By: Alysha Coughler
With the 6S Underground Throwdown just around the corner, we wanted to offer some game-day tips to help you feel and perform your BEST.
For most of you this is your first competition – congrats! While there are some similarities to a regular class, completing multiple workouts in one day places different demands on our energy SYSTEMS, thereby requiring different energy SOURCES.
While the overall principles of healthy nutrition still hold true, game-day nutrition will likely differ slightly from your everyday routine.
The key to success in a competition is finding the optimal balance between healthy foods and sufficient energy.
We will offer some tips below to help you, but just remember that this is NOT the time to be changing up your nutrition routine completely.
Competition places a lot of stress on our body – nerves and adrenaline are at an all-time high – so the last thing we want to do is place even more stress inside with new and unknown food items. If this is your first competition, use this as a learning opportunity! If you are going to try something new, keep the changes to a minimum and pay attention to how your body responds.
Since you will be sweating a lot, you want to make sure your body is hydrated (we all know how much dry mouth sucks!). This means the day before the competition, make sure you drink sufficient water, as well as on competition day! Since the first workout is in the morning, make sure you wake up early enough to have time to drink water. The last thing you want is to be playing catch up all day and running to the bathroom in between workouts.
Carry a water bottle around with you, and make sure you regularly drink from it!
Think potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium!
We need these in our body to help regulate the flow of water in and out of the cells. Basically, without electrolytes, “our cells would shrivel up and die, or burst from being too full,”
In addition to hydration, make sure that you add in some electrolytes. While most of us get sufficient electrolytes in our everyday diet (and do not need to add in more), working out 3-4x in one day releases more sweat (loss of electrolytes) than we are used to.
NUUN tablets in your water bottle or a Gatorade will do the trick!
If you’re the kind of person who needs a coffee, make sure you wake up early enough to have one BEFORE your workout.
Physical activity increases levels of cortisol, just like caffeine, which means in order to promote recovery and reduce levels of cortisol, avoid coffee after or between workouts.
Try to avoid coffee during competition day. If you find that you are low energy, it is likely a result of low blood sugar, which will NOT be fixed by caffeine. Instead, have some fruit (see below for more on this point).
In competition our bodies are under a lot of stress; in order to repair and recovery quickly, we need to consume healthy micro and macronutrients. Unfortunately, caffeine isn’t either.
If you’re planning to have a coffee in the morning, do so AFTER you’ve had at least one glass of water.
DO NOT skip breakfast!
Working out on an empty stomach in a competition is a recipe for disaster.
Even though nerves will be high in the morning, potentially leading to a loss of appetite, make sure you eat something in the morning! Ideally, something similar to what you normally have for breakfast: high carb, moderate protein, low fat.
Plan ahead! Make sure you finish your breakfast with AT LEAST 2 h before your first workout, leaving ample time for digestion. If you know that you need more time to digest, then adjust accordingly. Wake up, eat breakfast, then CHILL!
Fruit smoothie that has protein powder in it plus a slice of toast with jam and nut butter
Oatmeal with fruit + egg/ egg white scramble
Bagel with low fat cream cheese + protein shake
Healthy fats should be VERY LOW on our priority list during a competition.
Out of all the three macronutritions – protein, carbohydrates, fats – fats are the most difficult for our body to digest. This means that fat digestion requires the most time, making us wait longer to feel the energy effects. During a competition, when we want INSTANT energy, this is NOT ideal.
Adding a small amount of healthy fats into your breakfast (nut butter, avocado, olive oil etc.) to help with satiety is fine. However, avoid snacking on fats, like nuts, in between workouts.
Remember that our bodies want INSTANT energy, so snack on carbohydrates instead (see below).
CARBS ARE OUR FRIENDS!
Knowing that complex carbs are slower digesting than simple carbs is key to planning competition foods! This means that your breakfast meal should include more complex carbohydrates (oatmeal, whole grains, rice, potatoes), while snacks/meals throughout the rest of the day between workouts should have more simple carbohydrates (fruits, apple sauce, some protein bars).
If you have more than 1.5-2 hours between workouts, consider eating some complex carbohydrates (rice, oatmeal etc.) rather than just simple carbs.
The goal during a competition is to keep blood sugar at a constant level: fuel to perform and then eat to recover. However, this is not an open invitation to snack on unhealthy simple sugars like candy. While some people may be able to have a few bites and get an energy burst, for other people it just results in an upset stomach.
Some snacks to consider bringing with you on competition day: banana, dried fruit, baby food, protein bars, granola bars, rice cakes.
While carbohydrates are the main priority on competition day (if you’re going to eat one thing only – pick carbs), we still want to make sure our bodies have sufficient protein to feed the muscles.
An easy way to get you protein is with breakfast. Again, something that your body is used to having.
As well, protein bars and shakes are easy and convenient options when you likely are dealing with low appetite (chicken sounds much LESS appealing on game day).
This is KEY!
Recovery during a competition is critical if you want to be able to attack more than one workout in a day.
RIGHT AFTER you finish a workout: drink water or Gatorade or Fit Aid, try to consume a simple sugar (baby food, part of a banana), move and stretch. While you will likely be tempted to just lay on the ground in pain, force yourself to move and stretch – this will get the blood flowing and reduce stiffness and soreness. Remember that you need to be limber for the next workout!
Overall, the key to feeling and performing your best is ensuring that your body has sufficient energy to last across multiple workouts. This means, you will need to plan ahead and wake up with enough time to have a good hearty breakfast because this may be the only real meal you can consume until the workouts are over.
Pay attention to your timings – if you only have 1 hour between workouts, have a quick simple carbohydrate (baby food or fruit) for instant energy. If you have 2+ hours between workouts, consider having a complete meal (chicken, rice, some veg.). Listen to your body MOST of the time. If you feel full, don’t stuff your face. But, if you’re feeling light-headed or lethargic with no appetite it is likely just the nerves and you need to eat! Again, something EASY to digest (simple carbs) will do the trick.