WHAT TO EAT WHILE YOU COMPETEOnce the competition is on, there several issues that must be addressed through diet and supplementation. The combination of a hot climate, grueling workouts and profuse sweating will leave athletes with a need for lots of water, electrolytes, minerals and trace elements. The sheer work volume, all being at high intensity, will empty glycogen and glucose stores both from workout to workout and day to day.
Muscles and connective tissue will be subjected to wear and tear with all these repeated high velocity movements loaded with either bodyweight or external weight. So not only do liquids and energy need to be provided, so do building blocks to repair the extensive wear and tear from day to day. Your nervous system will also be taxed, having to keep you going through hardship, discomfort and pain.
Finally, your digestive system will also be taxed, despite not being directly affected in the same way as lungs, muscles and connective tissue. But hard stress, mental or physical, will still have a detrimental effect on your digestive system.
What to Eat During Competition
A little is good, but a lot or all the time could be bad. Caffeine literally allows your body to access energy stores faster, but at a cost. And it will also stave off mental and physical fatigue. So if you are well-rested and well-nourished, a bit of caffeine at the right time, can make you perfom better. But overuse of caffeine, when you are already tired and completely drained, can leave you in an even worse state afterwards, because you relied on resources that you really should not have used.
If caffeine is used to increase performance above and beyond your actual maximum, it must be used no more often than twice a week. With more frequent use, adaptation occurs. Once adapted, caffeine cannot improve performance above and beyond what is your normal maximum, although it can make you feel less tired and fatigued.
So for Games, ideally only use caffeine, be it coffee or some sort of energy drink a few times, when you really need it to either wake up in the morning or in-between the 2 WODs. But do make sure, that you fuel and rehydrate yourself properly for performance nonetheless. And be careful with caffeine after the last workout, as it could interfere with your sleep.
Your glycogen stores need to be full at the beginning of each day and replenished after each WOD. So eating foods like rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, wholegrains, legumes and root vegetables with every meal is an absolute necessity.
Have at least two good palmfuls with every main meal. And consider some sort of carbohydrate supplement after each WOD and possibly mixed into a bedtime shake as well.
You probably do not expect any muscle growth as a result of your competition. Nonetheless, getting enough protein is really important for 3 reasons:
1. The amount of muscle damage and damage to tendons, ligaments and connective tissue is going to be extensive with multiple hard WODs a day several days in a row. You need to minimize that and enough protein will help with that.
2. Protein helps make you feel fuller and delay central fatigue which will become a determining factor for your performance as Games progresses
3. Protein helps lower the stress response and inflammatory response to heavy training loads.
Getting plenty of protein with breakfast, lunch and dinner is essential. You need at least a good handful of quality protein with each main meal. Furthermore, a high-quality protein shake after each WOD and possibly before bedtime is also a good idea considering the demands Games participation place on your body.
Remember fats can still bolster energy-delivery during long grueling WODs and it will also help decrease fatigue during those.
And coconut fat – coconut milk, coconut oil and dessicated coconut – seems to be slightly superior to other fats, as it seems to be burned faster for energy than some of the other saturated fats, such as those found in meat, eggs, butter and whole milk. So have food with coconut oil and coconut milk every day during Games.
Omega–3 fatty acids will also be your friend, as they have a beneficial impact on inflammation and energy metabolism and you want both of those running smoothly and efficiently, when pushing yourself WOD after WOD, day after day. Eat fish and grass-fed animal foods. You may want to also consider supplementation if you aren’t getting enough.
Drinking plenty of fluids is of utmost importance, as you will loose quite a lot of water through sweating. The maximum water that can be absorbed from the digestive system is about 1 L per hour. Ideally drink 1 L of water on the hour from the moment the first WOD starts. But you are also losing electrolytes, so pure water is not the best idea, as it will not replace the electrolytes lost. Add at least add some sea salt or an electrolyte replacement.
Coconut water is another “pre-natural-made” fluid and electrolyte solution, as it contains electrolytes, such as potassium, sodium, chloride and magnesium, that you also need to replace in addition to the water. And it contains a bit of sugar as well to replenish energy stores.
Beet root juice ideally should be part of your fluid intake during Games, to help push NO production and increase blood flow and oxygenation. If you drink some in the morning, you will benefit during the first WOD. If you drink it later in the day, recovery will also be improved.
Supplementation During Competition
Magnesium levels will be lowered by the combination of hard WODs, sweating and significant mental and physiological stress. As magnesium is important for energy production, for preventing muscle cramps and improves sleep for some, taking magnesium during Games is a good insurance. If you do not supplement, you will probably end up with less than optimal levels, which could impair recovery, stress-resistance and decrease sleep quality.
Take magnesium after each WOD and at bedtime. Do, however, be a bit careful with the dosage, as too much magnesium can lead to to an upset stomach.
In addition to magnesium supplements, quite a few of my athletes also have success using a saturated magnesium chloride solutions (usually called magnesium oil as they have the feel the same as oil despite not containing any fat) applied locally to sore and tender muscles and joints. Try rubbing sore knees, quads, glutes, shoulders, traps, biceps, pecs etc. with magnesium oil after each WOD and before bedtime. Even in the morning before taking off for yet a day of physical punishment.
As mentioned in the pre-Games preparation blogpost, creatine will increase high intensity power output. And you can be sure that your creatine stores will be decreased by each workout at Games. Therefore you ideally ought to supplement with creatine in your PWO-meal after each WOD. Not once a day, but twice a day. You might also want to add creatine to a bedtime protein-energy shake, if you are having that.
Hard exercise will not only tax your muscles, heart, nervous system and connective tissue; your digestive system will also be put under duress. You might find that strange considering, that your digestive system does not have perform as such. But there is a growing scientific base showing, that when the human body is put under severe stress and duress, the digestive system is as affected as all other parts of the body affected.
Your beneficial gut bacteria will likely decrease in number and there can also be an increase in intestinal permeability. This can lead to digestive upset, which you definitely do not want as it will slow you down and can interfere with the absorption of the fluids and nutrients necessary for you to refuel and recover.
Take a supplement of probiotic bacteria with a meal. Like with any new product, you don’t want to test it during the competition. Try it weeks ahead of time so you know how it will affect you.
Furthermore, eat fermented foods such as plain yoghurt, kimchi, fermented vegetables, miso, natto and old school sourdough bread, as fermented foods are also a good source of beneficial gut bacteria.
Good luck in you competition! Tweet me @umahro with any nutrition questions.