Challenges on your travels come in all shapes and sizes when it comes to nutrition. Knowing how to tackle problems such as having restricted (or maybe too many) choices, or a schedule that makes it difficult to imagine how eating quality food is possible. It is all possible, and it could be the difference between first and second place.
The Day Before
Prepare your kit bag and run through your schedule for the day or weekend. Make a point of buying some snacks ready and packing them in your bag. Take advantage of Tupperware and pack some of your own snacks ready. Non-perishable foods are crucial – nobody wants an ‘off’ piece of fruit or squishy pasta – and cool bags help, too.
On the Day
Here are some ideas for nutrition on the day, try to think of snacks and meals that serve performance purpose. Carbohydrates fire you up with energy, and protein stimulates growth and adaptation:
- Fruit and veg: apples, bananas, oranges, pomegranate seeds, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks and houmous dips – these can be kept whole, or you can chop them up in the morning, so they stay fresh
- Cereal bars: Nakd bars (a fruity hit), Alpen bars, fruit and nut mixes
- Homemade heroes: fruity flapjacks, chicken and tomato pasta ‘pots’ using Tupperware boxes, mini tortilla wraps filled with tuna salad
Making the Right Choices
Some days, not everything might go to plan. Knowing what to do in this situation will set you apart from others and help you stay on track for your best performance. If you are stuck with a small café with limited options, or a local express shop, the same principles apply. Carbohydrate fires you up, protein builds you up. Try to make the best of the following:
- Cafes: these often offer panini's, sandwiches, jacket potatoes etc. An appropriate option might be a jacket potato with tuna mayo (light if possible) or a ham salad sandwich.
- Shops: meal deals offer something similar, but generally sandwiches. Pasta pots may be available and fruit as snacks.
Top Ten Pointers:
1. Plan Ahead - Do not go to a competition or meet without a cooler filled with healthy snack options
2. Ensure Sufficient Energy Storage in Advance - 1 to 2 days before the meet add in 1 to 2 additional servings of carbohydrate, protein and poly/mono saturated fats. This aims to slightly increase glycogen and protein storage alongside minimising inflammation.
3. 24hours Before - Keep it nice and simple! Small, frequent meals and nothing new or different. Avoid spicy food or anything that can irritate your gut. We want 100% of your focus on your event!
4. Nutrient Timing is Important - Try to get a balanced mini meal 2-4hours before your event or warm-up. Aim to include small sources of complex carbs, lean protein, moderate healthy fats and some sodium. (Porridge is a great example and balances nicely as is beans on toast).
5. Stay Hydrated - Starting as soon as you wake up! Always be sipping water from your water bottle, paying close attention to the immediate period before, during and after your event.
Tip: Use Mineral water as this contains essential electrolytes necessary for muscle contraction (sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium and calcium). You can also make your own at home using 1/4 lemon and a tiny pinch of sea salt added to your water bottle.
6. Fuel during the Meet - Intake a energy boosting snack 15-30mins before your event. A good example is eating 1/2 of 1 banana or cereal bar.
7. Liquids are also a great source of instant energy and protein after your event. Examples include Chocolate Milk, Yoghurt or a Smoothie. You can also use 1 scoop of PROTEEN® following your event as this contains all the necessary macro and micro nutrients, fine tuned to optimise recovery.
Don’t forget to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated throughout the day. A few things to think about are:
- Competitions may be a lot less intense than training. Don’t overeat. Eat smartly and match your needs
- Don’t panic eat – nobody wants an upset stomach to harm your performance
- Don’t try anything new on competition day, try new thigs in training first
Perfecting your recovery is crucial. Have a plan – prior preparation is key. If you’re nervous, use fluids like milk and smoothies to help, these will digest quickly and shouldn’t sit in your stomach. Eat more AFTER you race rather than before. Try to have your biggest meal afterwards with enough carbohydrates providing vitamins and minerals, and high-quality protein (lean meats, fish, dairy etc) and you’ll nail it. Happy eating!
British Swimming – Eating at Competition (PDF Resource)
Burke, L. et al. (2011). Carbohydrates for training and competition. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29, 17-27.
Thomas, T, Erdman, K, & Burke, L (2016). American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 48 (3), 543-68.
Desbrow, B., Mccormack, J., Burke, L., Cox, G., Fallon, K., Hislop, M., ... Leveritt, M. (2014). Sports Dietitians Australia position statement: Sports nutrition for the adolescent athlete. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 24(5), 570-84.