Mimi Landström explores what the pros eat in competition.
It’s wintertime, and you may well have been indulging a little in the last month or so, and perhaps wondering how to get back to that next level in the New Year. You probably know a little about what to eat and what not to, but there really isn’t a lot of archery-specific nutritional information.
So we asked the question: how do elite archers keep focused, fuelled and energised during training camps, competition and being away from home during the indoor season?
We spoke to six different archers from around the world: Naomi Folkard, Sjef van den Berg, Gabi Bayardo, Ella Gibson, Mackenzie Brown, and Paul Tedford about how they optimise tournament food, their food habits and any secrets that they hold.
Four-time Olympian for GBR
Naomi has had a long and intense outdoor season, but now heading into a series of overseas training camps with the GB Olympic squad.
“For breakfast I have two boiled eggs with a slice of granary toast on a training or competition day. Lunch consists of cottage cheese and some coarse oatcakes. My snacks include Greek yoghurt, natural dried fruit and cashew nuts. Make sure that the dried fruit has no added sugar.”
“I think it’s more important to maintain energy levels rather than maximising it. Do this by choosing low GI foods, or level high ones out (fruit) with low ones (nuts). This should be the plan every day, so your body is used to maintaining energy.”
“When away, I will look at the schedule and eat when I can, avoiding large amounts of food within an hour prior to competing. Obviously, schedules can overrun, so my advice is making sure snacks are on hand, just in case.
“Also remember that grazing is much better than too much in one go. And don’t forget it is a myth that you can maintain a “sugar high” by eating more sugar.”
Sjef van den Berg
Reigning world indoor champion
Sjef has had a very intense outdoor season, whilst also competing at some major indoor competitions, such as Kings of Archery.
“For breakfast I like a bit of toast with some cheese, or a yoghurt bowl with fruit and some sort of granola. I don’t usually bring food with me unless I know I am going to a country I know I don’t like the food or catering in general. I also sometimes take some granola bars to countries I haven’t been to before. I typically snack on a nut mix with some raisins.”
“To maximise your energy, just make sure you do not eat a whole lot of it, but small bits at once. I try to not have a very big meal before competition, because having small bits of food during shooting will give you less of a sugar peak every time. This will spread out your energy a little better over the course of the day.”
Elite-of-the-elite USA compound archer
Paul Tedford, from Montana, USA has won numerous elite indoor medals, including the Lancaster Classic title, Nîmes Indoor World Cup bronze and Kings of Archery title, all in 2018. Paul has shot three perfect 900s to put himself into three Vegas shootdowns: 2017, 2018 and 2019 – and he took third place at the 2018 edition.
“I didn’t bring food with me, but I went and bought some when I arrived. On the early days when shooting is at 8am I have some oatmeal and a banana for breakfast. I take energy bars with me to the field to snack on. There are many different kinds, but I like the kind with simple ingredients and not too much sugar.”
“I don’t plan much when I’m going to eat since shooting times vary a lot at different tournaments, but I don’t eat a really heavy meal before I shoot. That is for after. I’ll eat a big dinner after a day of competing to renew my energy.”
“I never eat shellfish during a tournament because I’m allergic now (as of one year ago). I maximize energy by working out at the hotel gym and eating big dinners. It’s important to stay active and not just sit around the hotel and being lazy. Get out and walk around town if you have to!”
World Championship silver medalist
Gabi Bayardo Chan moved from Mexico to live in and compete for the Netherlands. Gabi won the bronze medal at the European Games in Minsk earlier this year, along with mixed team silver at the World Championships just a few days prior.
“When I’m away from home, I kind of try to eat almost the same that I do at home. I normally eat bread with something on or fruit for breakfast. I normally bring food if I know it is difficult to find the food I normally like to eat.
“For example, in Asia (because the Asian diet is very different to mine), and also competition where I need to wake up really early and sometimes the hotel restaurant is not open yet, I will bring some special food. This would include things like muesli bars, rice waffles or chocolate.”
