Top athletes in the Olympic sport of archery know that when it’s time to compete, your entire body plays a part. Whether it’s keeping your mind sharp, your muscles strong or your foundation stable, competitors have to fuel their bodies for optimum archery performance.
The US Olympic Committee recommends different eating plans for easy, moderate and hard days of training and competition. What does that mean for the average archer? In general, it means balance is important, and the distribution of fruits and veggies, carbs, and proteins varies based on what you’re doing.
Are you a recreational archer who’s just starting out in the sport?
Perhaps you’re shooting in a league at your local archery shop, or shooting as part of a USA Archery program. If that’s the case, and you’re practicing 1-2 days per week, think about incorporating fruits and vegetables into half of your plate, and dividing the other half between proteins (including meats, eggs and soy) and whole grains such as starchy vegetables, cereals, and pasta or rice. This is a great plan to follow when your training is consistently at the same level.
Moderate days – days in which you’re training more than once, such as shooting in the morning, and then doing cardio in the afternoon – require a slightly different nutritional balance to give you the energy that carbs supply, and a bit more protein. Consider making fruits and vegetables about 35 percent of your plate, grains approximately 35 percent, and incorporating lean protein for the remaining 30 percent.
If you’re gearing up for a tournament, especially one that requires endurance on your part – many arrows, multiple days, or both – consider that you may need “extra fuel from carbohydrates,” according to the “Athlete’s Plate” handout from the US Olympic Committee and the University of Colorado. If that’s the case, make half of your plate grain-friendly; focus on lean protein for a quarter of your meal; and vegetables for the other half. This guideline should be followed on the day before, during and after your competition.
What else should you eat?
In general, fats should be limited to a tablespoon per day, and should be “healthy fats” such as oils, cheese, nuts, and fatty vegetables such as avocado, which also packs a vitamin-intensive punch. On a hard training or competition day, you can up that healthy fat content to two tablespoons per day.
Think about using salsa, vinegar, herbs and spices – as well as condiments such as ketchup and mustard – to add flavor to your foods on any given day. And on that competition day, resist the temptation to “carb out” all day, and choose fresh, dried or stewed fruits as a tournament snack instead.
Finally: hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate again!
Remember that your need for hydration will increase based on the type and amount of training you’re doing. Be sure to make water your go-to beverage, followed by limited amounts of sports drinks, diluted juices, flavored drinks and coffee or tea. As an archer, limit your caffeine intake, and keep the water flowing. Proper nutrition – and hydration – are two of the best tools you’ll have for optimum performance on the archery field.