We receive a lot of questions around suitable nutrition and dietary demands for Gymnasts. Here we provide some advice from recent conferences that we have attended with sports dietitians on good eating habits for gymnasts.
There are numerous resources and beliefs regarding nutrition. We do recommend if you have any questions that you refer these to a qualified Sports Dietitian registered with Sports Dietitians Australia.
Update: Gymnastics Australia recently released this article on Nutrition for Gymnasts: http://gymnastics.org.au/GA/Posts/News_Articles/2018/09_Sep/Nutrition_during_training.aspx
Nutrition forms a key component of and hence contributes significantly to an Athletes training program which includes;
- Strength and Conditioning,
- Skill Training and Development,
- Stress Management and,
Appropriate Nutrition in Gymnastics is critical for;
- Growth and Development,
- Body Composition and,
The body only absorbs proteins in small quantities from each meal. Protein is a critical part of soft tissue recovery. It is recommended that gymnasts have an intake of 4-6 meals a day containing 20 grams of protein each. This is to aid muscle recovery and development.
What does 20g of protein look like?
- 25g of whey protein powder,
- 90g of chicken or turkey,
- 100g of lean beef,
- 110g fish,
- 200g Greek yoghurt,
- 3 large eggs,
- 290g red kidney beans,
- 70g “Natural” peanut butter
Meals should be balanced. Using the ideal meal plate model this means 50% vegetables or salads, 25% Low GI carbohydrates and, 25% lean proteins.
Whole foods are recommended over packaged foods. Consider replacement of packaged foods with the real alternative. Whole fruits, cut raw vegetable sticks, boiled eggs, lean meats are a great alternative to packaged foods.
Muscle cramps are often associated with lack of hydration or sodium deficiency.
Sports drinks are not recommended due to their high sugar levels. Hydrolyte sachets are a consideration in extreme circumstances. Water and a good balanced diet is strongly recommended over supplements.
Avoid packaged snacks where possible with replacement for whole foods.
Juice poppers can be replaced with a piece of fruit and water. Be aware of the sugar levels in packaged drinks.
Some great snacks may include:
- Whole Boiled Eggs
- Cheese and Crackers: Easy to make at Home!
- Ham or Ham and Salad Sandwiches
- Up and Go Drinks
- Whole Fruits
- Yoghurts: Chobani and YoPro are good considerations
- High Protein Low Sugar Muesli Bars such as;
- Carman’s Protein Bars
- Carman’s Oat Bars
- Smoothies: Yoghurts, Fruits
- Tuna on Cruskits
Avoid Packaged foods, Packaged fruits in syrups, foods high in fats, high sugar muesli bars, juice poppers (high in sugar), packaged “Veggie Straws”, Nutella, Packets of Chips.
Gymnastics Training Nutrition
Avoid fatty foods that take a long time for digestion. Stick to small balanced meals.
Liquid alternative are often effective as they digest quicker. A consideration maybe shakes including yoghurts and berries
It is strongly recommended for gymnasts to ensure balanced meals including 20g of protein, Low GI carbs and greens are taken within 1 hour of training to ensure that muscle and soft tissue recovery is optimal. If a gymnast has dinner pre-training it is still recommended that a small meal or healthy snack high in protein is taken post training.
Post training Recovery includes:
- Rehydration: Drink Water
- Refueling: low GI carbohydrates
- Repair: Proteins. Proteins are ideally high in Leucine (2.5g per serve).
On non-training days the intake of low GI carbs may be reduced as the energy levels required by the athlete are generally lower.
Gymnastics Competition Nutrition
Ensure hydration levels are appropriate. Recommendations are for 1 glass of water with meals and 2 glasses post meals the night before competitions.
Small meals into competition following the balanced meal concept. Avoid Fats and Fibre leading into Gymnastics Competitions as these can take longer to digest.
Tip: avoid creamy/ cheesy pasta type dishes ahead of competitions as these are generally high in fat content and can take a long time to digest.
Competitions are generally limited to 2-3 hours max. As such there is generally no requirement if a proper diet is maintained leading into the event for any special competitions beyond rehydration with water.
Maintain a balanced diet. Again competitions are generally lower load than normal training session so follow normal dietary behaviour.
Protein intake is key for soft tissue recovery. Regular intake of proteins will help recovery of soft tissues with 4-6 meals per day containing 20g of protein per meal.
Avoid food that are inflammatory such as those containing refined sugars, saturated fats
You can find some additional info on the Sport Dietitians Australia Website for Gymnasts at https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/food-for-your-sport-gymnastics-nwg-nwgmountisa-north-west-gymnastics-mount-isa-nutrition.pdf