As with any athlete, the fuel a gymnast puts into her body has a direct effect on her ability to train and compete. In the lead-up to a meet, a specially controlled diet helps prepare her body for the increased work. It supplies the body with the correct nutrients to enable her to perform her best on the day.
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High demands for a strong yet lean body place an importance on controlling the diet of gymnasts throughout the year. Gymnasts will generally eat regular small meals that are low in fat but high in energy. As with any athlete, a gymnast’s diet should reflect the intensity and frequency of her training; overeating could lead to weight gain and poor performance. Similarly, a lack of correct nutrition and hydration can also result in poor performance and lack of stamina during training and meets.
Gymnasts tend to avoid high-fat or sugary food in during this period to help control their weight. Slight alterations in the training schedule before a meet require a change in eating patterns. The possible increased intensity means a gymnast needs to ensure she has the correct amount of fuel to meet the demands of training. It is essential that gymnast’s maintain healthy levels of hydration during this heavy training period. Fluids should be available, and drinking them should be encouraged at all practices and competitions.
The Day Before
According to Gymnastics Rescue, an ideal dinner the night before a meet would be pasta or noodles with mixed vegetables and lean meat or tofu with fruit for desert. Eating carbohydrate-based food, such as pasta or rice, will provide the gymnast with the right energy levels the night before a meet. This also ensures that the muscles can store a sufficient amount of glycogen to help them work at their best during the competition.
At the Meet
A light breakfast, such as toast or cereal should, be eaten before the meet to give the gymnast energy to compete. Eating healthy snacks, such as energy bars or dried fruit, throughout the day will help to maintain energy levels. If a gymnast feels hungry during an event, drinking fluids containing carbohydrates will sustain both fluid levels and provide a source of energy. Rehydration is important during a meet; poor levels of hydration can reduce a gymnast’s ability to compete effectively. Small sips of water or glucose-based drinks should be taken regularly to hydrate and avoid bloating.