- Eating before competition is an easy way to fuel your body for the game or event ahead. A good guideline is to consume a meal 2-3 hours before your game/event, and/or a top-up snack about 1-2 hours before, as this gives your body time to break down and absorb your food, and use it for energy.
- This pre-event meal/snack should contain carbohydrates (CHO) (as CHO are the body’s preferred source of fuel), be low in fat (for stomach comfort), and contain fluids (preferably water at this point, for hydration).
- Some example meals include: Pasta with a low-fat tomato-based sauce, salad sandwiches or rolls, toast with ham/tuna and cheese, or fruit salad with yoghurt and muesli.
- If topping up your CHO stores an hour before a game or event, some good options include: fruit flavoured yoghurt, a fruit muffin or a cereal bar.
- If you have multiple games/events in one day, and are unsure about how much time you will have to eat and drink in between, try snacking on nutritious snack foods (and fluids!), both sweet and savoury, throughout the day (e.g. cereal bars, crackers with cheese), and include a larger meal that can be consumed during a longer break (e.g. a meat and salad sandwich)!
- If you don’t tolerate meals or solid foods before exercise, liquid meal options can be a good alternative, e.g. Sustagen Sport or fruit smoothies.
- Given the nature of a multi-day event/competition, and the sometimes short turn-around time between games/events, it is critical that the recovery process starts as soon as possible, and is a consideration for the entire day.
- Depending on your competition schedule, recovery nutrition may be challenging, however consuming a recovery snack or meal within 30-60 minutes of finishing a game/event can quickly start the recovery process.
- The main goals of recovery nutrition are to re-fuel (i.e. replace CHO stores that you’ve previously used for energy), repair any muscle damage and promote muscle development (with protein), and rehydrate (with fluids). Thus, in your recovery snack, include CHO, protein and plenty of fluids (both water and sports drinks may have a role here).
- Some good examples include: 600mL low fat flavoured milk, a bread roll with meat and a large banana, or a bowl of fruit salad with a 200g tub of fruit-flavoured yoghurt.
- Since this recovery meal/snack only starts the recovery process, follow this up with a more substantial meal (particularly if competing earlier in the day!!).
- Maintaining a hydrated state is important for prolonged performance, and consistent fluid intake throughout the day can assist with this.
- Use breaks and pauses in play, or time in between events, as an opportunity to re-hydrate. Fluids of choice may include water and sports drinks, where sports drinks are a great way to improve or maintain fluid levels, while also re-fuelling (due to their CHO content).
- Some tips for good hydration include: consume water with each meal, start all days and events well hydrated, always have a bottle of water with you throughout the day, plan ahead and ensure you have plenty of fluid with you, and keep your fluids cool (as these are often more enjoyable).
- Keep in mind that sports drinks could be a perfectly suitable addition to your hydration plan!
A word on planning
- It goes without saying that in order to compete well throughout your competition, planning is essential. By planning ahead with your nutrition, you will be better prepared for any unexpected events, and you are more likely to have nutritionally adequate food choices available to you at all times.
- Some good strategies include: taking snacks with you to the event (e.g. cereal bars, dried fruit and nuts, pikelets, rice cakes, long-life milk tetra packs), being aware of the restaurants and food outlets near your competition venue/accommodation (this can reduce the need to choose high fat, non-nutritious take-away foods), and having bottled fluids with you at all times.
- Further, it is always a good idea to try out your competition nutrition strategies during training, to identify what works for you, and avoid any surprises on game day!
In summary, nutrition practices are an important consideration leading into a multi-day event. Adequate fuelling, recovery and hydration are key factors, and being planned can provide the opportunity for a more successful competition. Every individual varies, and thus it is important to identify what practices work best for you for optimal performance! Always try out new nutritional practices during training phases and do your research before arriving at your competition venue! Here’s to a successful competition!