Pre-Competition Nutrition Requirement
For the pre-competition meal, we will be considering the last meal that is at least 3-4 hours immediately preceding the competition. This includes breakfast for a late morning or early afternoon competition, lunch for a late afternoon or early evening competition, and supper for a late evening or early morning competition.
The reason this meal should be eaten at least 3 – 4 hours before competition is that you want to go into competition with your fuel tank full but your stomach empty. You want your blood flow to be going to the muscles not the gut. Snack and hydration in the hour or two preceding the competition (which includes breakfast for an early-morning competition) will be covered in the section on competition/game day.
First of all, it is important to remember what you eat throughout the week preceding the event is important to ensure adequate energy stores when you start your competition.
You need to consume an adequate amount of carbohydrates, calories, proteins and fats all week long — in the ratios mentioned above– for the type of sport you participate in.
You can’t eat garbage all week long and then eat a stack of pancakes on Saturday morning and be set for a Saturday afternoon competition. Your body doesn’t replenish its stores of carbohydrates that fast.
What your body is using on Saturday is dependent on what you put in it the week before.
One good pre-competition meal is not going to make you, but one bad pre-competition meal can break you. For the last meal (pre-competition), it is important to avoid unfamiliar foods. You don’t want to find out the hard way that “suicidal chicken wings” brings on diarrhea while you’re competing. The resultant loss of minerals, fluids, as well as concentration could be disastrous!
Similarly, for a marathon runner or triathlete, a steak the night before a race is too hard to digest and you will be sicker than a dog during the race. (I’ve seen this happen to an inexperienced competitor in the Iron Man.)
Guidelines for Pre-Competition Meal:
- 400 – 600 Calories
- 60% – 70% Carbohydrates = 68 – 103 grams
- 15% – 20% Protein = 15 – 23 grams
- 15% Fat = 7 grams
This is pretty close to what I recommend above for a sprinter’s diet.
In this case, the ratio of grams of carbohydrate to protein is 4.4:1 and the ratio of grams of fat to protein of 0.5: 1.
The carbohydrates should be low glycemic index (glycemic index less than 55, and glycemic load less than 10) such as pasta or cooked pearl barley, fresh fruits and berries (apples, oranges, peaches, pears, strawberries), dried fruits (apricots), cooked vegetables (vegetable soup), and salad.
Short grain rice, rice crackers, puffed rice cakes, potatoes (esp. mashed or baked) or potato chips, twinkies, jelly beans, corn flakes, raisins, watermelon and white bread. Chocolate, in small quantities is permitted, as are nuts in small quantities (peanuts, almonds).
The proteins should be in an easily-digestible form such as low-fat milk or yogurt (including fruit yogurt).
The fat should be unsaturated, such as a small serving of peanuts (14 peanuts = 7 grams of fat).
You can look up the “Glycemic Index” and “Glycemic Load” for any food at the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition web site, which you can access Here.
Learn more about Competition: Game Day Requirements.