Staying Fueled During Gymnastics Practice

By: Hannah Segur

Staying Fueled During Gymnastics Practice (Photo Source: iStock)

Staying Fueled During Gymnastics Practice (Photo Source: iStock)

When it comes to staying fueled and energized during a long gymnastic practice or meet, knowing what kind of snacks and drinks to bring along can keep you fueled. Here are some tips and tricks on what foods and beverages are best to keep energy levels up.

Gymnastics is a unique sport because the athlete is required to exert their energy in intervals followed by rest and recovery periods. This means keeping energy levels high must be done quickly and efficiently. Additionally it means that quick digesting carbohydrates are a must to deliver energy that the body needs to maintain optimal performance.

Pack along berries in a to go container! (Image Source: iStock)

Pack along berries in a to go container! (Image Source: iStock)

Fruits are perfect for a gymnast to consume while practicing. The natural sugar in fruit boosts energy levels. It is excellent to have fruits like strawberries or blueberries because they are individual and easy to eat while on a quick break. Bananas are great too because they are portable and typically easy on the stomach, plus they deliver potassium, a key mineral in muscle contraction.

Pretzels are another great snack; they are a source of carbohydrates, while being easy to digest and easy to eat in a pinch.

For longer practices (example: lasting 1.5 hours or more) add-in a source of protein and fats to help keep energy levels up, like these ideas:

Pretzels and/or nuts are a great snack to bring along! (Image Source: iStock)

Pretzels and/or nuts are a great snack to bring along! (Image Source: iStock)

Nuts are a good savory snack and a great source of protein to sustain energy and concentration levels.

Cheese or nut butters are great to pair with any of the above quick digesting snacks. Cheese and certain nut butters are a natural source of protein.

For example peanut butter has 8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons (about the size of a golf ball).

Staying Hydrated
The best form of hydration would be water for this specific sports practice. Because the sport isn't nonstop, you do not need the extra sugar and electrolytes that are in sports drinks during a practice. If however, they were in an all-day competition or practice lasting longer than 1.5 hours, then it would be recommended to add-in some sports drink in addition to water. Sports drinks will deliver electrolytes and some sugar to optimize hydration levels and keep the body energized, product examples: Gatorade, Body Armour, or Klean Athlete Hydration (Use our link and save 15% on Klean Athlete products).

Lastly – remember always try new foods and drinks on practice days first before you try them on competition days to ensure they sit well within your stomach.

For more hydration tips, see the Hydration 101 handout in the handout shop!

Content reviewed by sports dietitian: Molly Morgan, RD, CDN, CSSD

Q and A: Kenny Westerman, PhD - Insight on Biomarker Data and Personalized Nutrition

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This Q and A with Kenny Westerman, PhD features insight on InsideTracker's a biomarker and personalized nutrition platform. The insight is based off of findings from a recent peer reviewed paper, titled "Longitudinal analysis of biomarker data from a personalized nutrition platform in healthy subjects". The bottom-line is the data shows that biomarker and personalized nutrition works.

1. What was the most surprising learning/finding from the study?

We made a couple of interesting observations from the data presented in the study:One was about the complexity of the relationship between some biomarkers and health -- for example, iron deficiency is known to be problematic and can be high in certain populations, but we also saw positive correlations between markers of iron and detrimental metabolic markers like cholesterol. So, our data speak to the fact that there is so much more to find out about what goes on inside our bodies.

Another was the fact that, apart from the effects of specific interventions, there was a trend towards general improvement in biomarkers for people who chose more interventions overall. We see this as an indicator that increased engagement with the platform can have direct implications for success in behavior change and health improvement.

2. How do you find that the data supports routine bio-marker testing to support training/nutrition for athletes and others?

We show results in the publication for differences between first and last tests, but many of those users had multiple tests in between and may have reached those improvements only through consistent tracking and behavior change. We also saw that individuals were typically not "all-or-nothing", but rather had only a handful of biomarkers out-of-range. This and other data we have analyzed suggest that even generally healthy athletes often have a few biomarkers that are problematic, and in fact, that there are specific biomarkers that are more likely to be unoptimized for athletes.

3. The study found that biomarkers improved/trended towards normalcy - what do you think helped drive that change?

One of the difficulties in our data analysis for the study was trying to tease apart the effect of different components of our program in affecting biomarker levels. There are multiple key possibilities, including awareness of out-of-range biomarkers, personalized recommendations to improve biomarkers that are sub-optimal for a given individual, and customizable plans that help users craft realistic plans for long-term behavior change.

