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5 Reasons Your Energy Suffers During Gymnastics Practice and How to Boost It

Are you constantly feeling exhausted during gymnastics practice?


You're not alone. Many high-level gymnasts face the challenge of maintaining energy levels throughout the day and especially during their workouts due to their demanding schedules. With school, gym time, travel for meets, and various responsibilities, it can seem like there's never enough time in the day.


However, feeling tired all the time can take a toll on your performance and overall well-being.


The good news is, it doesn't have to be this way! In this post, we'll explore five common reasons why your energy levels might be low during practice and provide actionable solutions to help you stay energized and perform at your best.



5 Reasons Your Energy Suffers During Gymnastics Practice and How to Boost It


1. Inadequate Pre-Workout Nutrition:



To excel in the gym, you need to start with a full tank of energy. This begins with a proper pre-workout meal. Your choice of most optimal pre-workout nutrition depends on your practice time. For afternoon or evening sessions, maintaining a regular meal schedule throughout the day is essential to ensure you have enough energy for your practice. For morning practices, breakfast becomes crucial. Focus on balanced meals and snacks with an emphasis on starchy foods, fruits, and a bit of protein.


Here are some pre-workout meal and snack ideas to consider:

  • Cheese board (cheese, fruit, crackers)

  • Rice or grain bowl

  • Greek yogurt parfait

  • Cereal or oatmeal with fruit

  • Trail mix (nuts, granola/cereal, dried fruit)

  • Protein power pack with pretzels

  • Turkey or PBJ sandwich or wrap

  • Fresh fruit with nut butter

For snacks within an hour of training, opt for quick carbs.


Here are some quick pre-workout snack ideas to consider:

  • Fresh fruit like a banana, kiwi, melon, berries, peaches, mango

  • Dried and freeze dried fruit

  • Applesauce

  • Dried cereal

  • Pretzels

  • Crackers

  • Fig, oat, or granola bars


2. Neglecting Mid-Practice Snacks:

Intense gymnastic workouts demand continuous fueling. Your body relies on readily available energy (in the form of circulating blood glucose aka sugar) and stored energy (in muscles and liver) to perform at its best. Even well-trained, well-fueled athletes experience energy and performance drops after 60-90 minutes of training. To combat this, incorporate mid-practice snacks filled with simple carbohydrates, which your body can digest quickly after about 90-120 minutes for practices lasting 3 hours, and again at the 3 hour mark for practice that are 4 hours long.


Here are some mid-workout snack ideas to keep your energy high:

  • Mini bagel

  • Oat bars, fig bars, granola bars

  • Crackers (e.g., baked goldfish, animal crackers, graham crackers)

  • Pretzel sticks

  • Mini muffins

  • Granola bites or bars

  • Dry cereal

  • Fruit leather

  • 100% fruit juice or fruit popsicles

  • Applesauce or GoGo Squeeze

  • Dried fruit or freeze-dried fruit

  • Fruit cup

  • Fresh fruit (berries, grapes, melon)

For practices lasting 4+ hours with more of meal break, focus on a modified high intensity performance plate with starches, fruit, and easily digestible protein.


Here are some mid-workout meal ideas to keep your energy high and stomach feeling good:

  • A pbj sandwich with fruit

  • A turkey or chicken wrap with fruit

  • Burrito bowl with rice chicken, salsa, and veggies

  • Bowl of pasta with meatballs and a side of fruit

  • Pasta salad with grapes and chocolate milk


3. Missing the Recovery Window:

Recovery nutrition plays a critical role in restoring your energy, repairing muscles, and replenishing fluids. There are two optimal windows for recovery nutrition: within 0-60 minutes post-practice and 1-3 hours afterward. During this time, the body optimizes its ability to replenish it’s energy stores, begin muscle and tissue recovery and repair, and replenish fluids and restore the fluid-electrolyte balance lost through sweat.


