A shooting competition, regardless of the discipline, isn't as physically demanding as a marathon. But it's definitely more strenuous than a day at the office.
It makes little difference whether you're shooting clay targets, high power rifle, conventional pistol, or one of the action shooting games. You'll be on your feet for six or more hours while not only shooting, but dealing with the myriad of administrative chores expected of competitors. However, when it's your turn to shoot your body has to be functioning at its peak if you are to perform at your best level. That requires the body to be properly fueled to be at its peak.
Fresh fruit may be inconvenient to carry, but it can be the best source of energy during a match.
Many athletes have a pre-match ritual that starts the night before with the ingestion of certain nutrients. One popular pre-match ritual is ‘carbo loading’.
“Taking in an additional amount of carbohydrates the night before a match is not off base,” says Dr. Miguel Tepedino. “Carbohydrates are a fuel that provides a longer lasting, and slower, energy release than other nutrients. That can help prepare the body for activity the following day. But not all carbohydrates are created equal. The best will be those from whole wheat bread, pasta made from wheat and not overly processed, and potatoes with the skin left on. You also don't want to go to excess on carbohydrates, and you need to eat some lean protein with them to avoid an insulin spike.”
Dr. Tepedino knows of what he speaks. In addition to maintaining a private family medicine practice in Lake City, FL, he also serves as the Chief of Staff for the Lake City Medical Center, and is certified in Advanced Trauma Life Support. He understands how nutritional intake affects the body. As a former triathlete, who now spends what recreational time his busy schedule allows as an action pistol competitor, he also understands how it affects the body during a competitive event. A few extra carbs the night before can enhance performance the next day. But, regardless of what was eaten the night before, you do need to top off your energy tank in the morning before the match. The proper blend of nutrients at breakfast can get you started at your peak.
“When you're getting your pre-match breakfast,” Dr. Tepedino says, “I would recommend some easily digestible protein, like eggs. The eyes absolutely need protein to function and shooters need their eyes functioning at their best. With that I would include a bit of whole grain carbs, like wheat bread, and a modest amount of starches like potatoes. Add some fresh fruit and your body has been given a great start to the day.”
Fruit cups and dried fruit are easy to tote and can be almost as beneficial as fresh fruit.
Some shooters may think that an energy producing dinner and match morning breakfast will “lock & load” them to carry them through the match. But just like the gun they are shooting, they will have to reload their expended energy during the match itself if they want to stay at their peak. The intake of nutrition during the match can be every bit as important as what was taken in pre-match. There are a number of convenient options available, but not all are ideal.
“Candy bars are not the worst choice, as opposed to nothing at all,” Dr. Tepedino notes, “but they're not the best bet. They can give you a fast energy boost due to their processed sugars that provide a quick hypoglycemic spike. But if the body over corrects by excreting more insulin a crash will follow and the shooter will feel worse than before.”
Protein bars are as convenient to tote as a candy bar and they can be a better bet, but shooters need to choose carefully.
“Nutrition bars have evolved greatly,” Dr. Tepedino states, “but you have to look at the ingredients. Is it truly an energy/protein bar, or just a candy bar masquerading as one? The more ingredients you don't recognize the less likely you are to want to eat it. Does it contain a significant amount of protein and carbohydrates? Does it have fructose or maltodextrin, which is a fruit derivative sugar? What vitamins does it contain? B-12 is quick energy, and the other B vitamins help the body metabolize nutrients to allow you to use them efficiently.”
“The right protein bars can be beneficial,” he continues. “But, they can be expensive. Peanut butter is an economical alternative that strikes a great balance when it comes to providing the sugar and protein needed to maintain performance. If you spread it on a wheat cracker you also get some excellent carbs mixed with it.”
Energy drinks are another convenient option often seen at matches. However, they have drawbacks.
Nutrition drinks and protein bars offer far more benefits than snacking on a candy bar, and are easy to slip into the range bag.
“Energy drinks have a lot of downsides,” Dr. Tepedino explains. “They're not good long term sources of nutrition in general. If you use energy drinks you are using them for exactly what they claim—quick energy. It's a fast boost, but not long term sustained. They are not that much different than a candy bar in that respect. Another potential problem with them is that many energy drinks have an abundance of caffeine. For the shooter who normally drinks a half-dozen cups of coffee every morning and is habituated to caffeine that's not an issue. But for those who don't regularly drink coffee that caffeine can cause a significant rise in blood pressure, along with hand tremors and general jitters.”
Nutrition drinks (like Boost, Ensure and Nutrament) are another option—and a good one.
“I really like the nutrition drinks,” says Dr. Tepedino. “These can be a great source of protein, carbohydrates, sugars, and the vitamins you need in one convenient intake. The only drawback is that some may not be suited for individuals that are lactose intolerant. Shooters should try these before match day to find out how they might affect them, but they can be an excellent source of in-match nutrition.”
Interestingly enough, there are several doctors that shoot action pistol matches in my Northeast Florida area, other than Dr. Tepedino. I have been squadded with them and all of them carry a small Tupperware container of cut up fresh fruit which they dig into several times during the match. I figure they might know something, and Dr. Tepedino agrees.
“Fresh fruit is an awesome source of in-match energy replenishment,” he says. “It immediately breaks down into glucose and becomes a direct energy fuel for the body. How long it lasts depends upon the level of exertion, but some fresh fruit every two or three hours will keep a constant energy source in the body. When I was doing marathons I would freeze red grapes in a baggie and munch on them every couple of hours. There's a lot of glucose in grapes, and they were also very refreshing in hot weather.”
The glucose in fruit is turned into immediate energy. Fresh fruit is the best source, but the convenient little fruit cups, or packets of dried fruit sold in any supermarket can also be beneficial, although Dr. Tepedino notes that the preservatives and preserving process can strip away some of the nutrients that make fruit such a great choice.
The human body is similar to an automobile engine. It needs to be supplied with the proper fuel to perform. Keep it fueled and you can beat the match crash.