Competition Tournament Nutrition

muesli-breakfast-food-cornflakes-40725Just recently I was asked to be interviewed by one of you SoCal athletes regarding the importance of nutrition and it’s affect on tournaments. As many of you gear up for your final competitions, head into it being optimally fueled. What you choose to eat daily DOES affect your competition. This article is for volleyball, but can be applied to any extended tournament weekend with any sport. Enjoy!

Q) Do you think that what an athlete (volleyball player) eats before they exercise impacts their performance. If so what foods or food groups do you recommend an athlete to consume before playing?

A) Food (nutrition) has a BIG role in how an athlete competes. HOWEVER, know this, if an athlete eats poorly on a regular basis (soda, candies, chips, ice creams, cakes…) and then decides to “eat better” on game day it may not have as great of effect. It is far better to eat well consistently than to have one healthy day that tends be only on tournament weekends. Typically, a small to moderate meal (with protein (lean meats), carbs (vegetables and/or whole grains, and a little fat (i.e. olive oil or an avocado) 1.5-2 hours before will help fuel the athlete.

Q) Do you think that carbs and proteins are the most important types of foods for athletes to eat before exercising?

A)    Yes, I do. The protein will help the body recover from the “tearing down” it can go through during intense competitions and the carbs help provide the energy.

Q)    I found out a lot of information about alkaline-forming foods through my research project. I found that alkaline-forming foods like fruit can actually make volleyball player’s jump higher? Do you agree with this statement or what do you know about alkaline-forming foods?

A) No, I don’t believe that alkaline-forming foods “make” you jump better. If I asked you to do the vertical jump and then gave you skittles or a banana, and asked you to jump again, would it improve? No! Your training (strength training and technique work) will do that. HOWEVER, the concept of alkaline food is pretty much a concept to help you eat better in general. Most fruits and veggies fall into the alkaline category, meanwhile your junk food (cakes, candies, sodas…) are acidic. Eating better foods consistently (alkaline) will help your body recover better after training hard which in turn helps you jump higher. So eat your fruits and veggies!

Q) Do you think that hydration impacts the performance of an athlete. What do you think is the appropriate amount of water a volleyball player should drink before a practice or a tournament?

A) Just as important as food is your water intake. Did you know that even a 1-2% drop in your body water (sweat, breathing hard…) can decrease your overall performance?! About 30 min before a competition an athlete should drink 2 cups of water. During a competition or practice that lasts longer than an hour (or is outside in the heat) the athlete should drink 1 cup (this amount depends on temperature, body size, and competition intensity) of water (with 6-8% carbohydrates in it, some sports drinks mixed with water will work) about every 15-20 min.

Q) Do you think that when a volleyball player eats (before a tournament, in-between games, after a tournament) is an important factor in a volleyball player’s performance. When do you think is the most important time for a volleyball player to eat?

A) Yes, it is important. As for food, putting water aside, eating a small/moderate meal 1.5-2 hours before is a good place to start. In between games it would be a good time to eat some quicker absorbing carbohydrates (sports drink, a smoothie shake…) to help replenish the lost energy stores needed for the next game. Also, on a more personal preference, in between matches you can eat foods with carbs and proteins, but this will be a personal preference. Some can handle real food and compete again, while others prefer getting their carbs and protein in a liquid form, like a smoothie. The key is to eat the way that helps the athlete feel light and powerful!

Well, there you have it. The key take away is to make sure you are well hydrated, drinking enough water before, during, and after competition. Carbs and proteins will help sustain an athlete while what they eat should help them feel light and powerful.
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