A recovery snack may be needed if it is not feasible to eat a recovery meal within an hour of practice ending (like if practice ends between meals, you have a long drive home, or you aren't going straight home to eat), and should consist of approximately 75% carbohydrates (from grains and fruit) and 25% protein. For more specific portion, this recovery snack should include approximately:

  • 1.2-1.5g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight

  • 4-.5g of protein per kg of body weight


Here are some recovery snack ideas to consider:

  • Chocolate milk

  • String cheese with fruit and crackers

  • Greek yogurt parfait

  • PBJ or turkey and cheese sandwich/wrap

  • Trail mix (nuts, granola/cereal, dried fruit)

  • Protein power pack with pretzels

  • Fruit with nut butter

  • Pasta salad

  • Oat, fruit, and nut bars

  • Protein muffins

  • Protein bars or bites

Within 1-3 hours of practice ending refuel with a balanced plate according to your Athlete's Plate. To help maximize recovery, look to include foods with the following nutrients in your recovery meal:

  • Grains & Starches to refill energy stores

  • Protein to promote muscle building and tissue repair

  • Foods rich in Omega-3s / Unsaturated Fats which promote recovery and help reduce inflammation

  • Foods with Vitamins A & C which help aid in the recovery process

  • Foods with Anthocyanins promote recovery and help reduce inflammation

A few of my favorite recovery meals for gymnasts include:

  • Grilled Salmon, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Broccoli

  • Turkey and Cheese Sandwich (on whole grain bread with lettuce, tomato, and avocado) with a side of mixed berries

  • Cherry Smoothie (with cherries, strawberries, Greek yogurt, oats, chia seeds)

  • Burrito Bowl (brown rice, lean ground beef, peppers, red onions, salsa, corn, guacamole, lettuce, purple cabbage, and cheese)

  • Spaghetti, grilled chicken, and sauce, with a side salad

When you refuel during this window, your body is more likely to prioritize recovery, be more prepared to train again the next day, prevent injuries, and your body is more likely to grow and adapt from your workout, meaning you will build strength, endurance, and muscle memory for skills in the gym.


4. Dehydration Impact:

Proper hydration is essential for optimal performance and energy levels. Hydration means providing the body with enough fluid, as water is necessary for every system in the body. If you are dehydrated this means that the body does not have enough fluid to do all of these functions.



Hydration status can have a major impact on energy and performance in the gym. Being dehydrated can lead to:

  • Fatigue and drop in energy

  • Muscle cramps and muscle fatigue

  • Decreased endurance

  • Trouble focusing

  • Slowed reaction time


Dehydration can lead to fatigue, muscle cramps, decreased endurance, and reduced focus.


Gymnasts should aim to drink at least 0.4-0.6 ounces of liquid per pound of body weight daily and an additional 8-16oz per hour during practice AND 16-24oz after practice. To improve hydration status and improve your energy, make sure you're replenishing not just water but also electrolytes like sodium, potassium, chloride, and calcium through food, electrolyte products, and sports drinks.


Stay hydrated by following these tips:

  • Drink with every meal and snack.

  • Carry a water bottle and sip throughout the day.

  • Hydrate before and after practice.

  • Consider electrolyte and sports drinks when needed.

5. Prioritize Sleep:

Getting enough sleep is crucial for daily recovery and performance. Gymnasts of all ages require adequate sleep to function at their best. Lack of sleep can result in feeling tired, sluggish, and can even increase the risk of injury.


Here are recommended sleep durations for different age groups:

  • 6-12 years old: 9-12 hours per night

  • 13-18 years old: 8-10 hours per night

  • 18+ years old: 8+ hours per night

Improve your sleep habits by creating a sleep schedule that you can stick to, and incorporate short naps when necessary. Prioritize sleep by developing a bedtime routine that promotes relaxation and restful sleep.


 

To excel in the sport of gymnastics, maintaining high energy levels is essential. By addressing these five common reasons for low energy during practice and implementing the recommended solutions, you can optimize your performance, prevent injuries, and achieve your gymnastic goals. Prioritize your nutrition, hydration, recovery, and sleep, and watch your energy levels soar, helping you become the best gymnast you can be!


If you're ready to take your gymnastics performance to the next level with expert guidance on nutrition and injury prevention, consider working with a registered dietitian. Applications are open for both my 1-on-1 coaching programs as well as The Fueled Gymnast Academy.

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