Nutrition Tips Before Your Competition
In the 24 hours before you compete no doubt you are feeling anxious and nervous, while at the same time really excited. Especially if its your first time out at a competition. The more events you do, the more familiar it will become and the more you will develop strategies on how to handle it and get more comfortable with the situation.
One way I handle nerves is I like to think of it differently by simply renaming the feeling excitement, instead of anxious. So when ever I feel this feeling its because something exciting is happening and my body and mind is excited. Just by renaming that feeling I can embrace it more and they do say getting anxious is good. So go with the feeling and use that excitement to help pull you through the day.
The 24 Hours Before You Compete
Its normal in those hours before you compete to have a million things running through your head. Wondering if you have forgotten anything, what time to leave, remembering your test, all the gear you need to take, through to crossing your fingers the truck will make it to the venue! These things are all normal and if its any constellation, most of us riders will be feeling the same thing or have been in the same situation in the past. It is part in parcel of stepping outside your comfort zone and it is this anxiousness which makes completing your dressage test in front of a judge even more satisfying.
With all these things running through your head it is important to make sure you plan your final 24 hours of meals correctly. The last thing you want is to be worrying where the toilet is due to something you have eaten and not just because of nerves! Or feeling faint as you trot down the centre line because you have forgotten to eat. So today I wanted to share some nutrition tips to apply before your competition to help you trot down that centre line with clarity and focus.
Before I begin its important to know the honest truth that there is no one perfect menu out there for every one because there is no one diet that suits everyone. The key is that no matter what you are basing your diet around whole real foods and that you don’t want to change anything leading up to your competition day. Listen to your body. It definitely doesn’t want you over indulge the night before, it wants simple whole real food to fuel your body in preparation for the next day.
So no matter what sort of plan you follow, understand your body and fuel it correctly. To help you with this, I have put together some general rules to help guide you through the final 24 hours leading into your competition.
Every single cell in your body requires proper hydration and one of the biggest issues which will negatively impact your day is dehydration. Losing as little as 1% of your body weight in fluid can decrease performance by a huge 10%. So a big priority before you hop on your horse is to hydrate your body. Ensure that over the coming 24 hours you put proper attention into hydrating your body correctly not just the morning of. Check out my post I did here about the type of water you are consuming.
Eat Whole Real Food
In order for your body to thrive on competition day, it needs to have the minerals and vitamins to provide your cells with the energy to perform. You want to have clarity and focus to remember your tests, to ride clearly and to be able to solely focus on your horses performance. So ensure that the meals you are consuming are nutrient packed. Loaded with amazing nutrition to help you shine on the day. Avoid things that will slow you down, like packaged processed foods which are number one hard to digest but also slower to metabolize and therefore are going to slow you down. Keep your food real and make sure it is food that is easy to digest. You will know the foods that sit in your stomach for hours verses the foods that leave you feeling energized. Trust your instincts and listen to your body.
Your Last Big Meal
Time your evening meal so that it doesn’t impact your sleep. This doesn’t need to be a huge meal, but instead a well rounded whole real food meal that fuels your body. You want to have this 3 hours before bed so that you can get a good night sleep. By doing this you will ensure your meal is completely digested and that you have got the best energizing sleep possible. Practice in the weeks leading up what meal you want to have the night before your competition. A good well timed balanced evening meal will allow you to get quality deep sleep and wake up feeling rested. Eating to late, consuming heavy complex meals and over eating will leave your body trying to digest food all night and cause you to wake up with a food hangover and over tired. So keep it simple.
This is very dependent on the time of your first test. If you are starting at 8am, and having to leave home at 6am, this calls for an early start. You might want to prioritize sleep over getting up super early to have breakfast and instead have a light snack as you leave the house and pre make something like a green smoothie for the road trip to the venue.
However if your competing later, your normal breakfast will be perfect. The thing is you don’t want to change anything and hopefully you have practised training at a similar time to when your test is, so you are aware of what your best fuel is pre test and how your horse feels at this time of day. Timing is critical and so to is making sure your food is easily digestible along with hydrating. So a liquid breakfast is a great idea if you have practised this before. For me personally, a green smoothie pre-made the night before is my preferred option along with some boiled eggs also done the night before. No matter what you have, ensure you allow adequate time before you compete. Ideally, if its a good meal allow 90 mins to 2 hours, as the last thing you want is to be sitting trot and feeling your breakfast bounce around.
There are so many little tweeks you can make that can make a big impact to you feel at a competition, so the key is to keep a record. Write down what you did, what worked, what didn’t and fine tune it for next time. The more you do it the more you will understand your body and know what makes it thrive. The key is you are a team effort, so you want to be feeling top notch on the day of the competition just as you want your horse to. So put the effort in and this is when the two of you will be able to truly shine!
Most importantly enjoy the day! Go out there and enjoy having fun with your horse and the amazing journey that the two of you are on together.
For more nutrition advice, workouts, mindset articles and tools to help you take your riding to the next level, check out our Dressage Rider Training Program.