Competition Food Prep.
“You can often tell the level of preparation of an athlete by the size of their cooler.”
Recently Freddy and I were asked about how we prep our food for competitions. We are not nutritionists or experts in this field, but have spent time nerding out on nutrition and supplements for our own use and benefit. Nutrition is a very individual thing, so what works for us may not be the right approach for others. But, we’re going to outline what we do here– I’ll warn you in advance, it may seem a little intense, but the take-home principles should remain the same.
The biggest key for nutritional success at your competition is preparation and planning ahead. Cook all of your food in advance the week before, and have your meals already put together in Tupperwares. Do the same with your pre and post workout shakes, and if you can, renting a room with a kitchenette is an added bonus. The picture below is of our kitchenette and food from Freddy’s last competition in Vancouver. He knew exactly what he was eating that weekend, and we were able to make our own hot breakfast which kept him properly fueled for those morning workouts. It’s a lot of work beforehand, but it is one less thing to worry about during the competition. We also packed meals for our travel time so we don’t get stuck eating ferry food or other fast food variations.
You Must Eat
You won’t be hungry when you’re competing, but you have to force yourself to eat. Literally, shove it down your throat if you have to or assign a spouse, friend or family member to make sure you’re eating after your events. In a mutli-event competition, you will crash in the later events if you haven’t been properly fueling and rehydrating yourself. We packed our (Zone Blocked) meals that we would normally eat, and made sure to eat them all. That way (thinking long term as well) at the end of the weekend we were not 5lb lighter and under recovered for the next week of training. It’s not just about fueling your current workouts, it’s about recovery as well.
Freddy and I follow the guidelines of Paleo and Zone Blocking quite strictly, and this is where I said it can get a little intense. Since Paleo is more about quality of food, and the Zone Diet is more about portions, for the purpose of this article we will focus more on Zone Blocking. If we take Jen for example, with her calculations she eats 18 blocks a day- that means she has three 4 block meals (equally balanced with protein, carbs and fat) and two 3 block snacks (her shakes). We make sure to pack the 18 blocks she needs for each day, and in the next paragraph we will cover which meals she eats when.
This is something that has to be adjusted depending on the events of your competition, but for ease of explanation we will keep using Jen’s Zone Blocks as an example. She would definitely start with a good breakfast (4 block meal) before her first workout- the amount of digestion time depends on the person (Freddy needs an hour, Jen likes more time). We would plan out her snacks (3 blocks) for the less demanding or shorter workouts, like a skill test or single attempt events. We would save the larger meals for after more intense or longer workouts, since her body will need them to repair. Also, when she has a big break between events, this is a great time for a larger (4 block) meal. Lastly, we would definitely ensure that she has a bigger meal (4 blocks) after her last event before bedtime- that way she has all the nutrients she needs to repair overnight.
You’re going to be sweating a lot, so obviously drink a ton of water. We use coconut water for pre-workout carbs with our protein shakes and bananas with our post-workout shakes. We like to have protein both pre and post-workout so our body is fueled the whole time, but we will save that for another post. Even with bananas and coconut water you may not get enough electrolytes. We brought some powdered Gatorade with us as well, even though it’s sugary it’s better than nothing in your water in a longer competition. We use the powdered form so we can just use a small scoop, rather than the super sweet liquid variation. You can also use a pinch of salt, if you don’t have Gatorade or run out. It doesn’t cover all of the electrolytes, but again, better than nothing. There are other products out there, but we haven’t tried them yet.
K.I.S.S.- Keep It Simple Stupid!
We focused on packing foods we knew we loved, and could eat even if we didn’t feel like it. Use your favorite recipes, and make them enticing with your favorite spices, bacon, coconut milk, etc. We use yams, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, beets, mashed rutabagas, sauteed kale, steamed veggies and fresh fruit for carbs- BUT stay with what you’re used to so you don’t upset your stomach (ie: if you’re used to rice then use it!) Same with meat, if that pork tenderloin recipe makes your mouth water, then make sure to bring some! Some competitions have food trucks and vendors there, and even though it may be Paleo or seem like a good, simple option- you have never had their food before, so are you really willing to risk it on competition day? And don’t skip meals, seriously, don’t do it! It’s not going to help you recover and in the very least can cannibalize some of your hard-earned muscle. No, jerky isn’t enough!
We realize this is quite an undertaking when it comes to food preparation and may seem a little overwhelming. We apply these principles in our everyday life as well, doing a massive cook every Sunday to prepare us for the week. This gives us food prep practice, but also takes the guesswork out of our weekly meals since we live off leftovers. When you put all of that time and effort into your training and want to showcase your hard work at a competition, why not go that extra mile to give yourself the best competitive edge you can?
In our next blog post, we will share our Competition Packing List.
Jen & Freddy
(Boo is currently snoring behind us!)