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Competition Diets for Gymnasts

Because their performance requires skills that involve perfect timing, focus and power that can be accomplished by a lean body, gymnasts are considered to be very extraordinary athletes. They are quite different from football players who may need the same skills but do not need the same physical requirements. After all, it would be difficult to imagine a 410-lb football player swinging around a pair of parallel bars.

Power athletes and endurance athletes are the two types of athletes. Each of these two types has a subcategory that has its own physical requirements. Because their performance depends on repeated bursts of intense energy, their routines require the employment of fast-twitch muscle fibres.

Fast twitch muscle fibres perform actions that require speed and power. Although these muscles are capable of strength and speed, they can't maintain both for a long period of time because the supply of oxygen in fast-twitch muscles is very low. This is the reason why the colour of these muscle fibres is white. Not a lot of oxygen-carrying blood vessels pass through these muscle fibres. Just imagine a chicken that can only fly a short distance. The muscles in their wings and chest are made up of fast-twitch muscle fibres that are white in colour.

Since chickens need to do a lot of walking, you will notice that their legs are made up of dark, slow-twitch muscle fibres. The reason for this is that these dark muscle fibres have a lot of blood vessels running through it, giving them the endurance that they need to walk for a long period of time.

Intense power and speed come from fast-twitch muscle fibres. They use up the stored glycogen in our bodies as their primary fuel source. Unfortunately, because of the fast accumulation of lactic acid, they tire more easily than slow-twitch muscles.

In order to make sure that their muscles would be at their best during their competition, they should store a sufficient amount of glycogen that they would need during their competition. Because of this, they need to eat foods high in carbohydrates the day before their competition as well as on the competition day itself.

Day Before The Competition

On the day before the competition, you should make sure that the breakfast, lunch and dinner that you have prepared for the gymnast are good sources of carbohydrates. They should also be properly hydrated with water and other fluids. They should also stay away from high-fat foods.

For their breakfast, you can prepare two slices of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and jam, apple sauce, a glass of milk that has around 2% fat for pre-teens and around 1% fat for teens, and a glass of water.
You can prepare a meat sandwich, a glass of orange juice, a banana and a glass of water for your child's lunch.

For a snack, you can have a piece of fruit, six crackers or half a bagel with margarine or jam with a glass of water.
Eat some rice, pasta, noodles or potatoes with mixed veggies, lean meat, like chicken or fish, for dinner can also be a good idea. For desert, you can give her some chocolate pudding. Of course, a glass of water shouldn't be missing from the meal. Some yogurt with real fruit and a glass of water can be a great after-dinner snack.

Day of Competition

On the day of the competition, the gymnast should have a light breakfast that is easy to digest. You should also make sure that you pack some high-carbohydrate snacks that are easy to digest when you go to the competition since it may take a whole day. Bring a tumbler filled with water. The Gymnast will need to take in small amounts of liquid continuously during the competition day in order to stay hydrated without feeling too full to perform.

For breakfast, you should prepare two pieces of whole-wheat toast with jam, applesauce and a glass of fruit juice. You should also take a few sips from the water bottle that you will bring to the competition.

You should also pack some snacks that can be eaten before and during the competition. The snack can consist of a glass of fruit juice, a serving of jello, some white bread and jam as well as dried fruits like raisins. Saltine crackers and an energy bar can also be a great addition.

In order to make sure that the gymnast is eating properly when they are not at home; make sure that you avoid foods that have special sauces since they are usually filled with a lot of fat and calories. Stay away from deep fried foods that are coated with breading. Choose grilled or roasted food instead of pan-fried foods. You should also replace soda with some skim milk. Bringing a piece of fruit with you can also be a good way to complete a meal.

For a Level 5 gymnast who is seven years old and has two-hour training sessions three times a week, her nutritional program should have two types, one for a workout day and another for a non-workout day.
On a workout day, her breakfast can consist of two eggs, a slice of whole-grain toast with marmalade, two to four strips of bacon and a medium-sized glass of orange juice. You can prepare a turkey sandwich, a hard-boiled egg, as well as a juice box or a piece of fruit for her lunch. Her afternoon snack can consist of a piece of string cheese and a piece of fruit or a fruit roll-up. For dinner, she can have three to four ounces of meat with two vegetables and one serving of starchy food.

For a non-workout day, her breakfast should consist of two eggs, a toaster pastry, two strips of bacon and a glass of orange juice. Her lunch may include a slice of pastrami or any meat wrap, a piece of cheese, a piece of fruit and a juice box. She can also have some peanut butter and crackers for her afternoon snack. Her dinner should include three to four ounces of meat as well as two servings of vegetable, one serving of starchy food and some dessert.

Since your gymnast is still growing, making sure that she has the right amount of nutrients and calories everyday is imperative. Restricting her intake too much can greatly affect her muscle strength endurance and her concentration. Her sexual maturation may also be impaired.

Gymnasts are particularly prone to eating disorders especially during the beginning of puberty when the fat stores in their thighs, rear and chest start to increase. Because they have to wear tight-fitting uniforms that can reveal all their bulges, their insecurities as well as their need to maintain their figure tend to cause the occurrence of eating disorders.

Both the coaches and parents have the duty to remain vigilant in looking for symptoms of eating disorders. In order to avoid such disorders, coaches and parents should promote good eating habits like taking five or six small meals a day. Their athletes should also be given some education on proper nutrition, encouraging them to have a diet rich in whole grain breads, cereals, fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats and dairy products with low fat can help these gymnasts maintain their performance and figures at the same time.


Eating Disorders Preventing Eating Disorders Proteins, Fats and Carbs Competition Diet Fast Foods Sample Diets

Frequently Asked Questions About Gymnastics

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