Competition Diets for Gymnasts
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.
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.
For a snack, you can have a piece of fruit, six crackers
or half a bagel with margarine or jam with a glass of
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.
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.