Blog Post by Student Dietitian, Madison Prendergast
Sports such as Oz tag, touch football, rugby 7’s, netball, AFL, athletics, gymnastics, swimming, hockey, and many more, have some sort of tournament, carnival or gala days where you must play multiple games throughout the day over multiple days in a row. These sporting events can have a massive impact on an athlete’s body and so it’s extremely important to consider how we can use nutrition as a tool to optimize sporting performance during these tough sporting conditions. The build-up to a tournament or carnival can be exciting and nerve-wracking. We all want to perform the best we can for ourselves and our teammates. This blog highlights a few of our key nutrition recommendations for athletes competing in this sporting environment.
For a quick go-to guide on what to eat leading up to a game or event, have a look at our fuelling guide. However, in this blog we have outlined exactly what to eat on multi-day events.
Your nutrition in the months and even weeks leading up to the tournament can be crucial to the outcomes in your sporting performance on the day of the tournament or event. Meeting your nutrition requirements consistently over this preparation period will be key to making adaptations to training and preventing injuries. Individual requirements vary between athletes, and individualisation of nutrition is key to optimising your performance outcomes.
However, as a general guide, particularly in the final days leading up to the tournament, it is important to make sure you are fuelling up on carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide the primary source of fuel for our body during the majority of these sports and activities, and loading up our muscles with carbohydrates (in the form of glucose/glycogen) to be readily available during our sporting performance, can help to reduce the time to fatigue during these prolonged events. Foods that contain a good source of carbohydrates include:
- Starchy vegetables (potato, sweet potato, corn, pumpkin)
Lean proteins are important for muscle repair and recovery and should be consumed regularly in the diet, especially during the preparation phase for the tournament.
Good sources of protein can include:
Dairy products (Milk, yoghurt, cottage cheese etc.)
Alongside carbs and protein, an assortment of fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds and olive oil will provide much-needed micronutrients and healthy fats to assist with adaptations and recovery from training.
Additionally, it is crucial to come into the competition already fully hydrated. This will ensure higher sporting performance and allow it to be easier to STAY hydrated. Studies have shown that a 2% decrease in body weight during exercise (which is indicative of dehydration) can lead to decreased performance in accuracy, speed, agility, concentration, and coordination.
Game-day Breakfast (3-4 hours before the first match):
This breakfast needs to top up your energy reserves for the big day ahead, however, the meal shouldn’t be too different from your normal breakfast routine, to prevent any upset stomachs. It should include a good source of carbohydrates and moderate amounts of protein and healthy fats.
Some great breakfast meal ideas include:
– Cereal, fruit, and yoghurt
– Poached eggs and baked beans on toast
– Porridge with fruit and peanut butter
– Omelette and smoothie
Snacks prior to the first match and between matches
Depending on the time between breakfast and your first match, you may need another small meal/snack 1-2 hours beforehand. Additionally, between matches, the priority for nutrition is to top up and maintain energy levels and to prevent fatigue. This kind of snack should be high in easily digestible carbohydrates, so our bodies can receive this energy quickly and in time for the next game.
Small fruit smoothie
Jam, peanut butter or vegemite sandwich on white bread or rice cakes
Cheese & crackers
Wrap with peanut butter & banana
Quarter/half time top-up
If the game is <90minutes, topping up with additional carbohydrates may be necessary.
Food ideas include:
Gameday lunch (eat shortly after the previous game)
Lunch should include protein and carbohydrates to fuel your body and help your muscles recover after a big morning. Make it light so that you don’t feel sick or lethargic in the afternoon games.
Meal ideas include:
Chicken sandwich and a piece of fruit
Turkey salad wrap
Tuna & rice cakes
Gameday dinner (eat shortly after the last game)
Dinner is a time when you can eat a larger meal to replace the energy you’ve expended and begin the recovery process. It should be made up of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats.
Chicken, salad with quinoa
Mexican bowl with rice, legumes, and veggies
Roast veggies and lean meat
- Chicken burger with lots of salads with a side of sweet potato fries
Staying hydrated is extremely important to maintain high performance. The fast pace of a tournament can mean that fluids are easily lost and must be replaced otherwise dehydration can be carried from one game into the next. Taking small sips throughout the day is best. It can be hard to find time to drink water in a busy time schedule. We’ve actually written and entire blog post on hydration if you’d like to read more.
Times for hydration:
– Before, after, and in between games
– Quarter and half time
– When trainers and water boys/girls are allowed on the field
– During interchanges
– During snack and mealtime
Other water tips:
– Add ice to your drink bottles
– Freeze extra drink bottles the night before and bring in an esky full of ice to have plenty of cold water all day.
Sports drinks are a great way to top up energy and replace electrolytes. These drinks can be used as a ‘between match’ snack OR be sipped on during the match along with water. Using drinks such as hydralytes also reduce the risk of cramping due to its ability to replace electrolytes.
Note: These drinks should not replace water altogether, but be had in addition to water.
Alcohol during tournaments can slow recovery and aggravate injuries. It’s best to wait until the end of the tournament to have these drinks.
Other things that you can be doing during the tournament.
Keep cool during game days – between games utilise cold packs, ice baths and make sure you find shade under a gazebo, grandstand, or a tree.
Wear sunscreen and a hat where possible and seek shade.
Keep your food cool in an esky with ice. This will ensure food safety!
Get in a good night’s sleep!
Stretch before and after games
Warm-up and warm down
Tend to injuries promptly and properly
Maddie’s Personal Tips!:
1. Practice your tournament-day nutrition a few times to know what you can tolerate on the day – do not try anything new as you may upset your stomach and compromise your ability to perform at your best.
2. Do not rely on the venue to have good food and drinks. Take time to prepare your own snacks and meals to ensure that you don’t get to the grounds and realise that there is nothing to eat.
3. Try not to eat takeout during the tournament. Refueling with higher quality nutrition will result in better recovery and thus better performance!