Preparing well with your nutrition for sport competitions can increase your chances of success on competition day.
Competition preparation can be broken down into two phases:
- The lead up to competition
- During competition
The lead up to competition for athletes can be a stressful period. Not only are you feeling the pressures of performing well, but you are probably also training longer and harder in the few weeks leading up. This can leave you feeling tired, low in energy and not performing at your best and if you’re not fuelling and recovering well with good nutrition, your risk of getting sick or injured is increased.
You may also have a taper period close to competition that will reduce your energy requirements. A simple strategy for reducing energy intake to match taper requirements is to modify portion sizes, particularly for carbohydrate foods.
During competition, the nutrition focus shifts to being organised, choosing foods that make you perform well, maximising opportunities to eat a larger meal and ensuring you recover well following and/or between events.
Take a look at the NSWIS Nutrition Team’s top tips for maximising energy levels and performing at your best in the lead up to, and during, competition:
Make a plan for the month leading up to the comp
- What types and amounts of food do you need to eat? Tailor this to your daily needs.
- A general rule of thumb is to increase carbohydrate foods on higher training days. This can be done easily by modifying portion sizes
- Prioritise pre-and post-training snacks.
- Ensure you are hydrating well by replacing sweat loss on top of your usual fluid requirements. A rough estimate is to aim for an extra 250-500ml per hour of exercise.
- Eat enough food to match energy expenditure. The few weeks before competition is not the time to aim for an energy deficit. Hunger throughout the day is a good sign that you need to increase your intake.
- Eat your fruits and veggies – these contain important phytonutrients to help keep your immune system functioning optimally.
- Speak with a sports dietitian to discuss whether any supplements may help to reduce gut or respiratory illness.
Make a plan for the competition period
- Where are you going, what food and fluids do you need for the trip, are there any food safety considerations? (e.g. water quality)
- Where will you stay, how close is your accommodation to the grocery store, what cooking equipment and utensils are available in your room?
- Start each day off with a good breakfast. Often during competition there are limited opportunities to eat, or you may feel too nervous to eat. Maximising the opportunities you do have to eat more is going to be beneficial. Click here for some breakfast ideas.
- Be organised each day and take your food and fluids with you to the event. Choose foods that you have trialled, and you know make your body feel good and perform well.
- At the end of each day, make sure you refuel with carbs, repair with protein and rehydrate with fluids to ensure you are ready to go for the next day of competition.