What to Eat Before, During and After a Competition
Preparation is key to making sure young athletes are adequately fuelled for competitions and tournaments where they have more than one event in the same day. When competition is fierce, taking some time out in the build-up to a big event could be the key difference between gold and silver. Follow these simple steps below to maximise your performance and make all the hard work and training pay off on the big day.
What to Eat the Day Before
Eating well balanced and nutritious meals is essential in the build-up to games and competitions for young athletes.
- Keep it simple and stick to what you know - there’s nothing worse than an upset stomach the day before a competition.
- Focus on complex carbohydrates sources in every meal to maximise energy stores.
- Hydration is essential – carry a water bottle and drink plenty throughout the day to avoid dehydration.
- Eat small meals every 2-4 hours to maximise fuelling. Big meals the night before can leave athletes feeling sluggish the next day.
What to Eat On The Day
Timing is key. Your pre-event meal should be eaten 2-4 hours before your first event to give your body time to digest. If you’ve got an early morning start and won’t have time for a full breakfast, then go for a carbohydrate-rich snack or light meal instead.
- Aim for comfortably full, not stuffed.
- Pre-event ideas: bowl of cereal with milk, toast with honey, a banana, yoghurt and dried fruit.
- Too nervous to eat? Try a fruit smoothie instead.
- Start hydrating as soon as you wake up - sip on 500ml of water or diluted fruit juice or squash in the hours before.
What Should I Eat Between Events?
If you’ve got multiple events in the same day, then fuelling between is essential to maintain your stamina and energy. Find out your start times and plan your snacks around that. Choose a light meal if you have a longer lunch break, or stick to snacks if time is limited.
- Keep drinking throughout the day - sports drinks or fruit squash will keep you hydrated and give you the energy boost you need.
- Have a snack as soon as you finish your first event - remember to leave enough time for this to digest before you compete again.
- Pasta, rice, sandwiches, wraps and rolls are great options for a light lunch
- Don’t try anything new on competition day and don’t rely on the canteen!
What Should I Eat After A Competition?
Whether you’ve got another day of competition the following day or not, recovery is key. Refuelling and rehydrating are essential to prepare your body for the next training session or competition and to reduce the risk of illness or injury.
- Drink 500ml of fluids within the first 30 minutes of your event. Isotonic solutions are a must if you’re dehydrated.
- If you’ve got an event the next day then consuming a high carbohydrate and protein snack within 30 minutes will kick-start recovery, top-up your energy stores and replenish tired muscles.
- Eat a nutritious meal high in protein and carbohydrates within 60-90 minutes of finishing the event for optimum recovery.
And remember - come prepared!
Bean, A. (2010). Anita Bean's sports nutrition for young athletes. London: Bloomsbury.