Nov 3, 2017
All-Day Fueling
Dr. Jackie Maurer Abbot

Pregame meals should be a big part of any nutritional gameplan. But how about when an athlete has several competitions in a day? This is the challenge of devising a meal plan for a heptathlete.

In this particular case, our athlete is a 23-year-old female who was experiencing fatigue during her competition days, but does not like to consume sports drinks and bars. She wanted a meal plan for the U.S. Nationals, when she would be competing in seven events over two days.

With multi-event competition, there is downtime both during events (when she waits her turn in field events) and between events. In addition, there is no big break between events for a full meal. And the competition usually takes place in a stadium unprotected from the sun.

The four goals I kept in mind for this multi-event athlete were:

• Meeting energy needs

• Timing consumption of adequate fluid and electrolyte intake before, during, and after exercise to promote adequate hydration

• Timing consumption of carbohydrate intake to provide adequate fuel for energy demands and to spare protein for muscle repair, growth, and maintenance

• Timing consumption of adequate protein intake to meet protein synthesis and turnover needs.

Based on height, weight, and activity level, we estimated her needs as follows:

• Calories: 3,000

• Protein: 89-118g

• Carbohydrates: 518-740g

• Fluids: 32 ounces per hour during competition.

We also had to work around her dislike of sports drinks and bars. I started by asking her to tell me about the foods she liked, focusing on fluids, carbohydrates, and high quality proteins. She reported liking water, bananas, oranges, milk, yogurt, peanut butter, pretzels, turkey, and of course, chocolate.

Our meal plan called for the athlete to graze on foods and fluids throughout the competition day in order to stay hydrated and energized without the feeling of fullness. Her two main snack foods were oranges and pretzels. Oranges would help keep her hydrated and provide a good source of carbohydrate (and they pack well). Pretzels would supply salt, as well as another low-fat carbohydrate.

We gave her a precise schedule for drinking water. Then, we added shelf-stable chocolate milk to her menu, which would support muscle repair and maintenance, help restock glycogen stores and prevent dehydration, and allow a treat.

Another key was devising pre-competition and post-competition meals that would provide a full complement of nutrients, but not be too filling. And we added an evening snack, since her post-competition meal served as an early dinner.


6 a.m. Pre-Competition Meal:

1 cup oatmeal made with

low-fat milk and pinch of salt

1 cup sliced banana

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 Whole wheat English


2 Tbsp. smooth, natural

peanut butter

16 ounces cool water

8 a.m.

17-20 ounces cool water

9 a.m.

1 cup low-fat pretzels

7-10 ounces cool water

9:45 a.m. 100-meter hurdles

10 a.m.

8 ounces cool water

10:30 a.m. High jump

10:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

1 cup low-fat pretzels

8 ounces low-fat chocolate milk

16-32 ounces cool water

1 p.m. Shotput

1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Sips of cool water

2:15 p.m. 200 meters

2:30 p.m.

Post-Competition Recovery Snack:

1 orange

16 ounces low-fat

chocolate milk

24 ounces cool water

4:30 p.m.

Post-Competition Meal:

Turkey breast sub on whole wheat bread with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and 1 Tbsp. mayonnaise

1 cup tomato basil soup

1 cup baby carrot sticks

2 medium sized low-fat oatmeal raisin cookies

16 ounces unsweetened

iced tea

7:00 p.m.

1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt with 1/2 cup sliced strawberries

Oats & honey granola bar

8 ounces cool water

Jackie Maurer Abbot, PhD, RD, CSSD, LD, works as a nutrition counselor for multi-event athletes affiliated with USA Track & Field.

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