Pre-competition Nutrition

February 23, 2010

Your diet before a competition will have a big impact on your performance, and could provide you with that winning edge.

The week before:

During the week before a competition, your two main aims are:

  1. To fill your muscle and liver glycogen stores so that you compete with a ‘full’ fuel supply.
  2. To keep well hydrated.

Your preparation will be dictated by the kind of event that you are competing in, the importance of the event and how frequently you compete.

Endurance events lasting more than 90 minutes:

If you are competing in and endurance event lasting longer than 90 minutes you may benefit from carbohydrate loading. You should generally consume a moderate carbohydrate diet (5-7g/kg body weight/day) for the first three days (this should be less than you are used to eating), followed by a high carbohydrate intake (8-10 g/kg body weight/day) for the final 3 days. Use table 1.1 as a guide to the amount of carbohydrate you should be eating during the pre-competition week. Your last hard training session should be completed one week before your competition. Then taper your training during the final week so that you perform only very light exercise and rest the day prior to your competition.

Table 1.1                           Recommended carbohydrate intake for athletes of different body weights
 Bodyweight (kg)                                               Daily carbohydrate intake Daily carbohydrate intake equivalent
                                       equivalent to 7-8 g/kg             to 8-10 g/kg body weight
                                               body weight                         
65                                              455-520g           520-650g  
70                                              490-560g           560-700g  
75                                              525-600g           600-750g  
80                                              560-640g           640-800g  
90                                              595-680g           680-850g  
95                                              630-720g           720-900g  
100                                              665-760g           760-950g  
105                                              700-800g           800-1000g  
110                                              735-840g           840-1050g  



  • Make sure you are fully hydrated after training. Check your hydration status by monitoring the frequency, volume, and colour of your urine during the pre-competition week.
  • Avoid any new or untried foods or food combinations during the pre competition week.
  • If you will be travelling or staying away from home, be prepared to take food with you. Try to find out beforehand what type of food will be available at the event venue and predict any nutritional shortfalls.


Try to eat 6 smaller meals a day, avoid gaps longer than 3 hours, and base all your meals on low GI foods. Use the sample eating plans in table 2.1 as a basis for developing your own plan during the pre competition week. While they provide the requirements for carbohydrate prior to competition, they are low in fat and protein and are not ideal for the rest of the season.

Table 2.1                            Recommended carbohydrate intake for athletes of different body weights
  Breakfast         Breakfast      
1 large bowl (85g) breakfast cereal   4 thick slices toast with honey    
200ml skimmed milk       1 glass (200ml) fruit juice    
2 tbsp (60g) raisins       1 banana        
1 glass (200ml) fruit juice       Morning snack      
  Moring Snack       2 scotch pancakes      
1 banana sandwich (2 slices bread, 1 banana   2 apples        
  Lunch           Lunch        
1 large jacket potato (300g)     1 large bowl (125g uncooked weight) rice  
3 tbsp (90g) sweet corn and 1 tbsp (50g)   salad with 60g turkey or 125g beans and vegetables
   tuna or cottage cheese     2 slices bread      
2 pieces of fresh fruit       2 pieces of fruit      
1 carton low-fat fromage frais              
            Pre-workout snack    
  Pre-workout snack     2 bananas      
1 energy bar         Workout      
  Workout       1L sports drink      
1L sports drink         Post-workout snack    
  Post-workout snack     2 cereal bars      
1 serving of a meal replacement product   1 carton (500ml) flavoured milk    
  Dinner           Dinner        
1 bowl (85g) uncooked weight) pasta   2 large (2x 300g) jacket potatoes  
125g stir-fried vegetables     1 carton (115g0 cottage cheese or fromage frais
60g stir-fried chicken or tofu     Broccoli or other vegetable    
2 slices of bread and butter     1 piece fresh fruit      
1 large bowl (200g) fruit salad              
  Snack           Snack        
2 slices of toast with honey     1 carton (200g) low-fat rice pudding  
1 carton low-fat yogurt              




The day before:

The day before your competition your main aims are:

  1. To top up muscle glycogen levels
  2. To ensure you are well hydrated

Continue eating meals high in carbohydrate that have a low GI throughout the day and drinking plenty of fluids (mainly water). To maximise muscle glycogen replenishment, perform only very light exercise or rest completely. Do not skip your evening meal, even if you experience pre-competition nerves, as this is an important time for topping up muscle glycogen. However, stick to familiar and simple foods, avoid fatty or oily foods and avoid alcohol, as it is a diuretic.

