It’s that time again: crazy-derby-every-weekend-season! Most of us are probably bouting this weekend or, at the very least, recovering from last weekend’s bout. In this whirlwind of activity – between practices, travel time, and pre-bout meetings – sometimes our well-planned athletic nutrition can go awry.
I’m here with ten quick tips that can help to keep your nutrition in check, even when you have absolutely zero time. Please keep in mind, I’m not a registered dietician or nutritionist, just a derby skater with an interest in health and fitness sharing some tools that work for me.
On days that aren’t game day:
Plan ahead – You know which days you have practice, which days you have games, and where those games are going to be played. Do your research! Make a meal plan with your family so that you’re not left scrambling when things get crazy. Look online at your restaurant options before you travel, that way you’ve got any dietary concerns covered and you can avoid the post-game junk-gorge that *might* happen from time to time on the road.
Make your prep easy – When you grocery shop, tack on an extra hour to cut up veggies and pre-cook proteins. That way it’s not a chore, and you have lots of smart snacks ready for those late nights after practice.
Try to listen to your body rather than your habits – We all have habits we’ve developed over the years when it comes to food. Some are great, some not-so-great. When evaluating what and when to eat, be mindful and listen to the cues that your body supplies. Most of all, eating is natural, we all need to do it, so save yourself any guilt and shame that you tie to food – it’s just not worth your energy.
During practice and cross-training:
This is a hefty topic, if you’re really interested in the details, please let me know! To summarize, before you train, you should have food in your system that will keep you energized, help you perform, maintain your hydration, and encourage recovery.
Take a mixed approach – Eat a protein source to help reduce the markers of muscle damage, eat a carb source to enhance short-term high-intensity performance, eat a fat source to slow digestion, and make sure to include your veggies.
You can –
1) Have a normal mixed meal 2-3 hours before training. Make sure it contains lean protein, fruits and/or veggies, high quality carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Drink water.
2) Have a smaller meal in the hour before training. The closer to your training session the meal is, the less time you have to digest, so a shake with protein, fruits and veggies, and healthy fats is often a good choice. Here’s how to make a Super Shake: 1 scoop protein, 1 handful of veggies, 1-2 handfuls of carbs (usually berries), 1 thumb-size of fats (nuts, nut butter or oil), and liquid to mix (usually water).
Research your sports supplements – Some supplement companies are more scrupulous than others, make sure you know the difference. If you need guidance, seek out a professional who can give you a hand.
Remember your post-training nutrition! – Your nutritional focus after training should be rehydration and refueling. To maximize recovery, eat inside a 2-hour window after training. Eat a high-protein meal or shake (20-60 grams of protein depending on sex and goals) and you’ll be good to go!
Long story short, training nutrition mirrors itself – treat your recovery meal much like you did your prep meal. Eat lean protein, high quality carbs, fruits and veggies, and healthy fats in some capacity in the 2ish hour window before training, and then again in the 2ish hour window following training. If your pre-training meal was small (or you were training fasted), make sure to eat sooner post-training. If it was-regular sized, you don’t need to rush (but try to stay inside that 2-hour window if possible).
On days that are game day:
Game days are like heightened training days – Generally the advice above will apply on a game day too. There are added psychological factors at work on game day and you may have to tweak things slightly, but try to keep your basics in mind.
Supply your body with energy – Make sure that your nervous system is stimulated for performance and that you have a constant supply of blood glucose. Some folks prefer snacking, or several light meals, to provide a steady supply of calories and nutrients. Eat foods that are familiar, and make you feel good and ready for action before the game, and foods that encourage recovery after you’ve played. Make it easy on yourself and pack a cooler in advance to take to the arena.
DRINK ALL THE WATER – Hydrate before, during, and after your game(s). Game days, I carry my water bottle with me all day. Use sports drinks if it’s really hot, or if you have to compete more than once in 8 hours. During the game, your focus should be hydration, then immediate fuel if necessary (like protein bars or liquid nutrition).
Most importantly, do what you’ve practiced – Develop a routine that coincides with your pre-game ritual – have one for home and one for travel. That way you don’t have to think about it on game day. You already know what you’re going to do, you just have to go and do it – just like you will on the track.
Eating well doesn’t need to be complicated or time-consuming. Just like anything else, it’s a process and there’s no one right way to do things. Find what works for you, make it a habit, and enjoy every bite!