By Ellen Coleman
As you enter daylong meets or tournaments, it's crucial that you are well nourished and hydrated. Without proper energy in your muscles and bloodstream, reaching competitive goals becomes nearly impossible.
Start with a carbohydrate-rich meal or snack two to three hours before a tournament. Carbs provide the fastest, most efficient source of energy and are digested quickly. Fill 2/3 of your plate with high-carb foods and the other 1/3 with lean protein. Bread, bagels, pasta, cooked or dry cereal, fruit, sports bars and yogurt (nonfat or 1%) are all great sources of carbs. But, if you'd rather drink your fuel, down a Boost®, Ensure®, fruit juice, sports drink or milk (nonfat or 1%). For protein, try an egg or several ounces of lean turkey, chicken or ham.
As game time nears, reduce the size of your meal.
Refueling at the meet
Some athletes are reluctant to eat or drink at tournaments, because they have to compete again and think food in their stomachs will make them feel too heavy. However, to perform well throughout the tourney, you need a lot of carbs and fluids all day (or weekend) long. Failing to refuel and replace fluid losses will hinder your performance, particularly toward the end of the day.
Consider the amount of time you have between competitions. If it's less than an hour, guzzle sports drinks, water and fruit juices. When you've got an hour or two between events, munch on easily digestible carb-loaded foods, like fruit, fig bars, bagels or graham crackers. More than two hours to spare? Eat a high carb meal. And no matter how much time you have, drink plenty of fluids!
Snacks to pack
Pack a cooler with healthy snacks so you don't have to rely on the fatty fare at concession stands. Good options include:
Snack bars, crackers, pretzels, baked chips
Low-fat mini-muffins, mini-bagels, bread sticks or rice cakes
Sports drinks, juice packs, water
Dried fruit, trail mix, low-fat popcorn
Snack packs (fruit, applesauce, pudding)
Mozzarella string cheese
Canned tuna, salmon, chicken or turkey in water
Single-serve microwavable soups
Within 30 minutes of your final contest, eat a carb-rich snack that also contains protein; within two hours, have a meal of the same nutrient balance. The carbs restore muscle glycogen, while the protein repairs muscle damage.
Ellen Coleman, MA, MPH, is a registered dietitian and exercise physiologist in Riverside, Calif. A marathon runner and Ironman triathlete, she is the author of two booksUltimate Sports Nutrition and Eating for Endurance. Nicknamed "the fuel coach," she is a former consultant to the L.A. Lakers and Kings, and she currently serves as nutrition consultant for The Sport Clinic.
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