What should I eat if I get nervous before competition?

Most athletes get pre-competition nerves and this can reduce you appetite and result in problems such as nausea, diarrhoea and stomach cramps. If you find it difficult to eat solid foods during this time, consume liquid meals such as meal replacement products (protein-carbohydrate sports supplements), sport drinks, milkshakes, yogurt drinks, and fruit smoothies. Try smooth, semi liquid foods such as pureed fruit (e.g. mashed banana, apple and apricot puree), yogurt, porridge, custard and rice pudding. Bland foods such as semolina, mashed potato, or porridge made from cornmeal or ground rice may agree with your digestive system better. To reduce problems, avoid high in fibre foods such as bran cereals, dried fruit and pulses. You may wish to avoid vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and broccoli). Caffeine can cause anxiety and problems such as diarrhoea when combined with nerves. In essence, avoid anything that is new or unfamiliar. The golden rule with pre-competition eating is stick with tried and tested foods, which you know agree with you.

On the Day:

On the day of your competition, your aims are to:

  1. Top up liver glycogen stores following the overnight fast.
  2. Maintain blood sugar levels
  3. Keep hunger at bay
  4. Keep well hydrated

Plan to have your main pre-competition meal 2-4 hours before the event. This will allow enough time for your stomach to empty sufficiently and for blood sugar and insulin levels to normalise. It will also top up liver glycogen levels. Nervousness can slow down your digestion rate so if you have pre-competition nerves you may need to leave a little longer than usual between eating and competing. The actual timing of your pre-competition meal and the quantity of food eaten depends on the individual despite the fact that studies recommend consuming 200-300g carbohydrate during the 4 hours prior to exercise. Pre-competition nerves often slow down digestion so you may find 200-300g carbohydrate too much.

The key is to find out what works for you and stick with it! For example, if you are competing in the morning, you may need to get up a little earlier to eat your pre-competition breakfast. If your event is at 10.00am, have your breakfast at 7.00am.  Some athletes skip breakfast, preferring to feel light when they compete, however, it’s not a good strategy to compete on an empty stomach, particularly if your event lasts longer than 1 hour, or you will be competing in a number of heats. Low liver glycogen and blood sugar levels may reduce your endurance and result in early fatigue. Liver glycogen is necessary and important for maintaining blood sugar levels and supplying fuel to the exercising muscles when muscle glycogen is depleted. If you are competing in the afternoon, have a substantial breakfast and schedule lunch 2-4 hours before the competition. If you are competing in the evening, eat your meals at 3 hour intervals during the day, again, scheduling your last meal approximately 2-4 hours before competition.

What should I eat on the day of my competition?

Your pre-competition meal should be:

  • Based on low GI carbohydrates
  • Low in fat
  • Low in protein
  • Low or moderate in fibre
  • Not too bulky or filling
  • Not salty or spicy
  • Enjoyable and familiar
  • Easy to digest
  • Include a drink – approximately 500ml 2 hours before the event.


Pre-competition meals:

Pre-competition breakfast (2-4 hours before event)

  • Breakfast cereal or porridge with low fat milk and fresh fruit
  • Toast or bread with jam/honey; low fat yogurt
  • English muffins with honey
  • Meal replacement shake

Pre-competition lunches: (2-4 hours before event)

  • Sandwiches or rolls with tuna, cottage cheese or chicken; fresh fruit
  • Pasta or rice with tomato-based sauce; fresh fruit
  • Baked potato with low fat filling; fresh fruit

Pre-competition snacks (1 hour before event)

  • Smoothie
  • Yogurt drink
  • Fresh fruit
  • Tinned fruit
  • Meal replacement or energy bar
  • Sports drink
  • Dried apricots
  • Low-fat fruit yogurt
  • Rice pudding
  • Mini or scotch pancakes


Should I eat or drink during my competition?

If you are competing for more than about 60 minutes, you may find that extra carbohydrate will help delay fatigue and maintain your performance, particularly in the latter stages. Depending on your exercise intensity and duration, aim to take 30-60g carbohydrate/hour. Start consuming the food or drink after about 30 minutes and continue at regular intervals, as it takes approximately 30 minutes for digestion and absorption. If your glycogen stores are low at the start of the event (which hopefully they are not!), then consuming an additional carbohydrate during the event will have a fairly immediate effect on your performance. Any carbohydrate with high or moderate GI would be suitable but you may find liquids easier to consume than solids. Isotonic sports drinks or carbohydrate drinks (glucose polymer) drinks are popular because they serve to replenish fluid losses and prevent dehydration as well as supplying carbohydrate. Sports drinks are also great because they taste good! This also encourages athletes to be hydrated and take in more fluid than they most likely would if they were consuming water.

