October 12, 2020

Improve Your Game - How to stay hydrated and fuelled while shooting

Paralympic Champion Phoebe Pine explains how important it is and how to stay hydrated and fuelled whilst shooting in competition, or during training.

Shooting a large volume of arrows over the course of a day or weekend can be utterly exhausting, even for the best of us. That is why it is so important to make sure your body is best equipped to shoot by giving it the fuel it needs. On those long days of shooting I follow a simple set of rules and a flexible meal plan that ensures my body will always be able to perform at its best. These rules are:

Hydrate before, during and after an event or training.

Hydration is vital to good performance. Your brain is made up of at least 75% water so if you are dehydrated, even as little as 2% less than optimal, it can have a negative effect on the functioning of your brain. Most notably you will find it harder to concentrate, it can also affect mood and your subconscious' ability to reproduce your shot. At worst you can have more noticeable side effects like dizziness and headaches.

Your rule should always be: "If you're thirsty, it's too late". When you are dehydrated your brain asks for water, which is why you get thirsty, and if you're dehydrated you aren't performing optimally.

Before I compete, I spend the day before hydrating myself, this gives me the best chance of being hydrated the next day. On the day of shooting, be it training or competition, I make sure that I have drank at least half a pint in the morning before leaving for training/the comp and through out the day I make sure that I have had at least a litre and a half of either water or squash, before then coming home and continuing to drink throughout the evening. This way I am making sure that I have had enough to hydrate myself whilst exerting a lot of physical strain throughout the day and again, am making sure there are no side effects of dehydration to endure whilst also being tired from a busy day.

Everyone has different levels of water required for optimal hydration so this is just what I do. It will also depend on a lot of factors, some we don't control, such as the temperature, some we do, such as salt intake. Some salt is good as it can help your body absorb the water you drink, too much though will dehydrate you. Isotonic tablets and drinks are good for having this effect to aid in hydration, so if you don't like to drink a lot these can be a great way of keeping hydrated, and they needn't be sugary, so be careful to avoid energy drinks.


Snacking through an event or training is good!

With a mixture of stress and nerves, it can be hard to want to eat through the day at a competition; I normally dread the idea of having whole meals whilst nervous. Nevertheless, not eating whilst competing is not going to do you any favours with trying to shoot well. That is why I snack, a lot, during my days shooting.

These are generally on "healthy" things such as fruit, nuts and energy or cereal bars. Don't be afraid to branch out to the odd jelly baby or bite of a chocolate bar, though; sometimes we need a sugar boost in order to get through the day, I call it rocket fuel. The body converts sugar into fast-acting energy, but your body produces insulin to counteract it.

If you have too much sugar your body produces more insulin, so if that sugar intake isn't kept up it results in a "crash", a sudden loss of energy caused by hypoglycaemia (which you can overcome by consuming slow-acting carbohydrates gradually). Keeping up high sugar intake results in hyperglycaemia, though, which can be just as bad, especially for archers.


Eat good meals throughout the day

Finishing a competition and heading to McDonald's can be very appealing, and though we all have days where we need comfort food after shooting, try to step away from the idea of fast food either before, during or after a competition or training. To set myself up for the day, I normally have a slow release food, this can include brown toast or Weetabix with fruit, or just a good cereal. If I have more time, I'll include some source of protein, such as bacon or egg to aid my muscle recovery and energy levels for the day.

Going into lunch I like to have either pasta with some meat, or a sandwich, along with fruit and an oat bar. It may feel uncomfortable but shooting whilst you're well-fed will stop you from being distracted by any bouts of hunger that may come from the use of many calories over the day (it's easy to not notice but archery can burn a lot of calories). Finally, for dinner I will normally have either a fish dish or a meat dish. The protein is most important here in order to recover from the day, some carbohydrates are needed too to regain the energy and calories you'll have lost in the afternoon.

It's the perfect time to make up for any calorie deficit from the day if you're not great at eating while shooting and it's vital, especially if you've got another long day of shooting coming up. If you are to snack over the evening, especially when it is closer to going to sleep you run the risk of being kept awake, or even awoken in the night, by an active digestive system, when really the night after training or an event should be spent sleeping well. This goes for the day before as well, to make sure you get a good night's sleep before shooting, to aid your brain function.

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