4. What other education/benefits comes with using a program like Inside Tracker?

While we will provide a specific recommendation to improve sub-optimal biomarkers, the overall InsideTracker experience is filled with interesting and actionable information. While seeing recommendations to improve your iron levels, you may at the same time learn recipes, discover interesting exercises, and better understand what is going on inside your body.

5. Do you have any insight on how long someone should use a program like Inside Tracker to gain maximum benefits?

In our published analysis, we saw biomarker improvements in individuals spanning a wide range of time frames, from a few months all the way up to 5 years. However, our analysis on the available research suggests that for optimal results, biomarkers should be measured every 3 months or so for multiple sessions in a row, to be able to see not just a snapshot of your biology but how your action plan is working over time.

For more on Inside Tracker, check out their Website: https://www.insidetracker.com/

Preparing College Athletes for Back to School

Source: Getty images

Source: Getty images

If you are an athlete and getting ready to head off to or back to college, this is an important time to calibrate your nutrition and plan and establish a game plan for when you are at school. Sometimes fueling your body can feel like a full-time job but the effort and diligence you put in will certainly yield results. Check out these tips two steps our founder and sports dietitian, Molly Morgan recommends that you take before heading to campus:

 

1. Research what foods and beverages will be available and/or provided to you at school 

Some athletic programs will have specific products like tart cherry juice, protein bars, bananas, etc. that will be available at the gym. Use these items to supplement your eating routine! 

Review menus for dining halls that will be accessible and learn what is offered and what is open when. This will help you for step 2!

Find out where the nearest grocery store is and a way to get there routinely to stock up on items that will keep you fueled while studying, between classes, etc. Check out this Snack Ideas handout for nutrient-rich snack ideas. 

2. Make a Food Game Plan

Once you have done some research you can now craft together your food game plan! Taking time to think this through will help your plan become a reality because fueling your body doesn't just happen by accident. Be sure to consider your class, practice, and game schedule when crafting your plan out as some days will likely be more hectic than others. 

If you are living on your own learn or have access to a kitchen, this summer, learn to prepare some simple meals and snacks that can become part of your eating routine. For example, teach yourself how to make these Maple Sea Salt Energy Bites which could be an on the go breakfast or a great snack.

Plan for at least 3 meals and 2 - 3 snacks to meet your energy needs!

3 Quick Tips: Consistency, Energy, Balance

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When it comes to fueling your body, consistency is key. Often times athletes focus more on their training consistency and less on their nutrition consistency.

Yet the energy their body needs will come from the foods and beverages they take in. When food is an after thought, it can take a toll on the body overtime, especially when enough overall energy (calories) are not coming in.

Here are three quick tips to help you dial in your fueling plan:

1: Consistency

When you are routinely training hard, it is a must to fuel the body consistently. A lot of times athletes think more about what they are and are not eating on game or event days, yet the day to day is just as important. If fueling the body is neglected and not part of the focus, you will not get the maximum results out of your training. 

2: Energy

Although, there is a lot of complexity when it comes to the science of sports nutrition and fueling the body, first and foremost you must take in enough energy (calories) to match your training needs and goals. If you are looking to put on muscle but do not have enough overall calories coming in, it will be impossible to get the gains you are looking for. 

If you have no idea how many calories you need per day, work with a sports dietitian to get a custom plan designed to meet your training needs. Visit the SCAN (Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition Group) website to find a dietitian near you.

3: Balance

Fueling the body is all about balance, focus on getting most of your calories from nutrient-rich foods: fruits, vegetables, lean meat, yogurt, milk, whole grains, avocado, olive oil, etc. And having the occasional salty snack food or dessert is okay! Sports dietitian Molly Morgan suggests her athletes follow a 90/10 rule... 90% of the time choosing the nutrient-rich choices and 10% of the time for the 'extras'".

Click here to download this great Fuel2Win overview handout for quick tips and guidance to boosting your overall eating routine.

Q & A with Erik Burgdoerfer

Check out these great tips from Ottawa Senators defenseman, Erik Burgdoerfer. Here's one quick tip from Erik: when it comes to performing at your best and making the progress you are looking for on and off the ice, nutrition is key.

Erik Burgdoerfer, Ottawa Senators Defender  

Erik Burgdoerfer, Ottawa Senators Defender  

Q1: If you could tell a youth athlete one thing that they should focus on as it relates to their eating and nutrition patterns, what would it be?

I would tell them it really does matter. When it comes to performing at your best and making the progress you are looking for on and off the ice, nutrition is key. When you start to take what you eat as serious as your training the results will surprise you. 

Q2: What is your favorite refueling meal or snack? 

Let’s go with snack. This is what I typically eat after my pregame nap approx. 3 hours before game time. For those that eat a huge pregame meal this may be a big snack but I prefer to space out my calories on game day. 

