By Tim Paynter of Paynter Periodization
This is a question I get a lot, mainly from athletes new to the sport and going into one of their first couple of meets and it’s a great question. Afterall, food is what fuels you, so if you want to perform at your best you need to high performance fuel. The number one rule to follow would be to stick to the foods you know your body can easily digest. Meet day isn’t a great time to experiment with new foods or even new supplements for that matter.
Let’s start with breakfast. We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? That couldn’t be any more true on meet day. Most meets start in the morning, so breakfast is going to be your first meal and might even be the only full meal that you’ll get to eat on meet day. I suggest starting off with a higher carb breakfast than usual. I like having pancakes, waffles, or toast as my primary carb source for a meet day breakfast. Add a little syrup or jelly if you’d like. It’s okay to have more calories than you usually would because you’re likely going to be burning more calories than you usually would. I also like having some sort of fruit with breakfast, usually a banana but it could be any fruit that you like and have available. For your proteins stick to something a little lower in fat as to not slow down the digestive system too much. I like having turkey sausage/bacon and eggs or egg whites in an omelet with a little bit of cheese. But if you don’t normally eat these foods then meet day may not be the best time to try them out. Your fats are likely going to be covered from adding a bit of butter to your pancakes, waffles, or toast and from the fats in the egg yolks, sausage/bacon, and cheese. If you’re traveling and don’t have time to sit down for this type of breakfast, I’ve found that the breakfast sandwiches from Subway like the steak, egg white, and cheese on a flatbread to be a good meet day breakfast as well. Try and consume your breakfast at least two hours before your flight is set to start warming up at the meet.
During the meet, I like to keep food around to snack on. Snacks should be high in carbs and relatively low in fat. I like fat-free chips, fruit, muffins, Pop-Tarts, granola, just whatever I’ve been craving or eating at least semi-regularly during prep. If you’re at a small meet or if the meet is just moving at a fast pace, you may not have time to eat a full meal between each event so these snacks may be your primary food source. Snack as often as you’d like but do not over eat as that can make start to feel bloated or sick.
After squats and if time permits, I try to have my first small meal. Again, stick to foods that are easily digestible. High carb, low fat, moderate protein. For this, I like a meal replacement protein bar or a small sandwich with some fat-free chips. Again, stick to something you’re familiar with so if you normally meal prep and eat pre-pared meals, then bring one with you to the meet to eat. Something that doesn’t have to be heated up would probably be best since at most meets you aren’t going to have access to a microwave or anything like that. I suggest a meal between squat and bench because if you’re still digesting your food or feel a little bloated during bench, that’s not likely to negatively impact you as much as it would during squats or deadlifts. In fact, a little bloating may even be helpful during the bench press.
After bench press, I try to not eat a small meal and instead just have a small amount of a snack. The deadlift is, for most athletes, more reliant on leverages than the squat and bench press. You’re likely not going to want to have a meal beforehand because it’s going to make you feel more bloated. This can cause your belt to feel too tight and your hands to swell up. If your belt is too tight, you’re going to feel like throwing up when you bend down to grad ahold of the bar. No one wants to be the next lifter than goes viral for puking all over the head judge on the platform. If your hands are swollen, you’re going to struggle gipping the bar. However, if you have some ice handy, icing your hands before deadlifting can combat that swelling.
Now let’s cover hydration. What you drink is just as important as what you eat on meet day. Again, stick to what you’re used to drinking. Water and sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are great for meets. I suggest the lower carb or zero carb versions. I recommend alternating between water and sports drinks. These drinks will help you remain hydrated throughout the meet despite how much you’ll be sweating and how hard you’ll be working. Do not overconsume or force yourself to drink more than you need. This will cause you to fill your stomach up with water which will make you feel sick and bloated. So, sip instead of chugging. If your mouth feels dry then you aren’t drinking enough but if you stomach feels full then you’re probably drinking too much. I would suggest avoiding carbonated beverages during the meet as this may cause digestive issues and/or bloating.
What about supplements? Again, stick to the supplements you’re used to. If you normally take a pre-workout supplement then feel free to take that before the meet. I suggest taking it right under an hour before your squat flight begins then again right under an hour before your deadlift flight begins. As for any other supplements such as creatine, vitamins, etc. just take your normal dose with breakfast or with one of your snacks. You don’t want to take anything new or out of the ordinary as you don’t know how it will affect you.
There you have it, all the information necessary to stay satiated, energized, and hydrated on meet day. Moderation is key. Stick with foods and drinks your normally consume and you should be fine.
Rule #1: Stick to foods, drinks, and supplements that you know. You don’t want to try new foods, drinks, supplements on meet day. You don’t know how it will affect your body and/or your performance.
Rule #2: Consume in moderation. Overeating or drinking will make you feel bloated, lethargic, and/or sick. Eat/drink enough to stay satiated, hydrated, and energetic.
Rule #3: Select foods/drinks that are easily digestible and won’t negatively affect your performance. High carb, low fat, moderate protein meals and snacks are typically a good choice.
Rule #4: Time your food appropriately. Eat a good size breakfast no less than 2 hours before your flight begins. Snack lightly throughout the meet. Eat a small meal between squat and bench if time permits. Avoid eating too much before deadlifts.
Rule #5: Caffeinate appropriately. Take your usual amount of pre-workout about an hour before squat and about an hour before deadlits. Avoid carbonated energy drinks and avoid trying new pre-workout supplements at the meet.
Presented to you by the USPC & WPUSA:
The United States Powerlifting Coalition was created to provide powerlifters an atmosphere where they can be comfortable in a safe, lifting environment. We utilize a monolift on the platform in order to provide the best experience for both lifters and spotters and to promote safety and confidence when squatting; a fat pad bench with face savers and Texas squat, power and deadlift bars on the platform.