Food For Stay Away Shows
Balancing food and eating well around shows & stay away competitions can sometimes be tricky to navigate. This week the showjumping stay away shows & 3-day events are well underway so I thought it be good to show you guys how to construct your nutrition whilst you’re away!!
The first thing we want to be thinking about is what we’re trying to achieve with our diet whilst we’re away competing. Just like your horse you need to be feeling at your best physically and mentally to get the best result so it’s important to think about what you are putting into your body and how that is going to feel your performance and help your horse.
We put such an emphasis on our horse's performance, making sure they are fuelled perfectly yet often don't even consider our own nutrition & that's a big area to ignore when you're 50% of the partnership & influence to the result!
Show weeks can be incredibly stressful both from a mental point of view and on the body physically, especially if there are high expectations and pressure on you for a good result. This is where controlling aspects like your diet will really give you that extra edge against your competitors.
Mental clarity can often be affected by poor food choices such as overconsumption of sugar or dehydration so it’s really important to think about how your choices are impacting you. Last thing you want is brain fog coming into a tricky combination XC 3 from home!
Obviously, when you are staying away you need to consider what cooking facilities and storage facilities you have access to.
Even if you don’t have access to much you can still eat well, remember eating well doesn’t have to be complicated! Sticking to the same principles we apply when we’re at home is absolutely essential and will help you to keep things simple.
Think about your 3 main macronutrient groups. You want to make sure you have a good balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate, this is really important and then you can think about hydration and packing your diet out with lots of colour to give your body the goodness it needs!
You can use the above cheat sheet for ideas for each macro group!
Around competition time we want to think about how we are fuelling our body and optimise performance. For example, carbohydrates are the body's energy source. When we consume carbohydrates the body breaks carbohydrates down into glucose, this glucose is installed as glycogen in the muscle, liver and bloodstream and is readily available as our energy source so if carbohydrate intake is low then we are going to be low on fuel in the tank & struggle with our energy!
The night before a big show jumping round or your cross-country that should be something you consider. Make sure you have a meal that is high in complex carbohydrates as you then have that longer-lasting energy throughout the day & this will keep you going. Complex carbohydrates are foods such as whole grains, pasta, rice, potatoes, starchy veg etc
Something that is really important to consider as well is if you struggle to eat with nerves around the time of your competition or the morning of you need to consider how you’re making sure you've still got enough fuel in the tank.
Making sure you have a meal high in carbohydrates the night before will make sure you’ve got plenty of energy in the tank to keep you going the next day. Keep your plate size the same as normal but have a slight bias to a higher carb percentage & that will do the trick! If you’re somebody who struggles to eat maybe due to nerves or you prefer not to in the morning before a competition then what you could do is have something like a Lucozade drink that is an isotonic drink so contains electrolytes and carbohydrates and that will keep you hydrated but also give you fuel through the carbs!
If you can stomach eating a little then you could add in some fruit such as a banana, this is a complex carbohydrate and adding in something like a high protein yoghurt pouch would make sure that you feel full up & ready to go. 1 consideration the night before any show or competition is to avoid highly processed or fatty foods. We know these types of foods upset our gut, the last thing you want is to be on the loo at midnight the night before your big day!
Hydration, as I said at the start, is really important. You need to understand the importance of being fully hydrated and how dehydration can affect your body. The best way to monitor your hydration at a show would be the same as your horse, keep an eye on how much you are drinking and check the colour of your pee! I know that sounds silly but we all know the darker the less hydrated so keep an eye on it through the week and have the consideration of keeping yourself well hydrated in your mind. Dehydration will affect your fast decision-making ability as well as your body's physical ability so don't discount it!
Sometimes the social side of shows can catch up with us so considering how your alcohol intake will affect things like hydration and your performance is really important. Remember that caffeine can sometimes be dehydrating too as well so again on cross-country morning prioritise plenty of water and isotonic drinks to replenish those electrolyte stores, especially if you get XC tummy!! They also a great option for after jumping as they will help you to replace lost fluids that are lost through sweat.
Protein is the macronutrient that is responsible for leaving us satisfied after meals but more importantly, it is our recovery macro. So when we consume protein it breaks down into amino acids and these amino acids start the process of repairing any damage that has been done to the muscle tissue after an intensive exercise session or a physically demanding activity. Prioritise protein in your lunch and evening meals, it’s going to help you keep full but also make sure you have the best recovery after your round or day as you possibly can so you're not sore & your muscles get the best recovery chance possible.
Again thinking about your cooking facilities is important because for some of you, you might not be able to say cook up a chicken breast so what other options could you do? Tuna in cans is a really simple one, a can gives you around 25 g of protein and doesn’t need to be stored in a fridge! Simples.
That’s a clear example of how you can eat well even if you’re not able to store food or don’t have the best cooking facilities. Fresh food is obviously a slightly trickier one and if you don’t have access to fridges then maybe see if you could get to a local store once you’ve been there for a couple of days or have a family member or friend bring up some supplies, that would be a good option!
If you do have fridge facilities or a freezer then frozen fruits can be a great option. They last for ages and don’t go off so it doesn’t matter if they don't end up getting used. Good options for smoothies too which again are great if you're not the biggest eater!
As always we want to make sure we promote a healthy balance so allow yourself to have the more treatier type foods as well and again if you do struggle to eat on show days then you’re better off to have say, a Mars bar than nothing at all to give you some energy! At the end of the day at a show with all of the walking, riding & activity you do I wouldn’t be too concerned about the calorie intake!
Considering how you fuel yourself is so important, keep it simple and think of easy meal ideas that you like & will work on the go. Lunch ideas like wraps, pasta salads, protein sandwiches are all things you can make up ahead of time and easy to grab and go when you’re on the run. There are lots of go-to snack options these days such a skyr yoghurt pouches, protein bars, snack a jacks, fibre one bars so do you research, find out what you like and think about how you fuel yourself best. Part of this will be trial and error to see what works for you but it’s so important you consider your own nutrition as well as your horses!
If you eat well your recovery will be better, your performance will be the best it can be & energy levels will be high so why wouldn't you put a little bit of effort into eating as well as you can!
Below are a handful of super simple breakfast, lunch & dinner recipes that can be prepared ahead of time, cooked on a BBQ or made up with a hob! Hopefully, there are options for you all & this shows you how to eat well whilst at shows!