Steel cut oatmeal topped with berries and cinnamon 

3 cage free organic eggs or 6oz of high quality meat (organic chicken, bison or grass fed beef, wild salmon)

1/4 of an avocado 

Q3: What is a favorite meal you like to cook? Can you share a simple recipe for it? 

Stir fry! It’s is a life saver when it comes to getting proper nutrition without a ton of work. Easy clean up and short cook time. It’s a very flexible dish. For those that try and stay away from soy in their diet try out coconut aminos instead of soy sauce, great similar tasting alternative! Another change I make in the summer to limit my carb intake is substituting brown rice, with cauliflower rice.

Q4: Staying hydrated is important for athletes, what do you do to help ensure you arrive to games and practices hydrated? 

This is always a challenge for me as I lose a ton of fluids during games and practices. The easiest thing I’ve found is to constantly hydrate. Always have a bottle of water with you. Drink when you are not thirsty! If your body is telling you that you need water it’s to late, you are already dehydrated. 

Q5: What are three nutritious foods you always keep on hand and why?

1- COOKED Organic chicken thighs or breasts

2- Organic fruit

3 - Mixed nuts, not peanuts ( Almonds, pecans, cashews, Brazil nuts and walnuts)

Let’s face it we all get lazy and want an easy option when hunger hits. I capitalized cooked Chicken because if it’s there and ready to eat you will make the healthy choice. Having fruit around is a great way to take in naturally occurring vitamins and boost energy. Nuts are my go to snack. Lots of healthy fats, help to maintain body weight in season and make you feel full!

Q & A with Glen Kinney

Working with pro hockey players for many years, athletic therapist Glen Kinney has a lot of insight and practical tips for athletes! Check out the great tips shared below. 

Glen Kinney - Athletic Therapist with the Laval Rockets (AHL Hockey)

Glen Kinney - Athletic Therapist with the Laval Rockets (AHL Hockey)


Q: In your experience in training athletes, what is one nutrition mistake you see commonly made? And one nutrition strength you see commonly among athletes?

A: I find that athletes don't consume enough fruits and vegetables in their diet.  The benefits of the minerals, vitamins, and antioxidant properties of fruits and vegetables is invaluable to athletic performance and personal health.  

Athletes are doing a better job of hydrating than they use to.  There are so many colorful, trendy, and stylish water bottles, travel mugs, tumblers, and shaker cups on the market these days it seems like everyone is carrying one.  Take small sips often and refill your bottle throughout the day.

Q: Have you observed that well-fueled athletes meet their training goals or recover quicker? Can you share any examples?

Recently, our hockey team went through a 2 week period where several players and staff members were affected by illness.  I find that athletes who are conscientious about being well fueled recover faster from illness.  They miss fewer games  and practices due to illness and they return to normal training loads faster.  I feel that athletes who are well fueled are less likely to get sick and are affected less severely by symptoms when they are sick.  

Q: If you could give athletes one tip related to nutrition, what would it be?

A: Here are tips for immune system boosting and illness prevention that our team follows:
Maintain regular and optimal meals  containing 1/3 vegetables, 1/3 protein, and 1/3 grains or starch.

In between meals, maintain regular snacks rich in carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats (ex. fruits, nuts, yogurt, whole grain granola/cereal, fruit/protein smoothies).

Antioxidant rich foods.  Examples of fruits include: grapes,blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, guava, papaya, kiwifruit, oranges.  Examples of vegetables include: bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, kale, spinach, sweet potato.  

Hydrate regularly with water.  

Probiotic supplement.

2: What is a tip you can share with coaches or trainers in talking to their players about nutrition? 

A: Consistency.  I think consistency is something that people strive for in all facets of life...daily routine, work or school schedule, physical activity, sleep, socializing, etc.  Your nutritional habits should be no different.  I find that athletes are creatures of habit.  Make a nutrition plan or find out what works for you and stick with it.  Make subtle adjustments as required.  

Q:  Do you have a favorite refueling product, shake/snack, or meal? 

A: In Canada, our team found and uses a product called Rekarb.  Rekarb is a maple syrup product containing natural sugars, antioxidants, and sodium.  It is a thin, easy to swallow texture which our athletes find easier to ingest than gels.  Our athletes use Rekarb to maintain or boost carbohydrate/energy levels during games or long training days.  It is an excellent product that can also be added to meals or snacks to enhance taste by providing sweetness (ex. Rekarb added to oatmeal, smoothie, granola, yogurt, sweet potato, ice cream).  
 

Q & A with Jonathan Levitt

Are you an athlete on the go? Check out this Q & A with great tips from avid runner and traveler Jonathan Levitt. 