“I almost always eat rice waffles as a snack, or fruit or sometimes chocolate. It depends a lot in how I feel or what time I have to shoot. I’ve learnt with experience how to eat at competitions. I know there will always be a breakfast and a dinner, and sometimes we improvise a lunch. So, I always bring something to competitions in case I get hungry.”
“I eat everything, especially things I know that will give me energy. What I never do, is eat while I’m shooting. If I have a break between qualifying or matches, I do eat, but I never eat between ends because I don’t like the feeling of being full while I’m shooting.”
“I think that my secret and what helps me to concentrate is to drink water before, during and after competition. I think that that helps a lot! I also like to drink coffee. A lot of archers don’t like the feeling of shooting after a coffee, but personally I feel really good!”
USA international and Olympian
Mackenzie Brown, part of the USA recurve team and Rio Olympian spoke to us about her nutritional routine. (Mackenzie has recently done some filming with Lancaster Archery Supply regarding tuning an Olympic Recurve bow – make sure you check it out for awesome tips.)
“Usually, depending on where I am, I have yoghurt and granola, a piece of fruit, and a cup of coffee for breakfast. I also bring snacks and emergency food like dehydrated meals and peanut butter.”
“I’ll normally have the peanut butter with fruit like a banana or apple. I also bring fruit leather (dried fruit) and granola bars, along with beef jerky. Most of my snacks are not going to get stuck in my teeth and also are easy to carry in my backpack or quiver.”
“I try to keep the same schedule as I have at home, but if I can’t, I try to not be too full or hungry during my shooting sessions and bring snacks. I try to stay away from fast food at tournaments, especially international tournaments because I don’t eat fast food often at home, so I like to get things consistent.”
“I also don’t have alcohol during a competition, I wait until after I’m done competing. I don’t eat huge meals; I have smaller meals and snack throughout the day to keep my blood sugar levels consistent. Just stick with what you know, and with what you’ve practiced at home.”
2019 world record smasher
Ella Gibson had her debut on the GB compound senior team this year during the World Cup season, bringing home team medals, claiming UK records and also recently took the World Record for the WA18 (596) at the GT Open. Ella also won silver at Kings of Archery and bronze at the GT Open, along with being the current UK number one at the time of writing.
“For breakfast I generally go high on protein, I always have eggs, generally also bacon and sometimes a bit of carbs like a piece of toast or croissant. If I can, I will have a yoghurt too. I sometimes bring food to training or competition with me, depending where I am going and what will be available.”
“In regard to snacks, I normally bring some cheese biscuits and snack on them if I’m hungry, also boiled eggs are a good snack or little blocks of cheese. I always make sure I eat a good hour or two before I shoot and have something at the end of the day, normally snacking throughout shooting, a little bit at a time.
“I never eat sugary foods like sweets or chocolate etc. when competing to make sure I don’t get that sugar high, equally I stay off of caffeine before and during competing.”
“I think constantly snacking throughout shooting gives you a good level of energy but also making sure you have had a good and long sleep the nights before make a big difference.”
“Any secrets? Salt is super important (well, electrolytes), I try to make sure the food I have while shooting has enough salt in them- magnesium, potassium, sodium etc. I have found that if you have more, especially post shooting, you get a better recovery and less chance of muscle cramps.”
So – what have we learned?
Snacking/grazing whilst shooting is a much better way of staying energised and focused! By having smaller amounts of food, rather than large meals can discourage large swings in blood sugar levels, along with decreasing hunger.
Simple sugars should also be generally avoided as much as possible to ensure your blood sugar levels do not suddenly spike. Be careful of chocolate bars and sugary soft drinks especially.
The common trend from all six archers was that they never eat a large meal before or during competing or training as it gives too much of a spike, and is therefore detrimental to focus, training, and competing.
It is also essential to drink water, even when you’re not shooting, you should stick to drinking around two litres per day. Water helps energise muscles, which definitely helps with archery. Without the correct level of fluids, muscle cells cannot function as well, and therefore performance can suffer due to muscle fatigue.
Perhaps the most important factor when competing is to understand how you perform when you eat what you do when you do, and don’t change things unless absolutely necessary. Your serious training nutrition should be the same as your tournament nutrition. If you work best with porridge two hours before shooting, do your best to make that happen every time!