While performance nutrition can be personalized to your needs, there are some pretty standard recommendations when getting ready for a competition.
Day Before Competition
If you have a normal night-before routine keep it normal for you if it works for you. You don’t necessarily have to carb load. Because you are taking a light day the day before your comp, you should already be topped off in glycogen stores. You can increase your evening meal a little (+20-30g carbs), but significantly bumping up your carb intake can cause some water retention, leaving you feeling heavy and bloated. Try to eat normal meals the day before with some extra carbs.
Don’t Drink Alcohol
Alcohol is not your friend the day before a competition. Impairing sleep quality, and decreasing muscle growth and repair by limiting natural growth hormones released during sleep is not going to help you reach your potential. It’s best to skip it.
It is a good idea to stick with foods that you are used to eating and that you know won’t cause any unwanted GI distress or bloating.
Some individuals will eat less throughout the day due to nerves, but here are some general guidelines for competition day:
→ Keep fats and fiber until after your last event of the day. Fats and fiber slow the absorption and will be the most likely to cause GI discomfort throughout the day. You can eat some early in the day so they have time to digest (5-6 hrs before event ~1/2 avocado or small handful of nuts).
→ Consume both lower GI carb sources and higher GI carb sources. This means you’ll want to have some Gatorade/Tang/Fruit juice with you to sip throughout the day along with easy-to-digest carbs like fruit pouches/cereal/popcorn cakes in between events and other carbs like sweet potatoes/red potatoes/whole grain bread during the longer waiting periods. This combination allows energy to be sustainable throughout the day.
→ Protein should be kept in moderate amounts throughout the day and should be lean sources.
What does this look like in practice?
→ Eat a normal, full healthy breakfast when you wake up that has protein, healthy carbs, and healthy fat, around 4-6 hrs before the first event. Eat something you are used to.
→ Depending on what time you start, and how early you wake up, you might want to eat again about 2-3 hrs before the first event.
→ A sample meal about 2-3 hrs before would be a ½ – 1 turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with a banana and/or some cereal. This meal covers all of the bullet points mentioned previously (low fats/fiber, both high and low GI carb sources and moderate protein).
Throughout the day, it is a good idea to continue sipping fluids such as water, some whey protein, and snack on high-glycemic carbs (cereal, applesauce, apricots, etc.)
If you have a long break you can have a repeat of the meal you had before. This meal can become a bit trickier if time is limited before the next event, you may want to eat something that sits a bit easier in your stomach and is less total food volume (ex. ½ banana or apricots).
Again, it’s important to note that the actual food choices will depend on the individual and what they like, what sits best with them and what makes them feel the most comfortable on the most important day of their training cycle.
Be sure to never try a food or drink you haven’t tested before competition day.
Get this printable guide + Bonus meal planning ideas for training based on timing below!