Jonathan is an avid runner and loves to travel. He works at InsideTracker, with endurance and professional athletes. 

Jonathan is an avid runner and loves to travel. He works at InsideTracker, with endurance and professional athletes. 

Q: What is one aspect of your nutrition routine that you have found to directly benefit your training/running?

A: I personalize my nutrition by blood analysis with InsideTracker, so I know exactly what my body needs based on how I’m training and eating. My energy level is way higher and I’m able to tolerate higher volume much better than in the past.

Q: What is your favorite snack and why?

A: A handful of nuts or piece of dark chocolate. Tasty and filling!

Q: Do you eat differently on training days versus rest days? If so, why?

A: Yes! I add some more carbohydrates and calories in general on hard days, and more iron rich foods on rest/easy days to help with iron absorption as a runner. 

Q: When you are traveling, what is one tip you can share with on-the-go athletes to stick with their eating routine?

A: BRING SNACKS! I was recently stopped by TSA and had my bags searched ahead of a two week trip to the west coast. “Do they not have food where you’re going?” they asked, because I was carrying so much with me. While the question was definitely a sarcastic one, I always plan as if there won’t be food where I’m going, and bring enough so that if I’m out and about for a few days, I won’t get hangry.

Q: If you could share on thing related to sports nutrition that all athletes should start focusing on today, what would that be?

A: Eat more. While not true for everyone, most of us are under-fueling for the amount of training we’re putting in. Every body is unique. Personalize your nutrition just like you personalize your training. Dietitians (and InsideTracker) are great resources! 

Q & A with Mike Sdao

Mike Sdao Professional defenseman currently with the Rapid City Rush (ECHL) and formerly with the Binghamton Senators (AHL). 

Mike Sdao Professional defenseman currently with the Rapid City Rush (ECHL) and formerly with the Binghamton Senators (AHL). 

Q: What is the biggest challenge around food & nutrition for you as an athlete?

Finding healthy food to eat on the road. 

Grab quick on the go snack ideas with this Fuel 2 Win handout, click here to download it. 

Q: What is one (or more) of your favorite go-to snacks to keep your energy levels up?

Simple carb like air popped popcorn or pretzels. 

Q: What is your favorite grain and how do you like to have it (e.g. quinoa, brown rice pasta, etc.)?
Rice, I like to have it on game days because it is easy and I feel like it gives me energy without feeling heavy like pasta or some other carbs.


Q: If you could give a nutrition tip to another athlete what would it be?
It can make a big difference not only in your performance but in your consistency. 


Q: Do you have a favorite smoothie combination that you enjoy?
I've actually moved onto juicing rather than smoothies just because I feel like I sometimes put on weight when I have smoothies often. 

Q & A with Matt Carkner

Matt Carkner is a former professional ice hockey defenceman and an assistant coach for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL). He played in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators, and New York Islanders.

Matt Carkner is a former professional ice hockey defenceman and an assistant coach for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL). He played in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators, and New York Islanders.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you found around food & nutrition when you were playing hockey?

Taking the time for food preparation when you're exhausted and craving poor snack choices late at night (nachos, pizza).

Q: What is one (or more) of your favorite go-to snacks to keep your energy levels up?

Greek yogurt, berries and granola or apple, cheese & crackers.

Q: When you are traveling are there any foods you take with you or strategies you use to try and make healthier choices?

I try to bring a bag of healthy snacks to have with me so I can grab a healthier option - apple, protein bar (Lara, Kind) homemade muffins, mixed nuts. When I know I will be at the rink all day, I bring my own lunch from home. It's usually a homemade soup with a lots of veggies, chicken or turkey and a type of bean. 


Q: From a coach perspective, what is a nutrition tip you think every athlete should focus on?

A lot of young athletes tend to miss the most important meal of the day: Breakfast! Always start with a healthy breakfast it will fuel you properly from the beginning. There are lots of choices and that's why it's my favorite meal of the day.

Also, plan ahead and have healthy meal choices ready at home.  My wife always makes extra and Freezes portions for a quick easy dinner.

Q: Do you have a favorite food that you like to make (if you want to share a quick recipe that would be great!)?
I love salmon and so does my wife and my boys. We usually make it as a family:
-Spray aluminium foil with olive oil
-Place 5-6 servings of wild Atlantic salmon on foil
-Drizzle each piece with 2 Tbsp Real Maple syrup
-sprinkle with roasted red pepper and garlic seasoning and/or chilli flakes
-squirt each piece with fresh lemon
-place on grill or in oven at 350 for approx 15 minutes.
Add whatever grilled veggies you like as well as a wild grain rice and you will have a great meal!