If you are competing in certain events such as cycling, sailing, distance canoeing or running, you may be able to take solid foods with you or arrange pick-up points. Suitable foods include, energy bars, dried-fruit bars, cereal bars, bananas, breakfast bars, or raisins. If you are competing in matches or tournaments (e.g. tennis, football), take suitable snacks and drinks for the intervals and position them close by. Make use of every available opportunity to take in fluid to ensure hydration.

Table 3.1               Foods suitable to eat between heats or immediately after events
 Sports drinks            
Meal replacement shake          
Breakfast cereal            
Meal replacement bars or energy bars        
Fruit bars              
Cereal or breakfast bars          
Sandwiches or rolls filled with honey/jam or bananas      
Oatmeal biscuits, fig rolls          
Homemade muffins and bars          
Rice cakes or low-fat crackers with banana or jam      
Yogurt drink            
(accompany solid foods with sufficient water to replace fluid losses)  


If you are competing for more than 60 minutes, avoid or delay dehydration by drinking 125-250ml every 10-20 minutes during exercise. Clearly, the more you sweat, the more you need to drink. However, do not be guided by thirst as this is not a good indicator of hydration. When you are thirsty you are already dehydrated! Studies have shown that you can maintain optimal performance if you can replace at least 80% of your sweat loss during exercise or keep within 1% of your body weight.

What should I eat after competition?

You’ve done the hard work now it’s time to re fuel your body and assist it in the recovery process. So after your competition, your immediate aims are to replenish glycogen stores and fluid losses. If you are competing the following day or within the next few days, your post-event food intake is crucial. Again, choose foods with a moderate or high GI to ensure rapid refuelling, and aim for 1g carbohydrate/kg body weight during the 2 hour post exercise period. Any of the foods listed in table 3.1 above would be suitable. Drink at least 500ml fluid immediately after competing and continue drinking at regular intervals to replace fluid losses.

Your immediate post event food should be followed by a carbohydrate-rich meal approximately 2 hours later. Suitable post-event meals include pasta dishes, noodle dishes, thick-base pizzas (with vegetable toppings), and baked potatoes. Avoid rich or fatty meals (e.g. oily curries, chips, burgers)  as these will delay refuelling and can make you feel bloated after competing. Don’t forget to drink plenty of rehydrating fluid before embarking on that celebratory alcoholic drink!

Table 4.1                                                  Summary of key points      
          Timing              Aims   Food and drink recommendations         Examples
 The week before 1. Fill muscle glycogen Taper training   Pasta with fish or beans
    stores   7-8 g/kg body weight/day for 3 days Rice with chicken or tofu
    2. Maintain hydration before event   Jacket potatoes with tuna
        Low GI meals   or cottage cheese
        Monitor fluid intake and urine    
The night before 1. Top up muscle glycogen High carbohydrate meal (low GI) Pasta dish with tomato
    2. Maintain hydration Plenty of fluid   based sauce
        Moderate-low fibre   Rice dishes
        Low fat        
        Familiar foods      
2-4 hours before 1. Top up liver glycogen Low GI meals   Cereal and low-fat milk
    2. Maintain hydration High carbohydrate, low fat, low protein Bread, toast,
    3. Prevent hunger Easily digestible   sandwiches, rolls
        400-600ml fluid   Potato with tuna or cottage
1 hour before 1. Maintain blood sugar 1g carbohydrate/kg bodyweight Sports drink
    2. Maintain hydration Easy to digest   Smoothie  
              Energy or meal
              replacement bar
              Dried apricots
15-30 minutes 1. Maintain hydration Up to 150ml fluid   Water  
 before             Sports drink
During events lasting 1. Maintain blood sugar 30-60g carbohydrate/hour Sports drinks
more than 60 min 2. Offset fluid losses High or moderate GI   Glucose polymer drinks
        150-350ml fluid every 15-20 min Energy bars with water
Between heats or 1. Replenish muscle and  1 g/kg body weight within 2 hours Sports drinks
events   liver glycogen High GI carbohydrate   Meal replacement products
    2. Replace fluid 500ml fluid immediately after Rice cakes, energy
        Continue fluids   bars, rolls  
Post-competition 1. Replenish muscle and 1 g/kg body weight within 2 hours Sports drinks
    liver glycogen High GI carbohydrate   Energy bars with water
    2. Replace fluid 500ml fluid immediately after Pasta dishes
        Continue fluids   Rice dishes


Hope you find the information yourself. For more great information read Anita Bean’s book “The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition. I recommend it to any athlete who is serious about getting the most out of their training and competition.


