A solid nutrition plan will not make an average athlete elite. However, a poor nutrition plan will make an elite athlete average.”
• What can you do to make sure your athletes come to practice/competition hydrated and fuelled?
• What should your athletes do immediately after practice/training?
• What recommendations do you give your athletes regarding pre-event fuelling?
• Other than the dining hall - Are you planning in advance for travel and food choices/availability?
• Who or what are your sport nutrition resources?
Do what I say, but not as I do will not go well when you are representing a leadership role. As a coach, you play an integral role in your athlete’s sport nutrition plan. The more educated you are around the benefits of a sound nutrition plan the better you can assist your athletes in making wise choices, winning choices.
Nutrition has come to the forefront in the world of sport and performance. A solid sport nutrition plan can give your athlete a legal edge to keep competitive. When and what they eat and drink is critical to high-energy performance and optimal recovery. The type and amount of food and fluid consumed will vary from athlete to athlete and from sport to sport. However, there are some basic principles all athletes should follow.
Plan now to perform later ….
Practice Makes Perfect - if it is done in practice!
The difference between your athletes and the competition is who is putting what they have learned into practice.
• During training/practice is the time to test different foods and the timing of meals. NEVER, EVER try any new foods or beverages the day of competition
• Do not train/compete on an empty stomach. Plan to eat a snack 1-2 hours prior.
• Choose carb-rich foods that are well tolerated.
• Develop a pre-event meal plan that you can use for pre-competition – experiment during training.
• Avoid eating high fat and fiber foods and excess protein prior to exercise.
• Eat high carbohydrate and moderate protein recovery snack/meal within the first 30 minutes after the event.
• Adequate time needs to be provided for the athlete to make necessary body composition changes. Leaving it to last minute is inappropriate and unsafe.
Dehydration is one of the main reasons for poor performance. Every athlete will have different hydration needs. General guidelines include:
• Drink a minimum of 2 L or 8+ cups of fluid every day
• Enter training and competition well hydrated Drink plenty of cool, plain water before, during and after physical activity – aim for 1-3 gulps of fluid every 15-20 minutes as tolerated. 1 gulp of fluid = 1 oz.
• For every pound lost in training/competition, aim for 3 cups of fluid
• Monitor urine color and amount. A small amount of dark urine is a sign of dehydration
• Plain cool water is sufficient for events/workouts lasting up to one hour
• Consider a sports drink when training/competition lasts longer than one hour. Look for 4-8% carbohydrate when choosing a sports drink. Remember to trial first in training before using it in an event!
• Make your own sports drink: mix equal volumes of orange juice and water and add a “pinch” of salt
• PLAN for the UNPLANNED – you will need more fluids than usual when temperature and humidity are higher than usual
Many athletes are trying to gain lean body mass. The following are tips to get you started:
• Regular resistance training
• Sufficient rest days that include quality sleep hours
• Eat 6-7 times daily… every day.
• Include energy dense foods (nuts, oils, homemade shakes)
• Balance high carbohydrate (7-10g/kg) with adequate protein (1.2-1.7g/kg), and healthy fats (1-2g+/kg)
• Supplementation does not mean results!
As a coach you can ease the stress of competition day by planning in advance. Athletes need to practice now to perform later.
• Have your sports dietitian assist in developing food options that fit your competition schedule. He/she can help decide what to bring along to support the sport specific needs of your athlete.
• Plan in advance what will be consumed in restaurants, dining hall, and on site.
• Plan what each athlete will bring from home because you may not be allowed to remove food from the dining hall. Hours of operation may not be in line with your schedule – non- perishable items (dried fruit, nuts/seeds, beef jerky, dry cereal and cereal bars, Carnation Instant Breakfast powder etc.
• Make a list of food and non-food items that should be brought to practice/competition – hand sanitizer, coolers, ice packs, emergency kit, sports drinks, cereal bars, water etc. What is Your Game Day Action Plan?? Eating On The Road Less Travelled… When sporting events take you away from home, too often the nutrition plan is left behind too. Unfortunately this can lead to decreased performance. Planning meals/snacks in advance saves time and energy.
• Staying hydrated while traveling to your destination is key to preventing the jet lag feeling. Keeping your athletes feeling energized going in to competition can be the deal breaker when recovery time is limited.
• Keep non-perishable foods in room: fruit cups, fruit to go bars, trail mix, whole wheat/multigrain crackers, canned tuna/salmon/chicken. Protein shakes, energy bars, bottles of water, juice boxes, sport drinks, boxed cereals, instant oatmeal, peanut butter, honey, coffee, tea, hot chocolate.
• Consider bringing: kettle, toaster, mini fridge, microwave, blender/magic bullet, can opener, paper plates/bowls, plastic utensils, zip lock bags, paper towels/napkins, coffee mug, soap, hand sanitizer
• Perishables (if you have a fridge or cooler): fruit, vegetables, deli meat (chicken, turkey), milk/soy beverage, fruit spread, eggs, bagels, bread/tortilla wraps, high fiber muffins, cheese
• Have a “Go For” person who can restock your in-room foods/fluids supplies
• Remember the buffet does not mean free for all. Athletes need to have a performance mind set when entering the dining hall or head to the buffet table.
Now You Know, What Can You Do??
• Remind your athletes to bring fluid bottles and snack to every practice – not done, don’t train policy
• Get parents involved
• Purchase a “Team” cooler
• Develop a Snack Budget (parents, athletes, fundraisers etc.)
• Communicate with food service in advance of competition – especially events away from home
• Get your local sports dietitian involved in education and implementation well in advance of the competitive season. Having someone come in 1-2 weeks before you compete will not allow for adequate time to make beneficial changes.
Don’t leave your sport nutrition plan to chance. If you need assistance in developing a nutrition plan tailored made for your team or athlete(s), contact your local sports dietitian.
Adapted from the Sport Medicine and Science Council Manitoba website with the following resources:
Sport Medicine and Science Council Manitoba
Canadian Sport Centre Manitoba
Manitoba Sport Nutrition Network
Dietitians of Canada