You have your CrossFit training and nutrition down to a fine art. It’s fuelling you to go harder and faster and you have never felt better. You are ready to compete. But the question is, what should you eat on competition day to make sure you perform at the top of your game?!
This post focuses on what to eat the night before and the morning of the competition. Next time we will focus on what to eat during the day, and at the end of the day!! Of course, you must also recognise that what you ‘should’ eat is also dependent on your individual tolerance to food, particularly when nerves are high.
The night before
This principle is common to pretty much any sporting event and discipline … fuel up!! For a CrossFit event, a high carbohydrate meal will load your muscle and liver with the glycogen your body needs to fuel the high intensity short duration power and speed events you will be smashing out on the floor the next day. Choose ‘complex’ carbohydrates with a low glycaemic load to avoid spiking blood glucose and promote sustained release of energy into the blood, and eat these with a moderate amount of protein and fat to support the steady release of fuel into the blood and provide sustained energy for use before the event. Keep fibre relatively low to reduce the risk of gastro issues on the competition floor!
As an aside, if you are susceptible to gastro distress (from discomfort to the full works from either end!!), it may also help to gradually reduce your fibre intake by up to around 25% for the 2-3 days before the comp. You don’t want to reduce it so much you end up constipated, but by switching to ‘white’ pasta and rice, and from higher to lower fibre fruits and veggies such as tomatoes, carrots, green beans, aubergine, melon you can lower the fibre in your system.
Typical ‘night before’ meals include:
Chicken, rice and avocado
Baked potato, butter and baked beans
Pizza, with just a little cheese (yes really!)
All with added salt, and taken with at least a large glass or two of water.
Again, the principle is to fuel up and to hydrate!! Aim to consume 2.5g carbohydrate per kg bodyweight in the 2-4 hours before your first event. As with dinner the night before, choose carbohydrate combinations with an overall relatively low glycaemic and low fibre load to ensure a controlled and steady release of glucose into the blood upon digestion. And this time, keep protein and fat low so as not to slow digestion and so slow you or give you a stomach ache on the competition floor!
In terms of hydration, it is a fine balance between ensuring you are sufficiently hydrated and not over-hydrating on water alone, which can lead to hyponatremia. This is where you have too much water in your blood compared to electrolytes (most notably, sodium), causing loss of energy, confusion, headaches, muscle weakness, nausea and – at its most severe – seizures, coma and even death. The risk is typically higher in endurance events where athletes are sweating out electrolytes over an extended period and may not be refeeding with sufficient salts and sugar, however it is still worth being aware of. We will talk about how to help maintain your blood’s so-called ‘osmotic balance’ during the competition later, but for breakfast it is important to ensure you consume some salts as well as your water.
As many as 50% of athletes have reported an upset stomach before one or more of their competitions. If this is you and nerves and stress make a solid meal impossible, go for a liquid breakfast. And if you cannot stomach enough to get your 2.5g/kg of carbs, be extra sure to eat well the day before and perhaps even get up earlier on the morning of the event to give you time to spread breakfast over time, and more time for it to digest before you compete!
Caffeine is an ergogenic aid that I am sure many of you use. Caffeine sensitivity, i.e. speed, duration and size of response to caffeine, varies so much from individual to individual and this means it is hard to say when you ‘should’ drink your coffee or caffeine drink pre-event. Experiment in training and see what timing and dosage serves you best!
Typical ‘morning of’ meals include:
Large bowl of oatmeal, with salt and some honey
Toast with avocado and salt
Smoothie made with oats, banana and milk, and a pinch of salt
Taken with at least a large glass or two of water.
The meals before your competition are all about ensuring you have the fuel in your muscles, liver and blood to go out and compete at high intensity for variable amounts of time … and to do so without a stomach ache or worse gastro issues … !!
Next time, what to eat through the day …
Further Reading …
McArdle, W, Katch, F, Katch, V. Exercise Physiology, Energy, Nutrition and Human Performance. 8th Edition. Wolters Kluwer Health, Philadelphia, USA. 2015.
Macnaughton, LS, Wardle, SL, Witard, OC, McGlory, C, Hamilton, DL, Jeromson, S, Lawrence, CE, Wallis, GA, Tipton, KD. The response of muscle protein synthesis following whole-body resistance exercise is greater following 40g than 20g of ingested whey protein. Physiol. Rep. 4(15):e12893. 2016.
Phillips, SM, Chevalier, S, Leidy, HJ. Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimising health. Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab. 41:565-572. 2016.
Schoenfeld, BJ, Aragon, AA. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. J. Int. Soc. Sports Nut. 15:10-15. 2018.
Wilmore, JH, Costill, DL. Physiology of Sport and Exercise. 3rd Edition. Human Kinetics Publishing. 2005.