How to boost your training performance and get results

August 11, 2009

It seems like a real waste to do all the hard work, like getting to the gym, training hard, or going for a long run or cycle, and not getting the best rewards you could be for your hard work. Everyone would love to get the best results possible from their hard work and there are a lot of products going around all with various claims of how much they can help you. Knowing how beneficial they are is the hard thing and sometimes you’ll try many different products and combinations before knowing what is best for you. I was reading an article in a magazine and thought I would share some of the information.

Whey Protein

Protein has certainly become a major player in weight management, muscle building and recovery. More importantly however while research has shown eating a little more protein can be beneficial, research into whey protein has shown some rather solid results especially when it comes to preserving lean muscle mass as well as building it. Why? Protein from whole foods, while beneficial and still integral to a healthy balanced diet, take many long hours to digest. Whey protein, the left over product from cheese manufacturing, is ‘pre-digested’ and 8-10 grams can be absorbed. What’s special about whey protein is that it contains a high level of branch chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine. These escape digestion in the liver and are transported straight to the muscles. The benefits are bigger muscles, a decrease in muscle loss and even appetite suppression and weight/loss maintenance.

There are many variates on the market. Find one that tastes good, has high protein content and fits your budget. Whey protein taken straight after a workout, in between meals or even as a snack will yield the best results, especially at two doses a day. You don’t need to over do the dose size. 15-30 grams each dose would be sufficient.


How does creatine work? More ATP in muscles means more energy to lift weights, so rather than getting 8 repetitions in a set you may get 10-11. After your first set ATP has been used up therefore you’re left with ADP which isn’t much use when you have another few sets to complete. More creatine means more ATP because phosphate is donated to ADP to produce ATP. Supplementation of creatine in the diet means there is an increase in the amount of creatine in muscle. This means the next set rather than getting 7 repetitions without supplementation; you would most likely get 9-10 repetitions. What this means is greater training intensity, and therefore more lean muscle mass.

What type of results can be expected?

Specific improvements are;

  • Short-term creatine supplementation has been reported to improve maximal power/strength (5-15%)
  • Work performed during sets of maximal effort contractions (5-15%)
  • Single effort sprint performance (1-5%)
  • Work performed during repetitive sprint performance (5-15%)
  • Long-term creatine supplementation appears to enhance the overall quality of training, leading to 5 to 15% greater gains in strength and performance.
  • Nearly all studies indicate that “proper” creatine supplementation increases body mass by about 1 to 2 kg in the first week of loading.


There are numerous products on the market; however whey protein and creatine have consistent sound evidence behind them to support their use. The best way to use these is to find products and doses that work best for you. This is a trial and error process and may take some time but is very beneficial in the long-term.

Your morning sets you up physically and mentally for each day.

July 27, 2009


The morning is an easy time to make excuses but there should be no excuses for not fitting in what you should each morning.

 Your morning should include breakfast. Breakfast kick starts your metabolism for the day. It fuels your body and helps you perform better at work or the gym depending on your morning schedule. Include a drink with your breakfast for hydration other than a coffee as it tends to dehydrate rather than hydrate. Water is best, if not water then try a fruit juice.

 Set your alarm earlier than usual instead of setting it when you need to get up and then snoozing it a few times before getting up! There are no excuses for not enough sleep. If you feel you need to sleep more then go to bed earlier rather than sacrificing breakfast or a morning workout.

 Do a morning workout. Include it in your morning schedule whether it’s a walk outside, a bodyweight circuit or a visit to the gym. You’re almost guaranteed to feel better for the rest of the day if you get a morning workout in.

 Get organised. Be as organised as possible and have what you need prepared the night before ideally so you don’t have to rush or sacrifice things when the morning comes.

 Remember your morning sets you up physically and mentally for the day so be well organised, feel good about yourself and relax. Try this and see if you feel better about your body and about your day. If you’re not a morning person try and implement one thing a week with your goal being to include all these things into your morning.

