Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Eating on Fencing Competition Day: Do’s and Don’t’s!

Bagel with cream cheese is a good choice for a healthy breakfast on fencing tournament dayIt’s fencing tournament day and you’ve been running around from the moment you arrived. From check in, to warm up, straight to pool play afterward, and then to direct elimination. You are getting more and more agitated as the day wears on, and your fencer is getting irritable, fatigued, and maybe even a little shaky. The cure to all these woes may be simpler than you think. Ask yourself: When was the last time that you ate?

All of the symptoms mentioned above are signs that blood sugar may be too low. Nine times out of ten a drop in blood sugar is caused by skipping a meal or by not eating enough. However, vigorous exercise also frequently causes blood glucose levels to plummet, and without a little extra food around the workouts of tournament day, your child can easily find him or herself in a bad situation. But don’t worry, here’s some helpful information on how to feed your fencers so that they fence and feel their best.

A good fencing competition day actually starts the night before. The last big meal should be roughly 6-7 hours before the event, and I strongly suggest a healthy, well-balanced meal. Complex carbohydrates (like whole grain breads, potatoes, beans, or pastas) are ideal. I also recommend that you avoid meat, as it can be more difficult for the stomach to digest and may lead to an upset stomach or a bad night’s sleep. As busy as you may be getting ready for the next day, skip the fast food or pizza—greasy foods or simple carbohydrates (e.g., sugary drinks, candy) will only slow an athlete down in competition.

On tournament day, the key is to plan ahead. Fencing tournaments vary widely in the amount or quality of food they provide (if any), so unless you have detailed information about the location, you have to come prepared for the worst. Plan a solid breakfast (to be eaten 2-3 hours before the event) consisting mostly of carbohydrates like oatmeal, granola, bagels, and toast. Pack healthy snacks that your child can easily grab throughout the day, and make sure they eat a small carbohydrate-rich snack every three hours or so (almonds, healthy grains like quinoa or brown rice, trail mix, cereal—no meat!). Not only does this frequent grazing prevent a dramatic drop in blood sugar, but eating regularly will also prevent the overeating or bingeing on unhealthy food that is prompted by a blood sugar crash. Make sure you provide frequent snacks for yourself, too!

I’ve included a list below of the top fifteen signs that a person is experiencing low blood sugar. Not only do low glucose levels interfere with a person’s ability to function, but it can also have some more serious consequences, like fainting. Make sure you keep an eye on your child and suggest a snack if you observe any of these symptoms:

  • Paleness
  • Heavy perspiration or clammy skin
  • A feeling of weakness/ dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat or agitation
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Feeling hungry or nauseated
  • Feeling shaky
  • Headache
  • Feeling disoriented or expressing confusion

Lastly, after tournament day has come to a close, don’t just collapse into bed—be sure to eat a full meal with (you guessed it!) plenty of carbs! The post-tournament meal is also a great time to encourage your fencer to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Their body will thank you tomorrow!

With the right combination of good fuel, regular meal and snack times, and appropriate hydration, your fencer will enjoy a high level of concentration and energy.


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  1. Eric Hammarberg

    Way too much focus on carbs and not enough consideration to proteins and electrolytes. For example, proper intake of healthy fats and protein the day before and a little during the competition keeps one’s energy more level. One also needs electrolytes throughout competition otherwise your body’s electrical system malfunctions leading to cramping and reduced judgement ability. Focusing on carbs can lead to peaks and valleys. Also, recovery after physical exertion needs protein to help repair and build muscle.

    • Username*

      Agreed, Eric. I haven’t studied this topic, I only have personal experience, so please view this comment as such. The first Open I ever won was after only eating a meal of cold cooked chicken and leafy green salad (with a handful of shredded beetroot) the night before, and that was it. NO carbs. I found this helped clear my head, which is a significant factor in fencing, alongside physical endurance, more so than a lot of other sports. Competition day was for carbohydrates, as described in the article.

    • Irina Chirashnya

      Hi Eric,
      Yes, we underplayed a bit proteins and electrolytes. Obviously pre-game and after the game meals should be different and proper consumption of protein after the game is needed. For electrolytes, I am not really fond of sport drinks such as Gatorade, instead I recommend eating dry fruit (e.g., apricots) in small portions throughout the day – this will both serve as snack and replenish all necessary elements.

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