Competitive Edge with an actual Nutrition Plan
By: Elaine Hastings, RD
You don’t have to be a hard-core athlete to appreciate endurance. Sometimes we want to push ourselves physically, for all sorts of reasons. Walking 18 holes. Winning the football game. Playing doubles. Running that annual 5K. A long bike ride on Saturday.
So it’s “competition” day . . . now what? You may have trained and trained, but have you consistently fueled your body with the right substances (foods and fluids)? It really matters what fuel you choose; why wouldn’t it? And the body’s energy is finite: if it’s not resupplied, it will run out. Push it hard, it runs out faster. Fuel incorrectly, and all your training will be for naught. What a pity.
Here are some Keys to give you a competitive edge. They will unlock a new level of physical success for you, in whatever arena you need it.
Key #1. Plan, plan, plan. You already know you need to prepare physically for an event. But even more key is planning ahead nutritionally. Take time to learn how starches, carbs, protein and hydration fuel the body for highly physical endeavors, and how they’re also used to help it recover quickly, building lean muscle tissue as a result. I’ve given you some great starter tips below.
Key #2. Practice, practice, practice . . . but I don’t mean training! Literally practice your “competition day” eating before that important event. A coach once told me ‘ if you put the maximum effort into your practice, you will have the maximum benefit during your game days.’ Now I tell all my athletes that same thing.
Key #3. Fuel properly the night before. The big pre-competition “no-no’s” are 1) anything with a lot of sugar; 2) fried or spicy foods; 3) high fat foods: gravies, sauces, creamy soups, fatty meats. And DON’T try any foods you’ve never eaten before.
Key #4. Same no-no’s apply on game day. Eat starches approximately 3-4 hours prior to your event, and make the portions slightly smaller than normal meal. They give you “timed-release” energy. About 30-60 minutes before starting the event, top off your tank with fluids and a small snack (a piece of fruit or granola bar).
Key #5. During your competition (or on tournament days with multiple events or games) make sure you’re drinking at least 8-12 ounces of fluids between each game or event. Eat a healthy snack - such as yogurt, a sports bar or trail mix - between each game and event. If you’re exercising for longer than an hour without taking a long break, you need to keep refueling during the event, with foods like pretzels, fruit, granola or fruit snacks. Remember: drink plenty of fluids!
Key #6. When in doubt DON’T go without! Some people find that liquids are easier on their stomachs while they exercise. But what’s in the liquid is critical. Don’t go without proteins or nutrients; try chocolate milk, smoothies, or meal replacement shakes.
Got it? Plan ahead, practice, hydrate and don’t go without fuel.