the last meal food for top performance the last meal

Training and competition differ in many ways. Meals close to competitions must therefore be selected with particular care. The best tips.

Nutrition should generally serve to maintain health and performance. For athletes who are enthusiastic about competitions, the importance of performance increases and this requires adaptations to their eating habits.
the last meal food for top performance the last meal

The aspects of maintaining health must of course also be respected in sport, but before a competition, you can or sometimes have to close your eyes briefly, briefly hide the health aspects and focus on optimal performance at the competition. Because the last meals before a competition can have a decisive influence on the outcome of the competition, and this possibility should not be sacrificed at the expense of "healthy" meals. What does this mean for dinner the day before the competition?

Four basic principles for the last meal

The focus of the meal on the evening before a competition is essentially four aspects:
1. Sleep must not be compromised
2. At the start the energy stores should be optimized
3. Until the end of the competition, no gastrointestinal problems are allowed. Symptoms occur
4. There must be no fluid deficit

The importance of the evening meal increases if breakfast is no longer possible on the day of the competition due to an early start. If one or even two main meals are possible on the day of the competition, the influence and importance of the previous evening meal will decrease accordingly.

Good and bad digestibility

A well-digestible dinner reduces the risk of sleeping problems. Digestibility describes the passage of food through the stomach into the intestine, including the subsequent breakdown of the nutrients from the food and their absorption into the bloodstream. Depending on how this digestive process takes place, one speaks of good or bad digestibility.

The difference between good and bad digestibility relates to the speed and completeness of the entire digestive process. Slow or incomplete digestion is poor or difficult to digest. However, this does not automatically mean “unhealthy”. For example, food components that serve difficult to digest for humans as food for the microbiota in the intestine, and the well-nourished "pets" in the human intestine then promote their health.

But this is not always desired. In the timely context of the competition, the metabolism should take care of the acutely performance-relevant aspects of eating and not waste any resources. Thus, everything that slows down or hinders the flow of food, the digestion of nutrients, and their absorption from the intestine must be restricted as far as possible before a competition.

Therefore: The digestive process should be completed before going to bed at the latest. Ideally, this is the case a few hours beforehand, so that at least some of the absorbed nutrients, primarily the carbohydrates, can be stored more quickly in the stores.

What is top, what is a flop?

The digestion time can last from a few minutes to several hours. And it can also vary greatly from person to person. Therefore, the following statements are true in principle, but only personal testing creates security in individual cases. As a rule of thumb, you can calculate around three to four hours of digestion time for the main meal.

Digestion time increases with the size of the meal, and liquid meals are digested more quickly than solid meals. In addition, the faster the digestion, the more the food is processed. The processing can be of a thermal nature (e.g. Cooking), but it can also be done mechanically (like a finely ground pea powder).

As the amount of fat in the meal increases, either from fatty foods or from oils or sauces added during preparation, digestion also becomes slower. Fatty foods include fatty fish such as farmed salmon, mackerel, herring or tuna, streaked pieces of meat, and meat products such as sausages and salami, cheese, nuts, and kernels. All these foods should only be used sparingly in the run-up to a competition, as well as foods rich in fiber or those with higher protein content. The latter includes meat, fish, eggs, and cheese, and dried fruits, nuts, kernels and seeds, various grain products such as flakes or whole-grain bread, bran and legumes such as beans and lentils, and some vegetables are rich in dietary fiber.

Last meal = performance meal

The list of foods to be preferred in terms of quantity is therefore clear and almost boring. But the dinner before a competition is a “performance meal”, which often occurs at most once a week (ie only one of around twenty meals a week). This list includes pasta, white rice, corn, and potatoes, which are supplemented with light sauces that are not based on fat or oil. If you are used to having a glass of alcoholic drink with your meal, you don't have to go without it the evening before. The foods to be avoided can also be added as a small side dish, as long as the side dish remains small. And if you have no problem with a meal similar to breakfast in the evening, you can also use light bread with jam and a little spread of fat.

Optimizing Carbohydrate Loading

The easily digestible foods for dinner before the competition all contain starch. They are therefore also suitable as a last boost to optimize energy stores in the form of muscle glycogen. If the rest of the carb loading was rather poor the day before the competition, you can limit the "damage" with the evening meal. Then reaching for a sweet drink as a liquid with a meal and for other drinks until bedtime is not a bad idea. A “Carbo loader”, a concentrated maltodextrin drink, can also be used. But this is more of an attempt to save the situation and start with a handful of grams of extra glycogen.

Habit is important

No one wants to have digestive problems, regardless of the competition. So the answer to the question of whether it should be the same most nutritionally before every competition is: Yes! At least for long competitions. When it comes to glycogen replenishment, there are no differences between the Ironman and the marathon. Extensive carb-loading makes sense from a competitive time of around one and a half hours. A brisk half marathon, therefore, tends to have some leeway.

But even those who travel shorter and faster need glycogen reserves. If the day before a half marathon was rather “moderate” in terms of food, then the same rules apply in the evening as for the longer distances. But if there was already plenty of carbohydrates during the day, dinner can be more in the direction of “something good for the mind”. Without exaggerating, of course, but this goes without saying.

The pure and bulging plate of pasta with tomato sauce is certainly THE classic on the evening before the competition. It is simple and effective, and if you otherwise eat with variety and imagination, you will survive it without any problems...

Pasta party with imagination

The pasta plate can also be easily spiced up, as long as the pasta makes up at least three-quarters of the plate. Little cooked carrots, tossed in a little butter and seasoned with salt, pepper, and coriander, can easily take place on the remaining quarter of the plate. As a side dish, the favorite salad with a little olive oil and the usual spices is no problem, as is a portion of white fish, fried, lightly salted, and garnished with dill. If you don't like fish, you can replace it with a small portion of meat, regardless of its origin (meat products such as sausages are to be avoided, however). As long as the side dish isn't in oil or fried, a lot is possible.

For the very last meals between dinner and the next day's competition, the same rules apply as for dinner. The focus is then primarily on the size of the meals and the following applies: the closer the start, the smaller the meal.

Shortly before the start, only snacks.
From two to three hours before the start, no more meals are to be taken. In an emergency, if you are hungry, which should actually no longer exist, or if the start is due very early in the morning, a small roll can bridge the time to the start. But this then primarily serves the psyche.

Solid food should no longer linger in the stomach at the start, but should already be digested. On the other hand, it is an advantage to start with some sports drink in your stomach. In this way, the beverages consumed during the competition get through the stomach more quickly and are absorbed more quickly in the intestines. It is impossible to predict who can easily tolerate how much sports drink is in the stomach at the start and who is very individual. It is certainly smart to test this out for the first time with an amount that is too small rather than too large.