of getting a spike in blood sugar which then crashes in the middle of the event. Foods eaten beforehand should also be restricted to low-fat, low-protein items.
Some trusty staple ingredients to work into a pre-comp meal include: multigrain or rye bread, rice, and pasta (be generous with the time you give yourself to digest these slow-releasing carbs, and ideally choose low-fat, low-sugar pasta sauces). Non-sugary cereal or oats, raisins, apple and banana can be great options to incorporate into a breakfast, and potatoes provide lasting energy, while sweet potatoes are an even better low-GI alternative. While you should avoid focusing on protein, a modest amount of it can be useful in keeping your hunger satiated through long events. Dairy products like eggs, or a small amount of low-fat milk or yogurt, are effective for achieving this. In the way of drinks, keep it simple: stick to water, sports drinks, and fruit juice, but again, go light on the sugar, especially if you’re eating closer to the event.
While balancing these nutritional factors, also keep in mind that you should avoid fiber, caffeine, and anything greasy before extended strenuous activity, as these can all cause stomach upset. So even if they might be good energy sources under normal circumstances, you’ll want to avoid nuts and seeds, and fibrous legumes like chick peas). Another all-important factor to consider is that whatever you eat before competition, your body should be familiar with it in order to process it without undue gastric distress.
High-GI carbs, fruits and juice, meat, healthy fats, dairy, and beans are all things that can and should be indulged in more freely after the event, to replenish lost glycogen and fluids.
And as with any aspect of nutrition and bodily upkeep, maintain a holistic view of what you need to stay primed and feeling good; stay hydrated on a daily basis, eat vegetables with all meals, and intersperse your protein throughout the day. The way you take care of your body on an ongoing basis will prepare you to keep improving your athleticism.
Articles and images used with permission. Originally written and posted 4 September 2019 on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/NewAgainFitness/
Melanie Bussiere is CPR A, C and AED certified and is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA, and a Sports Nutrition Specialist. She is currently completing full certification in Trigger Point Therapy. She and her husband Lionel Doonan are professional ballroom competitors and teachers.
New Again Fitness trains clients for weight loss, muscle toning and strength, and improved mobility. They help clients prepare for and recover from hip and knee surgeries. They also address everyday aches and pains and ensure their clients leave pain free! They help prepare your body for the stresses of everyday life, work, and sport. They train amateur and leisure sports enthusiasts as well as top ranked competitors in ballroom. For more information, please visit their website: https://newagainfitness.com/