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Fueling for Competition Season: What You Need To Know.

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 repetitions, more hard landings.

Competition season usually means you are training more. 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.

And by mid-season, 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 training harder. It also means prioritizing your recovery, especially how you fuel your body.

Did you know that your nutrition needs change during season?

Did you know that 3 out of 4 high-level gymnasts are under-fueled during competition season?

And when you are under-fueled, you are putting yourself at risk for poor performance and injuries?

I surely did not...

I remember during my last level 10 competition season. It was long. It started in August (I competed for my high-school) and went straight through April at Regionals. I wanted to make this last club season the best. I had big goals. I wanted to make Nationals so badly.

From August - November, I was training 6 hours a day (on top of school, AP classes, NHS, choir, and volunteering). JO season had me in the gym 6 or 7 days of the week.

By March, my body was done. I had to significantly cut back my numbers in the gym. I couldn't train at my full potential. I was held together by tape and braces (2 ankle braces, 2 shin supports, a knee brace, a wrist brace, an elbow brace). I basically slept through classes at school.

I was lucky if I was sleeping 6 hours a night. And I definitely did not focus on how I was fueling my body.

And I missed making nationals by 2 places (and I watched my teammate move on).


I want you to feel your best and make the most out of this season. Make sure you are fueling your body the best you can by following these 3 steps:

1. Adjust Your Athlete's Plate: More, intense hours in the gym means your body needs more energy. You might even notice this change with an increase in your appetite (aka you feel hungrier than usual). The simplest way to add more energy into your normal meals and snacks is to adjust your athlete's plate.

Most gymnasts during competition season need to be fueling with this 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, you can easily boost your energy! 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.

2. Focus on Micronutrients: Vitamins and minerals are essential for keeping your body healthy. To keep your body injury free and feeling your best, focus on the following 5 nutrients:

  • Vitamin A: promotes cell growth and development. (include: sweet potato, pumpkin, spinach, carrots, cantaloupe, bell peppers, mango, tomato)

  • Vitamin C: promotes healing, tissue repair, immune function, and can work as an antioxidant (include: citrus fruits (like oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes), bell peppers, cantaloupe, kiwi, cabbage, tomato, strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts)

  • Anythocyanins: has been shown to be an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory (include: cherries, pomegranates, blueberries, blackberries, beets, purple cabbage, acai)

  • Calcium: helps keep bones strong, as well as supply the building blocks to repair bone damage (include: dairy foods (like milk, cheese, yogurt, cheese), fortified dairy alternatives and other fortified foods like OJ, leafy green vegetables (like broccoli, spinach, kale), Tofu and soy, Chia seeds)

  • Vitamin D: is also essential for bone health and promotes the calcium to be absorbed by bones (get enough sunlight and include oily fish like salmon and trout, Mushrooms, and Fortified foods (like cereals and milks).

3. Stay Hydrated: If you've ever felt dehydrated before, you know it makes it very hard to be at your best. And if your training is 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 so you can sip all day long! About 1 hour before practice or a competition, 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.


Do you want to learn more about staying healthy and performing your best during competition season? I am hosting a FREE webinar with Dr. Sara Ferruzza (gymnastics physical therapist from Perfect 10 Physical Therapy) on February 21st, 2021 at 4pm ET. Register today and get a special BONUS OFFER to work with both myself and Sara!


Kerry Bair, RD, LDN, MPH

The Gymnast RD

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