The world we live in is consumed by competitions in all realms. We spend most of our lives preparing for each event. This time of year is no different for the vast majority of us with the Open right around the corner. In preparation for any sport, there are a lot of steps that should be taken to be prepared. You have probably gone through some absolute strength programming, power, lactate buffering, and/or an aerobic cycle. You might have even focused on your nutrition this year to shed some weight, gain some muscle or increase your performance, with a main goal overall to improve your performance going into a competition.
In following programming or nutritional concepts to get ready for a fitness competition, you must be smart in choosing when to taper to put ourselves in the best situation to go into the competition at 100%. You will need to decrease volume and possibly increase caloric intake. The goal is to put your body the closest to a homeostatic state and reduce the number of stressors on your body. With too much stress on your body, a decrease in performance is inevitable. There will be a downhill sliding effect on your nervous system whether parasympathetic (daily function system), sympathetic (fight or flight response), or hormonal responses. You could have a reduction in the number of thyroids hormones released, resulting in a decreased metabolism. Additional problems from training stimuli include an influx in parathyroid hormones, prompting an increased level of calcium in the blood. It takes 18 hours to replenish calcium back into the muscle fully, so you can see the detrimental effects of adding another training stimulus under these stressors.
The technical aspect of the process could continue at a steady rate for a while, but I will not bore you with the data. You need to understand there is a right and wrong time to be on a nutritional cut. For the individuals going into the Open purely for fun, nutritional cutting is perfectly okay. If you are an individual that is going to try it multiple times without any prior experience, you should consider talking to your coach about increasing your macros in order to perform at optimal capacity. The change in cut could vary whether the workouts are extremely aerobic versus anaerobic. However, the amount of volume or time under stress is not high enough to cause adverse effects in performance.
For the athletes that are trying to make it to the next level (regionals), they should attempt the workout several times prior to the event. We want to ensure that this individual is adequately fed to ensure glycogen stores (energy source) are full and peak performance occurs. The same concept would be applied if it was a seriously competitive athlete going to regionals. They’ll be competing for three straight days, three workouts per day. Such an active schedule means that the amount of time under tension, intensity, and stressors on the athlete's body heightened during this event. We would need to make sure that they have a wealth of calories to consume so we can make sure their hormonal response is reacting promptly and the nervous system has glycogen for the brain to maintain its purpose as a fast-acting control center. Ultimately, it comes down to what the stressors are and the intensity levels that the athlete will experience.
As you can tell, there are multiple situations that dictate how our nutrition should look throughout the year. The primary goal is to identify your purpose and understand the stressors that come with it. Are you trying to compete at the highest level or are you trying to look better in your body? If you want to look better in your body, then cutting before a one-day competition that lasts 0-20mins it is okay. You just need to understand that performance may be affected if it is a severe cut. In any other time frame or volume, I would come off a cut and increase your caloric intake so you can enter your competition at maximum capacity if performance is the goal.
Taylor Smith, LMN Nutrition Coach