Learn to fuel the gymnast for optimal performance and longevity in the sport.
Learn how to fuel your gymnast so that you can avoid the top 3 major nutrition mistakes that keep most gymnasts stuck, struggling, and injured.
What is the best pre-competition breakfast for your gymnast?!
There is a lot of misinformation floating around the internet, gymnastics clubs, and social media as to what a gymnast should eat for breakfast on competition day.
You’ll read or hear things like “keep it light”. “Lean and green”. “Protein only. “And yet all of these statements miss the mark.
Gymnastics is a high-intensity sport that “runs on carbs”. And while a competition isn’t as much energy expenditure as a normal 4-5 hour workout, a gymnast still needs to be properly fueled.
There’s nothing worse than watching your gymnast in slo-motion the day of the competition because they were too nervous to eat breakfast. Or slept in too late or didn’t think it mattered because they weren’t competing until the evening.
There are several things to take into consideration when fueling a gymnast on competition day. But one thing that remains the same is a consistent performance nutrition breakfast.
A lot of gymnasts start the day too late in terms of meal/snack timing the day of a competition. If they’re competing at 8AM, they often try to eat breakfast in the car on the way to the competition. And that’s often too late in terms of time for digestion, nerves, etc.
It is ideal for a gymnast to get up early enough to have a solid breakfast and leave time for digestion so that they feel their best on competition day. Gymnasts often don’t want to eat breakfast as they worry they’ll feel “heavy”. However, this is usually due to the wrong food choices or not enough time between eating breakfast and getting out on the competition floor.
Ideally, a gymnast would eat breakfast at minimum 60 minutes before walking into the competition.
Carbohydrate is the most important part of a pre-competition breakfast for a gymnast. Carbs are what fuel the muscles, brain, and a high-intensity anaerobic sport like gymnastics. Each food group (carbs, protein, fat) is important for a gymnast, but we want to prioritize the carbohydrate. Especially if the gymnast is nervous and already struggling to eat.
There is a big difference between what you might consider “healthy” in terms of breakfast choices and what is optimal re: digestion, timing, and energy availability.
Gymnasts will want to minimize the protein, fat, and fiber in what they eat pre-competition. Especially the closer they are eating to the competition.
A lot of gymnasts, and athletes in general, struggle with pre-competition nerves and anxiety. This can make it difficult to eat a normal breakfast as the nerves can often be accompanied with a feeling of “butterflies” in the stomach, lack of appetite, and even nausea or GI complaints (diarrhea).
The good news is that the gut is “trainable”. And just because eating before a competition is uncomfortable (or your gymnast isn’t hungry) doesn’t make it wrong.
A lot of gymnasts only eat when they are “hungry”. This is a big mistake as there will be a lot of time (like pre-competition) where a gymnast may not be intuitively hungry. But that doesn’t mean they don’t still need to fuel their body.
Often times gymnasts may need to eat on the way to the competition if it’s a drivable distance. While I like gymnasts to eat a solid breakfast at home to make sure that happens, it would be unreasonable to ask them to eat at 4AM if in the car from 6 to 10AM on the way to the competition.
Stopping at a fast-food place for breakfast or packing a breakfast for on the road are two great options for making sure your gymnast stays fueled.
There are certain fast-food items I wouldn’t recommend pre-competition, largely due to digestion and timing. This would include items that are fried or high in fiber. Or are just something the gymnast is not used to consuming pre-workout/competition. It’s not about what a gymnast “can or can’t eat” but simply relates to digestion and timing.
What your gymnast should eat pre-competition depends on a lot of things…
-What time they’re competing
-What time they wake up (and how much time they have between breakfast and competing)
-What they’re used to eating for breakfast
-How they’re feeling re: nerves and what impact that has on their eating
What a gymnast should eat for breakfast pre-competition is really dependent on digestion and timing. We want to make sure that WHAT they’re eating is able to digest fast enough to be available for fuel when they need it…aka during the competition!
Some of my favorite pre-competition breakfasts (in no particular order and some of these are better than others for early morning competitions versus evening competitions) include:
Want to learn more about how to strategize your gymnast’s competition day nutrition? Check out The Balanced Gymnast® Program. This is exactly what we teach inside the program and our 1:1 coaching!
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