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Sports Nutrition: Eating for Back to Back Competitions

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By: Heather R Mangieri, MS, RD, LDN, Sports Dietitian

Finish First Sports Performance Nutrition Advisor

One of the most important times to be at the very top of your game, both physically and mentally is during the final period of a game or during the final game of an all-day tournament. Not having the right nutritional game plan in place leads to both mental and physical fatigue and can ultimately lead to decreased performance or injury.

When you are faced with multiple competitions in the same day, it is important to meal plan so that optimal energy needs are met. To do this, it is imperative that you start the day with a full tank of gas and use your breaks between games to refuel and rehydrate. Use the following tips to help you to be prepared on your competition day:

  • Practice how you will fuel on game day prior to your tournament day. Training is not only a time to work on strength and conditioning your muscles but also a time to train your muscles how to use fuels. You do not want to try a new food on the day of your competition only to find out that it does not agree with you. If a food gives you an upset stomach, it is much better to find that out ahead of time.
  • If you do not already have one, invest in a small insulated cooler and a few ice packs so that all of your foods and beverages can be packed and taken with you. This way you can be sure that you will have adequate foods and drinks to keep yourself well-fed and well hydrated if no other source of energy is available.
  • Pay attention to your pre-competition meal! Make sure to eat a real breakfast no later than 1 ½ hours before your first game. This meal should be low fiber, low fat, and high carbohydrate with a little protein. Some examples include:

◘ English muffin with 1 TBSP peanut butter, jelly or jam and 1 banana.

◘ 2 slices raisin toast with jelly, 2 egg whites and 1 whole egg, ½ cup orange juice

◘ 1 ½ cup cereal (lower fiber is typically better tolerated, corn flakes, rice krispies, cheerios) with 1 cup skim or 1% milk, 1 nectarine

◘ Bagel with 1 Tbsp peanut butter, 1 cup skim or 1% milk

Remember, everyone’s GI tract is different. Practice is an important part of food selection for game day.

  • Before your first game and during the game, stick to liquids to stay hydrated and keep from feeling too full. Drink water initially, and then switch to a sports drink like Gatorade about 20 minutes before the game. Continue drinking sports drinks when possible during the game. If you know when your breaks will be, it is a great idea to schedule drink breaks. This helps you to remember to rehydrate. Staying hydrated not only keeps you energized but also keeps you mentally focused.


  • Between games it is vital that you refuel and rehydrate. The quicker you can take in some carbohydrates after your first game, the more energized and recovered you will be for the upcoming events. If you only have ½ hour prior to your next event or competition, be sure to utilize sports drinks to obtain adequate carbohydrates. The last thing you want to do is start your next game with a stomach full of undigested food. If your next game is 2 hours away, than start eating solids. A carbohydrate rich meal will be your best success at obtaining more energy. You will want to switch back to liquids (Gatorade) as you get closer to the start of the game. Some examples of easily digested between meal foods are:

◘ 2 slices of bread with 2 slices turkey, banana

◘ Dried fruit

◘ Cereal with milk

◘ Yogurt with fruit

◘ Fig Newton with low-fat chocolate milk

  • After the tournament, refuel your muscles and rehydrate your body! Eat a high carbohydrate snack that includes a little protein within 30 minutes of finishing your tournament. Even if you plan on going out to eat after your game, it is important to get carbohydrates and a little protein into your body within 30 minutes so that you can start the recovery process immediately. Some examples of easy snacks or beverages to meet this immediate need are:

◘ 1 cup chocolate milk

◘ Yogurt

◘ Sports drink with a 4:1 ratio carbohydrate to protein

  • Within the next 1 ½ -2 hours, eat a full meal that including carbohydrates, protein and a little fat. If you have practice, games or a continuation of the competition on the following day, you may need to include an additional evening meal to assure adequate glycogen (stored carbohydrate) for the next day’s events.
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5 Tips for Staying Hydrated to Maintain Peak Performance

By Heather R Mangieri, MS, RD, LDN, Sports Nutrition Adviser for Finish First Sports Performance, Owner of Nutritioncheckup.com

I recently attended a wrestling team parents meeting to speak about nutrition for recovery.   During my discussion, I encountered many questions on hydration and the best fluid choices to meet the increased fluid loss via sweat. I want to use this opportunity to provide a concrete plan for staying hydrated and maintaining peak performance.

Fluid intake is the most significant nutrition consideration for any athlete.  Research has shown that a loss of body weight of just 1% (1.5 pounds in a 150 pound athlete) can adversely affect the body’s ability to cope with stress (1) and a loss of 2% of body weight can impair athletic performance.  For that reason, it is important for athletes to develop a fluid plan that includes drinking before, during and after exercise.

Often times it may be difficult to drink during exercise and therefore your fluid plan should start prior to the activity.  The best way to achieve your hydration goal is to make sure you are properly hydrated before the activity begins.  Use the following tips to help in your planning:

  1. Drink at least 2 cups (16 oz) of fluids 2 hours before exercise.  Drinking 2-3 hours before exercise allows enough time for fluid to be lost through urine before exercise begins.
  2. Drink 5-10 ounces of fluid ~ 30 minutes prior to exercise.  There is no benefit to chugging fluids in an attempt to stay hydrated.  While everybody is different, the body can only absorb fluid so fast, and you do not want to have extra fluid hanging out in the stomach when it is time to start your activity.
  3. Try to drink ½ cup- 1 cup of fluid every 15 minutes during activity.  The goal is not to chug but rather to replace some of the fluid lost during the activity.  Drinking 8 ounces every fifteen minutes allows you the ability to consume thirty-two ounces of fluid over an hour without overloading the body and causing GI distress.(One gulp= ~ 1ounce, so aim for 8 gulps of fluid every 15 minutes)
  4. Check your weight before and after practice to find out how much water weight is lost during exercise.  Drink 20-24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost.
  5. Choose your beverage based on your workout.  Water is a good choice for activities that are completed in less than 45 minutes or activity in light to moderate conditions.  Any activity over 45 minutes, or moderate to heavy exercise in warm, humid weather would better be met with a sports drink.  Sports drinks replace the electrolytes lost in sweat; water does not.  Also, choose a sport drink that provides 6-8% carbohydrate (14-19 grams per 8 ounces) to provide added energy (and possibly improved absorption).

There is no benefit to dehydration.  For optimal performance, be sure to remember what many nutrition professionals consider the body’s most essential nutrient.

References:

  1. Bergeron MF. Sodium: the forgotten nutrient.  Sports Sci Exch.  2000;13:1-8.

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