Updated: Nov 1, 2022
As a high-level gymnast, competition season is easily the most intense time of your year. You are training more:
More high-level skills
More hard landings
More hours in the gym
More days in the gym
Competitions on top of all these practice hours And with more training leaves less time for rest and recovery.
I know you are under a ton of pressure to perform your best. You have big goals for yourself. You have to live up to your coach's expectations. You want to make your parents proud.
And you've also got a lot on your plate. You're trying to do well in school, balance extra-curricular activities, on top of training 20+ hours a week. You've got family expectations. And you're trying to still have some sort of semblance of a social life.
I bet you're starting to feel it...
You're stressed. You're exhausted. You're starting to feel burnt out. And everything hurts.
Having a successful and healthy season doesn't just mean doing more. It means being smart with what you are doing -- prioritizing your recovery, especially how you fuel your body.
All of those extra routines, extra turns, extra hard landings add up, and they all require extra energy for your body. When preparing for a meet, gymnasts should actually be eating more! More food, more carbs, more fruits and vegetables!
But, did you know that 3 out of 4 high-level gymnasts are under-fueled during competition season?
And let me tell you -- heading into the competition season under-fueled will not lead you to the competitive success you are hoping for.
5 Reasons Why You Wont Compete Your Best Under-Fueled This Season
1. You Have Low Energy At Practice
You need as much energy as possible to take quality turns and complete your assignments at practice. You need energy to power through that 3rd tumbling pass or put your dismount to your feet. You need energy to condition and do your cardio to maintain and build strength and endurance.
If you constantly feel tired during practice there's no way you can expect to be at your best.
You're struggling through your skills. You're having a hard time getting through routines and assignments. You see your teammates running laps around you (literally). Being under-fueled means your body is constantly trying to conserve energy (instead of having an extra boost when you truly need it), and as a result, things slow down (and some "functions" even turn off). If your body is under-fueled for practice, it's hard to expect yourself to be successful.
2. You're Always Sore
While training for competition season is hard, it's even harder if your body is constantly sore. How can you expect to get better at tumbling or vault if your legs constantly feel like jell-o? Or become a better bar swinger if your hands always hurt? Recovering from practice means eating enough, including enough recovery nutrients, and incorporating enough carbs and protein after practice. And if you're under-fueled, your body can't prioritize these nutrients for recovery (survival always comes first).
3. You Have Trouble Focusing
Your brain needs adequate energy (especially from carbs like grains and fruits) to function properly! If you’re not eating enough (and enough of the right foods), your brain wont work right. You need (at minimum) 120g of carbs for your brain to get the fuel it needs (and that's before the carb demands of a 4 hour practice and recovery). It's hard to be at your best if you can't focus on your routines or make adjustments.
4. You're More Likely To Be Sick and Injured
Your immune system, your bone health, your ligament, tendon, and muscle health all require the building blocks from food to form and stay strong. Without eating enough food, your body has to prioritize survival (aka keeping your heart beating, lungs breathing, brain functioning) first and is more likely to break down (or break down more quickly) from the increased demands of competition season.
5. You'll Get Passed By The Competition
When you're not focusing on fueling, you're leaving points on the competition floor. We've already discussed how showing up fatigued, tired, sore, and with a lack of focus will impact your performance. This is true not just in practice, but come meet day too. But want to know what else these things can lead to...DEDUCTIONS!
Falls because of tired legs or limited endurance...DEDUCTIONS!
Lack of power...DEDUCTIONS!
Lack of height...DEDUCTIONS!
Pausing to catch your breath (more than 2 seconds)...DEDUCTIONS!
Too tired to perform your choreography (aka lack of expression)...DEDUCTIONS!
And guess what, your competition is focusing on their nutrition. And if they're fueled at 100% walking onto the competition floor, they're not giving the judges the opportunity to put their pencils to paper.
And I know you're hesitant to add another thing to your plate (literally and figuratively). How are you supposed to balance even more?
Remember, nutrition is not something you have to figure out on your own! As a Registered Dietitian, I can help you feel more confident with your fueling plan and learn to fuel success! Are you curious about how working together could improve your performance in the gym? I have a few ways that gymnasts can work with me. Fill out my short application and see if you're a good fit!