 Unsure of what to do for your morning workout? Stuck with minimal time? Wait for my next blog to pick up a few ideas you can use.

The importance of fitness testing

July 15, 2009

Fitness tests allow us to identify physical strengths and weaknesses and also monitor increases and decreases in specific components of our fitness. Conducting a fitness assessment allows us to create a program that is suitable for our clients. Without fitness testing how would we know if we were neglecting weaknesses and only improving on what are already our strengths? How would we know if the program we designed is working if we didn’t test our fitness components regularly?

The answer is we wouldn’t know. Without any proper testing in the right environment it’s near impossible to tell. How can we tell if a client has lost body fat if they do both cardio and resistance training? They may get discouraged by looking at the scales at home thinking I’ve put on weight, I’m failing. They may not realise that they’ve put on some lean muscle mass and decreased their body fat %. This is just another reason why testing is so important.

It doesn’t just show that you are doing a good job and have the ability to help people improve their fitness. It shows and motivates your clients to keep working hard because they know that when they do they achieve the goals they set themselves.

When should we test?

Testing should be done regularly, whether it’s done every 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 6 weeks, whatever you do don’t leave it longer than 8 weeks! If you leave it too long clients can get off track and don’t know how they are traveling and if you make it too short they may get discouraged by not achieving much as you leave little time for the body to change. You need to keep them focused and I prefer to test on a monthly basis, anywhere between 3-5 weeks I think is good because it gives your clients time to improve on their previous set of results.

What should I test?

Keep the tests specific to the client’s goals. Not much point doing a VO2 max test on someone who just wants to increase their lean muscle mass. It’s a waste of your time and theirs. It would be better to stick to muscular tests and measurements and body composition tests. There are plenty of tests for particular components of fitness out there. You just need to have a look around.

Are there any areas you don’t know how to test?

What time frame works best for you when it comes to regular fitness tests?

Feel free to let me know.

Skins™ How they effect performance and recovery

July 14, 2009

It seems to me that a lot of people these days are wearing Skins™, especially athletes. I don’t wear them myself so I’ve asked a few people I know what they think of them and are they worth the money. All feedback I got was good so I thought I’d do a bit of research and find out how skins can benefit my training or anyone’s training for that matter.

Here is what I found on their website –

  • Skins™ BioAcceleration Technology™ as they call it has been developed over years of scientific research. Ongoing testing of elite athletes have proven that Skins™ creates marked improvements in reducing the build-up of lactic acid immediately after periods of sustained exercise, and allows for more rapid return to normal levels. You experience less fatigue, minimise soreness and recover faster.
  • Skins™ is body-moulded compression performance equipment manufactured from the finest Lycra and Meryl Microfibre, scientifically engineered to provide support and muscle alignment to the smart-fabric covered area of your body. Skins™ will definitely change the way that you train and play as well as speed up your recovery. You will feel fresher after heavy bouts of exercise and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) will be minimised.
  • Skins™ technical compression wear has been developed and designed to provide engineered gradient compression. When compression is engineered to apply a balanced and accurate surface pressure over specific body parts, it triggers an acceleration of blood flow. This increases oxygen delivery to working muscles to enhance their performance. The circulation improvements also help the body to eliminate lactic acid and other metabolic wastes. The combination of these effects allows you to work at a higher rate for longer.
  • Skins™ development of the correct compression is based on a body mass index (BMI) algorithm. A unique sizing system based on the algorithm allows us to customise and engineer gradient compression. By controlling the stretch and recovery of the fabric in conjunction with specifically developed pattern making techniques based on the sizing system, they are able to ensure the correct level of surface pressure for most body shapes.
  • Skins™ performance equipment has been designed to wrap and support key muscle groups to reduce muscle movement and focus the direction of the muscle. The wrapping effect and specific compression also dramatically reduces muscle vibration resulting in less soft tissue damage and muscle soreness.
  • The other benefits of skins™ are that they keep the moisture off your skin, regulate your body temperature, discourage growth of bacteria, help prevent odour and protect you from the sun.

After checking out the site and seeing how skins™ can benefit me I am considering getting some for myself. I usually find it hard to fit gym sessions in between soccer training and games because I’m usually a bit sore and don’t want to be sore for my game on the weekend. By the sounds of it Skins™ assist and decrease my recover time enabling me to do some quality workouts in between games and training.

Let me know what you think of skins™, Do you wear them? would you buy them after reading this article?