While nutrition for gymnasts is a long game, what a gymnast eats (or doesn't eat) in the 24-48 hours leading up to a competition can make or break their performance. And when that competition is far away from the comforts (and kitchen) of home, your competition fueling strategy can feel anything but normal*.
So many competitions these days require travel. Whether it’s a few hours in the car, a plane trip, or staying overnight in a hotel, this can easily throw a wrench in your fueling plan. What works when you're at home might not be possible on the road. However, I see so many gymnasts making major mistakes with their fueling routine, especially in the days leading up to the competition and on meet day! Mistakes that can so easily derail their performance.
Don’t let your fueling plan be derailed by a change like travel! A high level gymnast who wants to compete their best when away from home will need to make some adjustments to help you show up to your meet confident and well fueled.
As you prepare for your next away meet, here are 6 simple things you can consider to help you compete your best!
6 Tips For Fueling Gymnasts When Traveling
1. Have A Plan!
As soon as you know the basic competition details - where you’re going, hotel, report time, and travel plans - you can start to come up with a meet day fueling plan (or make adjustments to your currently fueling strategy) that include what and when you'll eat.
Planning when to fuel during travel should involve creating an adapted fueling schedule that covers the different days of your trip, including travel days, any days off or training days, and of course meet day. Travel days and days off will likely require a gymnast to eat 3 meals and 2-3 snacks to keep energy levels high. Training days should look similar to a practice day at home. And meet day meals and snacks should follow your pre-meet fueling timeline, and also include mid-meet snacks, recovery snacks, and recovery meals.
You'll also want to start thinking about what types of foods you’ll need to fill this fueling schedule! Think about what meals and snacks you might need on which days and how you will make that happen on the road.
2. Scope Out The Area
Do a little research ahead of time about where you’re traveling to so you know where you’re going and what the food situation is! A few helpful questions you may want to ask yourself would be:
Does the hotel offer breakfast or other meals and are those foods I can and will eat
Will you have access to a refrigerator in the room?
What types of stores or restaurants are nearby your hotel or where the meet is being hosted?
What is accessible?
You can even look at restaurant menus online or make a reservation ahead of time (especially for that busy post-meet dinner rush)!
3. Pack What You Can
Part of your plan should include packing what you can to keep your fueling food choices as close to what your normally eat possible.
Non-perishable foods like pretzels, fruit, or trail mix can be easily packed for a car or plane trip as part of your travel day fueling plan or as part of your pre-meet or mid-meet snack. 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
4. Stock Up When You Get There
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.
5. Stick To Familiar Choices
When possible, it is not recommend to try new foods the day before or the day of a competition (would you choreograph your floor routine in the car on the way to the meet? would you try a new skill in your one-touch? NO!). It's important to fuel with what you've practiced so you can be confident it will sit well in your stomach and give you the best energy!
Beyond what you’ve packed, when traveling, it is realistic to expect that meals may be eaten at a restaurant. And, if you’re traveling somewhere, it’s not likely that you’ll have eaten at these restaurants before. When possible, look for restaurants with familiar choices. For example, if your favorite pre-meet meal is pasta, look for an Italian restaurant with familiar menu items. If you rarely eat Mexican food, this is not the time to try a Mexican restaurant.
6. Stay Hydrated
Travel, including long car trips, airplane trips, and even staying in hotels can all be dehydrating, which can have a major impact on your performance! Make sure to pack your refillable water bottle and sip on it often - you may need up to 8oz of fluid for every hour you are on an airplane, and may require additional electrolytes (like sodium and potassium) to arrive to your meet hydrated. If you use electrolyte drinks or sports drinks during workouts, make sure you’ve packed what you need for meet day. Many of these products come in single serve packets or tablets which are very easy to pack!
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.