Nail Your Testing Week Nutrition
Testing week is coming up fast. If you have done the work, there should be nothing to worry about! And if you haven’t, well there is noting like a good kick up the rear to motivate you to do better next time. One thing that can take your performance to the next level is your nutrition. Making sure that you have given this some thought in the week leading in will ensure that you are going to get that second gear when you need it. Here are some points to consider:
If you are in the ‘dieting’ mindset, stop, even just for a few days.
98 sessions are not designed to make you look a certain way, it just so happens that when you train with structure, purpose and intensity, the happy side effect is generally better body composition. With this in mind, if you have been deliberately cutting calories, the week of testing, have a go at eating a bit more leading up to the testing sessions. If you don’t normally prepare food and eat ad hoc, this is the week to have a go and getting yourself organised! You might just surprise yourself at how much better you feel when you are eating regular healthy meals. For those that are pretty good at preparing, but are in the process of trying to cut a bit of weight, it might just be a few well-placed snacks to get you back to what would be your maintenance calories for the week. There is a slight tapering to training in the days leading in to testing, so energy output might be a bit less- aim to feel comfortably full, but not stuffed, after each meal, avoiding excessive hunger, and focus on food quality at the very least.
Nutrition for your 1 RM
When it comes to strength training, unless you are doing an epic rep structure and/or training for 3-4 hours, you are not making big a dent in your muscle glycogen (your muscles energy stores), perhaps using a quarter of stores, dependent on the session. However if you are only doing a few low rep sets to build to your 1RM, energy requirements for the session are not going to be immense. To get technical, lifting a 1 RM will have your working in your ATP/PC energy system, where the energy stored in your muscles (ATP) is used for fast, high intensity movements lasting 8-12 seconds.
So while in action the lift requires a lot of energy, the lower number of reps in the session means a lower total energy output. Therefore, in terms of any extra fuelling for strength, you don’t need to be too concerned assuming you are well fed. You do want to ensure that you focus on carbohydrates leading into the session, and take care of recovery nutrition after regular strength sessions. As such, having your day-to-day nutrition under control is important.
In order for muscle to be built you need three things:
- An adequate training stimulus (Tick! 98 programming has you covered)
- Adequate protein intake (1.5-2g per kilo as a general goal)
- Carbohydrates at 3-5g per kilo, depending on daily activity levels
- Adequate calories. This means eating at least at maintenance or just above if you are already pretty lean. If you have body fat to drop, you can probably be in a mild calorie deficit and still build muscle as your body fat will make up the difference in energy balance.
Ensuring that you are eating balanced meals (a source of quality carbs/protein/healthy fats plus veggies at each meal), prioritising carbs around training time and are aware of roughly what your calorie intake should be is key. If you have no clue about what you daily intake should be, read through this article. A VERY rough estimate would be 30-35 calories per kilo of body weight- more if you are active, less if you are more sedentary across the day.
In terms of supplementation, creatine and caffeine are the two that I would expect most people to experience a benefit from when taken consistently.
Creatine is a molecule found in muscle cells naturally, but can also be supplemented. It works by assisting to achieve quick energy production/recovery (ATP) leading to increased reps and power output (as a very top level description). Creatine supplementation aims to saturate the muscle cell, which can take 1-2 weeks of regular daily supplementation to achieve. Five grams per day for 2-4 weeks, and then daily ongoing will help most people to achieve greater training outputs.
Caffeine is a molecule most know and love for its ability to get us out of bed most days via the morning coffee ritual. Caffeine is believed to help improve strength and power outputs via greater muscle motor unit recruitment, reduced perception of exertion and heightened arousal. A standard shot of coffee will provide around 80-100mg of caffeine, and takes approximately 45-60 minutes to take full effect. A solid double shot prior to hitting a 1RM would definitely help. A scoop Body Science K-OS or Ultra PRE would also achieve a performance benefit.
Nutrition for high intensity
Here we are looking at fuelling training where energy outputs are required for longer periods of time, 30 seconds ups to 3 minutes using the lactate system then upwards of 3 minutes using the aerobic energy system. Whether it is repeated sprints, or a longer steady state piece, having adequate carbs on board will help keep your efforts high. And yes, we can use fats to fuel. Particularly for longer endurance pieces, fats will play a role too, but if you want to go fast, carbs are the goods (remembering we are never really just using one energy system or one fuel source- it is a blend). As always the first point of call is making sure you have a solid routine for eating day to day. Trying to get technical with food timing before you have a solid daily routine is putting the cart before the horse. Get a rhythm, then start to refine your nutrition approach.
If you have been paying attention to your nutrition, and want to make sure you are in top form for testing, a good chunk of carbs 30-60 minutes prior to the session, depending on your personal preference/digestion, will ensure that you have carbs available to use in the session.
If you train in the morning, there are a few options. If you are ok to eat something small on the way to the gym, like a piece of fruit, do that. If you can’t stomach the thought of eating that early (pun intended), perhaps make sure that you have had adequate carbs in your dinner the night before. Ideally you practice eating a bit before training, as we are able to train our gut to get better at taking on fuel, but if it can’t be done, just focus on what feels good for you.
As testing takes place over a series of days, ensuring you pay attention to your nutrition after each session will mean that you turn up each time ready to give 100%. The risk of not recovering properly (i.e not topping up muscle glycogen, hydrating and repairing damage to muscles) is that you start strong but bottom out in later sessions. Where there is less than 24 hours between sessions, this is of particular importance, as recovery can take over 24 hours to occur.
After sessions aim to have about 20g high quality protein source (whey, dairy, eggs, lean meats, plant based protein blend) mixed with some easily digested carbs, plus a glass of water to top up hydration levels. Then follow up with a proper meal in the following 2-3 hours and again across the day to continue recovery.
The key takeaway here is that having a solid nutrition routine day-to-day is the most important part. However, testing week just might be the trigger to have you paying more attention to your nutrition as you feel the benefits of being prepared, over turning up under fuelled and over anxious. Testing week is about performing at your maximum after a period of consistent effort within the previous training block. Do the work, eat, rest, recover and there will only be PB’s in sight.