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5 Fueling Tips For Gymnasts Heading To Regionals

The end of the competition season comes along with lots of mixed feelings and emotions. After many long and grueling hours in the gym, I know you are SO ready to stop practicing the same routines over and over again, but you also can’t wait to show off for the judges one or two more times at the biggest meet of the season.


For many, a meet as big as regionals can bring up a lot of nerves, making it difficult to think straight. You’re feeling so overwhelmed and may be forgetting some of the habits and routines that helped with your success up to this point - your nutrition and fueling habits.


As you head into regionals week, let’s review some of the helpful tips we’ve discussed the past few months to really nail down your nutrition and have you feeling your best and most prepared going into the last few weeks of the season…


5 Fueling Tips For Gymnasts Heading To Regionals



Consistency is Key!


A great way to stay consistent while traveling for a big competition is to remember what your performance plates look like at home and try your best to replicate them when you’re out of town. Trying to keep your fueling routines as similar as possible will help prevent an upset stomach due to unfamiliar foods which will in turn give you the best foundation for optimal performance when it comes to competition day. If you eat oatmeal, eggs, and a fruit cup at breakfast before school each day, you should try to eat that same breakfast before your meet. If you feel like you need a little extra food in the morning because your report time is at 8am, you can add a muffin or toast to give yourself some extra carbohydrates and energy. Pack plenty of easy to grab snacks in your gym bag so that you can refuel every few hours throughout the duration of the meet. This will give you a huge advantage over your competitors if you are staying properly fueled and hydrated! 


Bottom line… 


Stick to what you know! This part of the season can be so overwhelming and you are looking for any edge that you can get, however, remember that you have worked hard all season to put these nutrition strategies in place for a reason! This is not the time to experiment with new fueling plans, but instead, hone in on your current routines (both in the gym and on your plate). 


Build Performance Plates on the Road:


A common theme you’ll hear with post practice or competition plates is carbs + protein! This meal is a time to celebrate and spend time with friends, so you shouldn’t have to compromise and not enjoy the meal you really want. Order a pasta dish with grilled chicken and a side of roasted veggies, or try a pizza loaded up with your favorite vegetables (My go to is a margherita pizza with extra tomatoes and add in some mushrooms and spinach). Another great meal that sneaks in some extra nutrients is to order nachos or tacos. Add in your favorite meat, 3-4 kinds of vegetables, some guacamole for healthy fats, and you’ve got yourself a winning combo! 


You shouldn’t have to feel deprived of your favorite foods when you’re spending time with friends and family after a long day! Understanding how to implement little changes to your performance plate and meet day eating habits is key to enjoying your meal and maximizing your recovery so that you are ready to hit the ground running with plenty of energy for your next practice. Don’t underestimate the power of nutrition for optimal recovery!


Stay Hydrated


Remember to drink plenty of water and utilize electrolyte drinks when needed to prevent dehydration and a longer recovery time (4-8oz for every hour in the car or airplane). Staying hydrated is important for nutrient delivery through the body and can help decrease your risk for injury. If your gymnast has a hard time drinking plain water, feel free to add in fruits to add a little extra flavor. Cucumber or lemon mixed in can be very refreshing after a long day of competition.  


Work With Your Nerves


So many gymnasts struggle to eat before a competition (especially one as important as regionals) as a result of nerves and pre-meet anxiety, and end up struggling with increased mental stress and poor performance as a result. Over the course of the competition season, just as you have done countless repetitions of your skills and routines, you have also spent months practicing your nutrition and likely are well aware of what types of foods, meals, and snacks you enjoy eating, sit well in your stomach, and keep you full and energized. By fueling with a familiar routine, you'll be better prepared to tackle pre-competition nerves (and it will feel it easier for you to eat when nerves are at their peak) and ensure your body has the energy it needs to shine on the competition floor. Choosing a balanced meal with a mix of low-to-moderate fiber carbohydrates and lean protein around 2-3 hours before the competition can help settle your stomach and feed your brain while ensuring you have the energy required for the demands of gymnastics. When dealing with a nervous stomach, look to limit foods that are too high in fat or fiber close to competition time, as they can cause discomfort and may take longer to digest. When nerves are running high, the thought of consuming a large meal may feel daunting and overwhelming. In such cases, incorporating low volume foods (like dried fruit, nuts, and seeds) or liquid fuel (like smoothies, protein drinks, milk, or juice) can be a game-changer. These options feel much easier to consume before a meet for many gymnasts and can still provide the necessary nutrients to support your performance.


The Bottom Line...


In the midst of pre-competition nerves, eating or drinking something is always going to be better than nothing. Even if you or your gymnast can only manage a small snack or a few bites of a meal, it's crucial to provide your body with the fuel it needs to perform at its best.



Prevent Hanger From Kicking in at the End of the Meet


The time in between finishing your final competitive routine and the end of the awards ceremony can feel like hours.  Even though most gymnasts wait until they sit down with their family to eat, it is crucial for recovery to eat within an hour after competition concludes (not after the awards ceremony!) - this is sometimes referred to as the first recovery window or “Power Hour.” During this first hour after a workout, your gymnast’s body is deprived of energy and nutrients and is extremely exhausted from the nerves and effort exerted during competition. This is a critical time period to take advantage of recovery nutrition and consume carbohydrates to replenish those glycogen stores (aka the energy) and pair it with protein to help muscle fibers recover. While your gymnast doesn’t necessarily need an entire meal immediately after competition (although that would be nice - just not always realistic), they can train for success by having a recovery snack during the awards ceremony to tide them over until you can make it out for a full meal. 


It is important that this awards time snack is rich in both carbohydrates and protein, before heading out for a celebratory meal. This can help both curb the ravenous hunger (or emotional roller coaster) that is often follows (we’ve all been there) AND will help a gymnast’s body begin the recovery process! Some of my favorite awards time snacks for gymnasts include:

  • Chocolate milk

  • Trail mix

  • Apple slices and peanut butter

  • Cheese and crackers

  • Pairing their favorite candy-gram with any high-protein snack



Bonus Tip: Plan Ahead!


Oftentimes, your state, regional and national meets will require overnight travel and a hotel stay. As soon as you book a hotel, scope out the area to get some ideas for easy meals to stay consistent with your fueling habits. If there aren’t many viable options for food, pack a cooler and hit up the local grocery store so that you can eat familiar foods before the meet and reduce the risk of discomfort. 


The end of the season can be extremely stressful and you will often overlook the importance of some of these little habits you’ve built all season long.


When you skip meals, avoid foods, and don't make performance 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. It's not too late to get your nutrition sorted out and see major improvements at the biggest meets of the season!


The Fueled Gymnast Academy is the is the simplest way for busy gymnast (and those who feed them) to learn the ins and outs of fueling their body as a high level gymnast so they can


  • have more energy, reduce the risk of injury, and perform their best

AND

  • feel confident and empowered to make their own food choices (and not just have someone tell them what they have to eat)





Fueling your body doesn't have to be a guessing game. And you don't have to figure it out on your own.

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