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Fueling for Success: How Consistency Impacts A Gymnast's Competition Day Performance

Competition days can be full of emotions and uncertainty.

On one hand, you’re so excited to show off the routines you have perfected all week at practice...

But, so often, the nerves start to take over:

What if the equipment feels different...

What event do I have to start on (or finish with...)

What if * that judge * is there...

In a day full of never ending variables largely out of your control, many gymnasts find it helpful to keep their focus on the variables within your control to help put your mind at ease and calm those nerves.

One variable that is largely within your control on meet day is your nutrition.

So often, gymnasts and parents think a that there is a special meal or food that a gymnast has to eat in the days and hours leading up to the competition in order to have great energy and be at their best.

This is A MYTH!

There is not one specific food a gymnast has to eat before a competition to be a good competitor.

Instead of searching for the internet or looking to other gymnasts for the perfect pre-competition foods, think of your pre-meet nutrition in the same way that you think of your training leading up to the meet.

In the gym, a gymnast practices the same routines and skills over and over, day after day. You know how many steps you take leading up to the springboard on vault, and how many coats of hair gel you need to keep that ponytail in place. The same goes for your competition day nutrition. The time to figure out what meals and snacks work best for your body is in the days and weeks leading up to the competition (not the day before or the day of).

The breakfast you eat before school or that Saturday morning practice? That's the breakfast you start with on meet day...

And the meal you eat between school and gym practice? That's your pre-competition meal.

Don't forget about the snacks you eat during your workout! Those should also go into your bag for a mid-meet energy boost!

This isn’t supposed to scare you from trying new foods and figuring out what fueling routine works best for you. But just like you do that skill development and troubleshooting at practice, you should also use those days to "practice" your nutrition.

Don't Forget To Condition Your Gut

Part of the reasoning behind developing a fueling routine is to “train” your gut (just as you would train any other muscle in your body).

The highest level and most successful athletes practice “gut training” as part of their training plan (whether they realize it or not). This is when they experiment with different snacks and meals throughout the day (like their performance plates and performance nutrition strategy) to see what foods make them feel their best before and after practice. As they continue to fuel themselves with these meals and snacks, their stomach becomes more and more familiar with what they are putting into their body, reducing the risk for gastrointestinal (GI) distress, which is known for inhibiting and disrupting performance (think upset stomach, bloating, or untimely trips to the bathroom...).

Once they have perfected their practice day fueling plan, they will translate that to competition day. What works to help them survive and thrive through a grueling 4 hour practice, will almost certainly energize them come competition day! 

What About On The Road?

It can be difficult to stay consistent and eat exactly how you would at home when traveling for meets, especially if you need to rely more on restaurants that you've never visited before.

One of the best ways to relieve the stress of not knowing what to eat, is to pack or stock up on some of your favorite foods at the store before leaving town. Some easy to pack foods include: 

  • Instant oatmeal (just add water and warm up in the microwave)

  • Kodiak cups

  • Bagels

  • A variety of your favorite fruit (apples, clementines, and plums are easy to pack in a bag and are sure to pick you up when you need an energy boost in the morning!)

  • Fruit leather and GoGo Squeeze  (great quick carbohydrate options to eat in between events)

For a car trip or day trip, you can always pack your insulated lunch box or a cooler with some more perishable snacks like yogurt, sandwiches, or string cheese. If you will be away for multiple days or packing everything you’d want to have is not possible, it may be helpful to stop at a grocery store or convenience store when you get to your destination and get a few snack options to keep you fueled, focused, and ready to compete your best.

Always Circle Back To Your Performance Plate

When trying to stay consistent while traveling, it can always be helpful to circle back to your practiced performance plate. When building a meal or snack at a restaurant or on the go, remember what your performance plates look like at home and try your best to replicate them when you’re out of town with similar foods.

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, toast, or some orange juice to give yourself some extra carbohydrates and energy.

You’re much more likely to have the energy and stamina to make it through a meet successfully by following the same fueling routine that you do on practice days. Why create more stress for yourself by trying out several new foods the morning of your meet without knowing how it will impact your body and performance? Keep it simple and just fuel with what you've practiced, day in and day out.

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 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.

1 commentaire

14 mai


Kerry Bair, RD, LDN, MPH

The Gymnast RD

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