Even When Your First Meet Is Still Months Away...
While it may still seem so far off, for most high level gymnasts, meet season is only a few short weeks away! In the gym, I know how hard you're working to get ready.
You're dialing in those landings.
You're perfecting your combinations and parts.
You're starting full routines.
In the gym, you know it takes months to feel prepared for that first meet. You wouldn't just attempt your first full routine the night before or choreograph your routine in the car on the way there...would you?
So why should your fueling routine be any different?...
So often, I have gymnasts and parents reaching out to me as a Registered Dietitian, asking me the day before a meet what they should eat for dinner (or breakfast, or lunch) before their meet.
Don't you think it's a little late to be trying something new?
How do you know what's going to give you the best energy? Or feel the best in your stomach?
Don't you wish you'd have practiced this routine, so you could be confident that you'll be walking into that meet feeling your absolute best?
The time to dial in your meet day nutrition is not the day of the meet. Not the night before. And not even the week before...
The time to figure out your competition fueling is NOW!
So how can you start preparing for meet day today?
1. Practice Eating Breakfast
I remember as a gymnast, nothing was worse than seeing your meet schedule filled with 8am report times. This is tough if you're not a morning person, and especially tough if you're not an early morning eater.
But, how can you expect to compete your best if you show up on an empty stomach or with a stomach ache because you tried to force down food that your stomach wasn't prepared to handle? Eating breakfast early in the morning takes practice. So why not start now?
Each day you wake up early for school, gym, or another commitment is another opportunity to practice your meet day breakfast. If eating breakfast is challenging for you:
If you're not used to eating anything in the morning at all, start slow and start small. Don't feel like you need to all of a sudden start eating a full plate of food first thing in the morning. Think of adding one easy food or drink option first. If this is really challenging, try adding a low-volume food like juice, a smoothie, or dried fruit. Remember, eating something is always better than nothing! As this gets easier and you hopefully start to feel hungrier in the morning, add more (either a larger portion or a second food group) until you've got a balanced plate!
2. Solidify Your Pre-Workout Fueling
So many gymnasts I talk to are hesitant to eat before gymnastics. Between an anxious stomach, nerves, travel, and wanting to look your best in your leo, you've got 1000 reasons let food go by the wayside. But, it is still important to fuel your body before gymnastics in order to be able to perform your best from warm up all the way through the last event.
It takes time to figure out what foods feel best in your stomach and give you the best energy for gymnastics. Similar to breakfast, every time you eat before gymnastics practice, you are also practicing your pre-meet fueling strategy. So, start learning now what works best for you!
3. Get Comfortable With Your Athlete's Plate
One of the easiest ways to make sure you are fueling your body with enough and enough of the right foods is to use the "Athlete's Plate". This means building your meals and snacks with foods from all of the different food groups, including grains and starches, protein and dairy, fruits and veggies, as well as foods with fats.
For most gymnasts, the "moderate intensity" plate is your baseline, and is perfect for days with practices that are 2-4 hours long, as well as recovery days in between practices. On your plate, each of the 3 main food categories - grains and starches, fruits and veggies, and protein and dairy - all take up equal 1/3 proportions. If you are especially hungry, you may also need to increase your portions of all types of foods to make sure you are getting enough energy to keep up.
As training days intensify and meet week approaches, all you'll need to do is adjust your plate. Most gymnasts during competition season need to be fueling with a "high-intensity" plate. This plate has the largest section from starches (1/2 the plate). Starchy foods (like bread, rice, pasta, etc.) are going to give you the most energy bang for your buck out of all of the foods with carbohydrates (more than fruits and especially more than vegetables). By increasing this section gradually as competition season nears, you can easily keep up your energy and prioritize recovery!
4. Nail Down Your Hydration
If you've ever felt dehydrated before, you know it makes it very hard to be at your best. And as your training becomes more intense, it's likely that you need more fluids to stay hydrated. Be sure to carry your cup or bottle of water with you at school, in the car, and of course to the gym, so you can sip all day long! About 1 hour before practice try to drink 16 ounces of water or an electrolyte drink. While doing gymnastics, continue drinking 8-16oz of water or electrolyte drink for every hour you are in the gym (and think about adding carbs either in food or drink form starting at hour 2). And drink another 16-24oz of water after to help you rehydrate. Nailing down your hydration will make it feel a lot less overwhelming when you need to drink before and during competitions!
When you wait until the day (or week) before a competition to make fueling a priority, you can't expect your body to be at its best come competition time. It's not just about giving 100% when you're in the gym, but also making what you do outside of the gym a priority. If you're ready to see what having a fueling strategy can do for you, then you need to grab a spot inside The Fueled Gymnast Academy, my signature small group program designed for competitive gymnasts and their families ready to learn how to fuel their body and maximize their potential with live accountability + community support!
It's not too late to get your nutrition sorted out and see major improvements this season! Apply now! Spots are limited!