Nutrition for Competition: Strategies, Meal Timing, and Macros

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In just a few minutes, it’s “3, 2, 1, Go” time.   You’ve been training for this moment for months.  As your heart starts to pound and the sweat pools on your brow, you take a deep breath knowing that you have done all you could to prepare yourself for this competition.  Your coach’s programming has you at the peak of your abilities.  Your nutrition plan is dialed in and you have more than enough fuel in your tank to take on this battle.  You are ready.  You are confident.  You are going to dominate!!!!

The scenario I just described could be yours.  You likely already have the programming covered at your box.  But what about your nutrition programming?  If you want to compete, you’ve got to make nutrition part of your strategy or you will not meet your end goal.  Even Matt Fraser attributes a focus on nutrition as one of the strategies that took him from two second place finishes to top of the podium in the 2016 Games.

You don’t have to be an elite athlete to benefit from good nutrition.  This blog will give you some great nutrition strategies to elevate your diet to competition ready status.  Specifically, we’re going to cover:

    • Periodize your Diet for Competition

    • Build your Competition Plate

    • Adjusting Macros and Meal Timing for Competition


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Periodize your Diet for Competition

Most of us are familiar with periodization of training.  In terms of competition readiness, periodization involves adjusting training focus, volume, and intensity as you get closer to a competition and at the start of your competition season.  For those of you that have been through an Open, you may have noticed that your coaches aren’t programming anything that’s going to set you up for failure before the unknown workouts are announced.  No one wants to have done Karen on Thursday and then find out they have to do it again on Friday.  Holy wall balls Batman!

Nutrition works in the same way.  The demands on your body are different when training versus when competing.  Your nutrition should follow suit and change to match those demands.  So, eating the same foods in the same portions at the same times that you do every day for training will not cut it when competition season comes around.  So, stop thinking of your nutrition as a hard and fast set of rules you need to follow every day all the time.  Start realizing that nutrition is an ever evolving and dynamic strategy that can take your performance to new heights if used correctly.

 

Reorganize your Competition Plate

The best part about competition time is the green light to eat.  Now is not the time to restrict your intake.  Fill up your plate with lean meats, non-starchy vegetables, fruit, starchy foods, and healthy fats. If you’re familiar with our training plate, you know that it’s filled with about 40% non-starchy vegetables, 25% lean animal protein, 25% fruit/starchy foods, and 10% fat.  To be clear, I’m talking about space taken up on the plate, not a macronutrient breakdown.  We’ll talk macros in the next section.  Your competition plate is going to see a shift in the veggies and fruit/starchy foods real estate on your plate.  Your competition plate is filled with about 25% non-starchy vegetables, 25% lean animal protein, 40% fruit/starch, and 10% fat.

Plate Real Estate (How much space do these foods need)

 

Training Plate

Competition Plate

Non-starchy vegetables

40%

25%

Lean animal protein

25%

25%

Fruit/starchy foods

25%

40%

Healthy fats

10%

10%

 

During competition seasons, you also have more freedom to use recovery drinks and protein shakes which are typically over consumed when training.  During competition, especially one in which you have multiple workouts in a day, liquid nutrition is actually one of the best choices from a tolerance standpoint.  Just make sure you keep your overall focus on nourishing real foods.  No junk supplements with ingredient lists too long to read.  

Adjusting Macros and Meal Timing for Competition

As mentioned above, your energy demand increases during times of competition.  One nutrient in particular becomes exceedingly important to eat more of.  That nutrient is carbohydrate.  To meet the demands of multiple workouts or a really intense event like a triathlon, you’re going to need to amp up your carb intake.  Typically, I recommend eating 110 to 140 percent more carbs than you would on a normal training day.  So, if you eat 200g of carb on a normal day, you’d want to bump that up to 220g or 280g a day.  

Changes in fat macros depend on your ability to burn fat over carbohydrate as a source of energy.  If you are an efficient fat burner, you may benefit some from increasing your fat intake on competition days.  For most people though, fat slows digestion, and is not typically recommended especially during those meals in between multiple workouts.  Protein needs, like carbohydrate, increase to meet the demands of competition.  However, increased protein intake is more effective when applied to the days following a competition.  The additional protein intake will help fuel your recovery and repair after the competition has ended.  You’ll want to increase protein by 110 to 140 percent.

In terms of meal timing, unless your competition workouts fall on the exact same time as your normal workout, you’ll need to make some adjustments.  Here are a few guidelines:

  • Eat a larger meal two to three hours before the first WOD.  Focus on carbs and protein with a little bit of fat and not too much fiber.

  • Drink a recovery drink immediately after the WOD.

  • If your next WOD is only two or three hours away, consider drinking a protein shake between the two instead of solid food.  If you have a good four hours between workouts, make sure you take in some solid food too.

  • Don’t worry about having a 4-6 hour fast between your meals.  It’s actually better to focus on smaller, more frequent meals during an all day competition so your body can appropriately recover and prepare for the next workout.

  • If your competition is a one and done event like a race, drink your recovery and then take in a normal sized meal within 90 minutes of finishing the race.  You may want to include a snack between that meal and your next since your body is looking for all the nutrition it can get.  Like I said, now is not the time to skimp on nutrition.

A Dietitian’s take

Competition season is an exciting time.  The energy in the crowd is through the roof.  The support of your fellow athletes is amazing.  And you will crush your performance goals well beyond your expectations.  All you have to do is listen to your coach, and trust your nutrition plan.  Eat enough of the right foods, in the right portions, at the right time, and you will dominate.  You’ve got this!

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