Competing successfully as a high level gymnast requires not only months of practice, but also strategic nutrition to ensure you have the energy, power, and endurance needed to perform at your best.
Gymnasts require a TON of energy on competition day. And while meals before the competition are key components to fueling and recovery, that is often not enough for a high energy-burning gymnast to make it through a long competition day successfully! This is why snacks, and especially mid-competition snacks, are so important to fuel your body properly.
In this blog post, we'll explore the best snacks to pack for a gymnastics competition, specifically focusing on what to eat at report time, during the competition, and after the final event is over.
Meet Day Snack #1: Report Time
At this point in your day, you've hopefully had adequate fueling meals and snacks leading up to the competition. As you arrive at your competition, get your number, check out the merch and the arena, report time is the perfect opportunity to give your body a last-minute energy boost. Around report time, try eating a simple snacks that is easily digestible and high-energy carbohydrates to give you lots of energy. Here are some optimal options to consider:
Granola bar/bites, breakfast bar, or fig bar
Fruit (fresh fruit, fruit cup, sauce or squeeze pouch, dried fruit, fruit strips/leather, etc.)
Pretzels or crackers
Meet Day Snack #2: During The Competition
Gymnastics competitions can be long. And while it may appear that a gymnast is doing less than at a typic practice, the fast pace and high intensity is enough to leave a gymnast gassed out and struggling by the last event. Maintaining enough energy throughout the competition is vital for consistent performance and can even help keep the judges' pens off that paper. Consider eating a simple, easy-to-eat snacks that provide a quick carbohydrate energy boost mid-meet (around event 2 for WAG and events 2 and 4 for MAG) . Here are some snack ideas to keep you energized:
Applesauce and squeeze pouches
Pretzels and crackers
Granola bar/bites, breakfast bar, or fig bar
Dried fruit, fruit strips/leather,
Fruit snacks and other quick gummy candy
Sports drinks (with full sugar)
Meet Day Snack #3: Awards
Competitions can be so long. And for many gymnasts, no matter how well you performed, how much you like the restaurant you're at, and how nice your parents are being to you, they're just in a terrible mood (or as many people refer to it as hanger). Even worse, these gymnasts often just feel awful in the days after the competition (so sore and tired).
In order to start the recovery process after an intense competition (refill empty energy stores and repair any "damage" done from hard landings, muscle use, and overall stress), and avoid the post-meet hanger, the body needs building blocks, ASAP!
When it comes to maximizing your recovery after a competition, it is ideal to eat within what is known as the "recovery window", or the time after exercise when the body is most efficiently and effectively prioritizing recovery. There are two recovery windows: 0-1 hour post exercise and 2-3 hours post-exercise. In an ideal world, you would refuel with a balanced, high-intensity plate within an hour of finishing your final routine. However, on meet day, that is highly unlikely to happen.
At a minimum, it is important to eat a simple snack with carbs and protein within 1 hour of finishing the competition (and that clock starts ticking from when you salute after your last event, not after waiting an hour for awards to finally finish...).
As a registered dietitian for competitive gymnasts, I always recommend a gymnast comes prepared with an "awards" snack - something to help refuel and start the recovery process. Some easy examples gym bag ready awards snacks include:
Shelf Stable chocolate milk box (like Horizon)
Pumpkin Seeds + Goldfish
Raisins + Jerky
Eating that awards snack will not only help jumpstart your recovery, but will also give you a little more time before the hanger comes roaring in.
Fueling your body effectively during a gymnastics competition is essential for optimal performance. Packing enough snacks that are high in carbohydrates for report time and during the competition, as well as a recovery snack with carbohydrates with protein for awards will ensure you have the energy, stamina, and recovery support you need. Experiment with different options during training to find what works best for your individual needs. By prioritizing strategic performance nutrition strategies, you'll be better equipped to conquer the competition with energy, power, and confidence.
When you skip meals and snacks, avoid eating, 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 this 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
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.