Pre Competition Diet
What Should an Athlete Eat Before Competition?
PRE COMPETITION EATING
The ingestion of food just prior to competing will not benefit physical performance in most events. However, the fact remains that athletes will perform better if they have eaten prior to competition - rather than competing in a fasting state.
Guidelines for a pre competition meal:
- Plan for the stomach to be relatively empty at the time of starting competition
- Avoid gastrointestinal upset (make sure the athlete doesn’t eat things that irritate or upset the stomach)
- Aim for the athlete not to feel hungry when competing
- The athlete should eat to avoid feeling light headed, or becoming fatigued
- Provide an adequate supply of energy foods (mostly through carbohydrate because it’s energy is more accessible than fat or protein)
- Provide adequate water (It is generally best to drink water rather than other fluids like coffee). Fluids can generally be consumed up to about half an hour before competition – although athletes will generally know their bodies best, and may be able to go shorter/longer
- Keep the food low in fat and fibre, so that the stomach will empty promptly
- Do not give the athlete anything they are unfamiliar with – give them something they have eaten before, so that they feel comfortable
- Avoid foods likely to cause stomach upsets such as beans, spices, garlic, onions, brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower etc) and capsicum
- In general, athletes can eat a full meal 3-4 hours before competition. This will vary with the individual – the athlete will generally be the best judge of when to eat a final meal. The idea is that the stomach is reasonably empty, yet the athlete is not hungry
- Do not allow the athlete to over eat
- Avoid foods that dehydrate – coffee, alcohol, etc
- High sugar foods can delay gastric emptying and may also upset the stomach – for example lots of fructose at once can cause diarrhoea. High sugar levels can later lead to a big drop in blood sugar levels – athletes should exercise caution, and use their past experience as a guide.
Learn More about Nutrition for the Athlete.
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