Optimizing Nutrition for Optimum Gameday Performance
Are you tired of training your heart out, making sacrifices left and right, and eating like a starved wolf year-round only to bomb it come competition time? Your friends have nicknamed you the training warrior because you can hit unbelievable numbers year-round in training and you have thousands of views on Youtube, but still haven’t hit that elite total you’ve been chasing or obtained the pro card that has slipped through your fingers countless times. These things are all too common so I’m writing this article to get you the best results on competition day when it counts.
Any athlete knows that nutrition and training are interlaced and one cannot be separated from the other. Any good program should have you feeling strong as hell but pretty beat up and fatigued towards the end. I say fatigued, not injured –there is a great distinction. This high fatigue factor leads to what we call the overcompensation which, in turn, means theoretically you should be good to go for a few PRs on gameday. That sounds pretty good right now doesn’t it? You’re saying to yourself, “But, Mike, I’m already stronger than I’ve ever been in my life.” This is true, but how many times throughout this training cycle have you been fully recovered? Probably minimally if at all. Once you have maximized your recovery, the next step is to maximize your nutrition the night before and day of contest in order to work at your maximum potential.
I will write this considering that your meet or contest probably starts mid morning; you can alter times as you see fit. The night before the contest, approximately 4:30-5 o’clock, have a big meal of steak and sweet potatoes, I should note you can really have any type of potatoes you want: mashed, baked, or my favorite au gratin. It doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. Then later in the night around 8:00, have another meal of the same — lots of steak and potatoes. You’re going to be loading your bodily glycogen stores. Your body holds 85% of your glycogen stores in your muscle bellies and 15% in the liver. As you become more muscular obviously you can store more in your muscle and hopefully your liver hasn’t grown any larger. The average human stores around 200 grams of glycogen in their system, but you’re not average and questionably human so you can probably store as much as 300 grams. The idea here is to store the glycogen in small phases so that we don’t activate liponeogenesis (fat generation) too much. After this meal you will feel a little bloated and sluggish so wait for that feeling to subside. I should note that you should be drinking water with these meals and covering your food with a decent amount of salt as well. I’ll detail why a little bit later. Once you’re feeling less like the Pillsbury doughboy and more like the Incredible Hulk, start drinking full pulp orange juice. I prefer Simply Orange, myself. The pulp is the glycogen stores of the orange, hence the recommendation for the pulp. Drink around a quarter to half gallon of this. Also eat dark chocolate. I will put down about 2-3 bars until I start to doze off. This is the first time I am making this secret public. My guys in my circle and other clients have been using this for many years now and have several national championships and national records to their credit.
The morning of the contest you’re going to want to eat decently light. Remember we pumped you full of glycogen last night. It’s doubtable that you’ll use too much of the energy from the food you digest the day of the contest unless, that is, it runs until dusk. I recommend some eggs over easy and bacon. 4 eggs should be plenty, anymore than that any you can induce an insulin spike which could potentially make you tired. If you’re one of those “But I am huge I can do anything” guys then don’t exceed 6. High glucose fruit is good, too. An example of this is brown bananas. The sugar profile converts from mainly fructose and sucrose to primarily glucose as it ages. Throughout the contest, between lifts or events, pop glucose tabs. These can be purchased from most grocery stores or any pharmacy. I eat 4 after every event. Drink tons of water and take a shot here and there of table salt (sodium chloride (NaCl)). Don’t screw around with those sports drinks for many reasons. Too much potassium could potentially make you cramp and also it can mess with your electrolyte balance. Also, the fructose in high fructose corn syrup converts to glycerol very easily and enters liponeogenesis. That is not what you want when your body is using every last bit of energy for that world record squat or gut-wrenching max log. You need the sodium and chloride ions present because that is how your body controls the charge gradient at the cell membrane by alternating your ion channels. This is especially relevant in your nerve cells, so a deficiency in NaCl could foreseeably slow down the firing of motor units and even cause cognitive inhibition. Also, another option to prevent you from feeling flat is Vitargo. This is a very fast absorbing carbohydrate complex and it shouldn’t sit in your GI track too long before absorbing. I may munch on some trail mix or a protein bar if I’m really hungry. Sometimes you may see me eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich towards the end of shows if it’s been a long day. Feel free to throw in brown bananas as well, the glucose will help keep you going and it will supply you with an adequate amount of potassium. If you do choose to eat something heavier I would eat it immediately after your third attempt so that you have time to digest it between heats or after your event while they’re setting up for the next one.
I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. This is just a little science-based logic that myself and training partners have been using for some time now with great success. Now I am sharing it with you in hopes that you, too, can benefit from it. Go out there and see what you’re actually capable of when your body is functioning at maximum capacity.
MS.BS Molecular Biochemistry
ASC Professional Strongman