Many people are wondering what to eat when getting ready for competition so I thought this would be a good article on pre-competition meals.
For forty-eight hours prior to competition the athlete’s workouts must be canceled or markedly curtailed. This allows his muscles a couple of days to recover from the persistent training he has been doing. It allows that little extra bit of spring and kick to creep into the muscles, ready to burst forth at the moment of challenge.
Carbs and Glycogen in pre-competition meals
Another reason for tapering off the training program during this period is that of allowing the liver specifically and the body generally to replete their glycogen (synonymous with carbohydrate and starch) reserves. An adequate supply of available carbohydrate is invaluable in endurance events, first to provide ready calories for work consumption and second to protect against low blood sugar, which in turn may be associated with feelings of marked fatigue.
The diet is not otherwise altered until the pre-competition meals which is consumed three hours before competition. This period of time allows for absorption and digestion but does not extend long enough to allow hunger or starvation to ensue.
In the digestion and metabolism of protein, there is a residue of acid which can only be excreted by the kidneys. Carbon dioxide, the acid of fat and carbohydrate, can be blown off via the lungs. During exercise, effective kidney function ceases, preventing egress of acid by this route.
The athlete who eats a large steak (protein) prior to competition invites the onset of acidosis with all its unpleasant manifestations. For traditional yet stupid reasons, athletes are encouraged to wolf down rare meat, eggs, and milk before competition, when, in fact, they should be eliminated.
What should a pre-competition meal have in it
The pre-competition meal should be easily digestible since the implications of competing “on a full stomach” are well known. Fat in any form slows stomach emptying. Unless food passes from the stomach into the small intestine, no appreciable absorption can occur. Anxiety alone is sufficient to slow the stomach emptying. Since most athletes experience “butterflies in the stomach,” this should not be aggravated by eating fats. Fats should be kept to an absolute minimum in the pre-event meal.
Carbohydrate is the most readily available and quantitatively significant source of calories in athletics. Although fats and fatty acids are utilized, carbohydrates are pre-eminent. Moreover, their final breakdown products of carbon dioxide and water are readily excreted via the lungs and skin. They thus do not contribute to an acid load, which can only be excreted by the (non functioning) kidneys. Sugar, potatoes, bread, cereals, and honey are sources of starch commonly used by athletes.
During exercise, perspiration may be huge. Marathon runners lose eight to ten quarts of sweat during a race. Laborers while working at the Boulder Dam construction lost up to ten to fourteen quarts per day. Adequate hydration prior to competition is essential. The harmful effects of sweating off a few pounds to make a weight limit are now well recognized. As to the liquids in the pre-event meal, these should be readily absorbable and low in fat content, hence the need to restrict milk. They should not cause laxation, hence the need to restrict juices, particularly prune juice. Usually two or three glasses of fluid with the pre-event meal ensures adequate hydration.
Salt and pre-competition Meals
Salt supplies are important. If no salt is taken, the dangers of heat stroke and heat exhaustion are more likely, especially in warm weather. A practical and effective way to give salt is in bouillon. One bouillon cube dissolved in a cup of water is excellent. Salt tablets should not be taken just prior to competition because they may be very irritating to the stomach-and more so if the stomach is “nerved up” before the event. Another glass or two of water can be taken one to one and a half hours before competition.
These are the basics for most people for pre-competition meals and I hope you have learned lots to get ready.