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Eating and Competing

What should you eat in the week before a competition?

If you are an endurance athlete, in the week before a competition, you should plan your meals around complex carbohydrate foods with a low glycaemic index to boost your glycogen stores. Miller (2003)[3] suggests 500-600g/day to encourage muscles to store over 20% more glycogen.

What should you eat on the day of the competition?

Your pre-competition meal should be high in carbohydrates and low in fat, protein and fibre. Try to eat complex carbohydrates and avoid simple carbohydrates as they trigger insulin release, which can soon make you feel tired. Bean (1993)[1] suggests suitable types of food include: breakfast cereals, porridge, bread, rolls, toast, fruit juice, fruit, rice cakes, plain crackers, cooked rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, boiled pasta, dried fruit, oatmeal biscuits, plain wholemeal biscuits, muffins and carbohydrate drinks.

Should you eat just before the competition starts?

Bean (1993)[1] suggests eating a small amount of carbohydrate food (approx. 50gms) with a high glycaemic index just before exercise will help delay fatigue and improve endurance.

Should you eat or drink during a competition?

Ensure you are well hydrated before the competition having your last drink about 15 to 20 minutes before the start. Drink at regular intervals (150 to 300ml), ideally every 15 minutes or whenever you have a break during the competition. Do not wait until you feel thirsty, as you will already be dehydrated. Consider a commercial carbohydrate drink (Sports Drinks) as this will also refuel your glycogen stores.

What should you eat after a competition?

Studies (Ivy et al. 2002)[2] have shown that consuming high GI carbohydrates, approximately 2g/kg of body weight, and 40g of protein within two hours after exercise speeds up the replenishment of glycogen stores and recovery time. The muscles appear more receptive to and retain carbohydrates during the two hours after exercise.


  1. BEAN, A (1993) The complete guide to Sports Nutrition. London: A & C Black
  2. IVY, J.L. et al. (2002) Early post-exercise muscle glycogen recovery is enhanced with a carbohydrate-protein supplement. J Appl Physiol, 93 (4), p. 1337-1344
  3. MILLER, C (2003) Carbohydrates: the fuel of choice for serious athletes. Peak Performance, 176, p. 1-6

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2000) Eating and Competing [WWW] Available from: [Accessed