Competition nutrition (what you eat before during and after competition) is distinct to your day to day nutrition to support your training. Day to day nutrition is focused on long term health and adaptation to your training, and so long term performance. Competition nutrition is focussed on what you need to perform to your current best right now, i.e. acute performance. And these require slightly different things!
Here is a 101 of competition nutrition, for high intensity or repeat performance sports.
This includes CrossFit competitions, combat sports, and team sports.
The Three No’s: Fat, Fibre, Spice
These are slow digesting and if they are sitting in your gut during the competition they may cause stomach issues and reduce performance.
Depending on your gut, you may need to reduce them from anywhere between 24-72 hours prior to competition (test and find what works best for you).
Fibre: use white ‘processed’ carbohydrates rather than wholegrain (e.g. white rice and pasta), avoid raw vegetables, and fruits and vegetables with skin and seeds.
Fats: focus on leaner proteins (less than 10g fat per 100g), and reduce or eliminate oils, butters, nuts and seeds.
Remember fats and fibre are needed for long term health, so do reintroduce them post competition. Depending on your gut, you may need to reintroduce fibre gradually over 24-48 hours to avoid stomach issues. Begin with cooked fibres in vegetables and wholegrains, before adding raw and more tough fibres.
Carbs, carbs, carbs & protein
Typically, in competition we aim for:
6-10g/kg bodyweight carbs per day
1-2g/kg bodyweight protein per day
Carbohydrates are the only fuel for the highest intensity exercise. Therefore to maximise performance across an extended period, ensure your muscles and liver are maximally fuelled with carbohydrates heading into the competition, and keep topped up by consuming carbohydrates across the competition.
The fitter you are and the longer and more intense the event(s), the more likely you are going to need the upper end of the ranges indicated across. Start this intake 36-48 hours prior to competition.
During competition focus on fast digesting protein and carbohydrates, to minimise food digesting in the gut during the event(s) themselves.
· White bread
· Ripe bananas
· Jelly sweets
· Coco pops, frosties, cornflakes, rice crispies and other low fibre cereals
· Rice crispie squares
· Honey, jam, biscoff spread
· Lucozade sport or equivalent (still, and not ‘lite’ … we need the sugar!)
· Coconut water
· Cooked lean meats and fish (<5g fat per 100g)
· Fat free dairy
· Protein powders
This means water AND salt. Like oil in the car, we need hydration to function! And this means water + salts. In exercise we lose both in sweat, and use up both in getting our body to work in exercise!
Consume water with electrolytes, coconut water or cow’s milk for drinks that have both water and salts (electrolytes). Or, drink water and salt food.
Aim for pee that is light straw coloured IF you are consuming salt / electrolytes in your drinks or food. Light coloured pee in the absence of salt / electrolyte intake can just be your body peeing out the water you drink as it does not have enough salt to hold it in!
There are some supplements that may benefit acute performance during competition. Namely, caffeine, omega 3’s, and maybe certain other antioxidants!
Caffeine: Read about caffeine here
Omega 3s: Essential in appropriate inflammation, supporting repair and recovery. During competition, 1g EPA+DHA daily may be beneficial.
Other antioxidants: these should be assessed on a case by case basis. Get in touch to chat!
Most important of all ... don't try anything new on competition day!! The above are general guidelines, but everyone is different. What is theoretically 'ideal' may not suit you at all. So make sure you try out your competition nutrition strategy on a tough training day and make sure it will work for you!