Taekwondo

Taekwondo is a Korean art of self-defence which requires a high degree of fitness and co-ordination. Taekwondo competition consists of 3 x 3 minute rounds involving a rapid series of punches and kicks with 1-minute rest in between each round. During a tournament athletes maybe required to compete from 5-8 times over a day to reach the finals.  The therefore requires a level of anaerobic fitness but a high level of aerobic fitness is also needed to enable the athlete to recover and maintain performance throughout several rounds and over a tournament.

About Taekwondo

Taekwondo is a weight-category sport (see table below for weight divisions). Athletes are required to “weigh-in” 1-2 hours before the start of competition. As with many weight-category sports, athletes often aim to compete at the higher end of the division weight range to get an advantage over lighter opponents. To achieve this, athletes often train above their competition day weight. This means that prior to competition athletes need to decrease their body weight over a short period of time in order to “make weight”. Some methods used by athletes to rapidly lose weight are inappropriate and impair performance. See below for more suitable pre-competition nutrition strategies.

Weight division

Female

Male

     Fly weight

     < 49

       < 58

     Feather weight

     49 – 57

       58 – 68

     Welter weight

     57 – 67

       68 – 80

     Heavy weight

     67 >

       80 >

Training Diet

In order for athletes to reach their maximum nutrition potential during training it is important to be adequately fuelled and hydrated. Taekwondo athletes often opt to compete at a weight category that is lower than their typical training weight hence it is not uncommon to see athletes adopting inappropriate strategies to achieve rapid weight loss in a short time. Methods such as severe food and fluid restriction, excessive exercise, the use of saunas, laxatives and diuretics can compromise nutritional goals, impair performance and increase the risk for potential medical problems.

It is important that athletes select their weight category based on previous weight/skinfolds, growth, competition goals and consider the minimum weight that will not compromise good health. It is generally possible for athletes to keep their weight within 2-3 kg of their competition weight and achieve their weight target in an appropriate manner. This can also give the athlete confidence that the weight can be achieved, without the need for last minute desperate measures. In order to achieve this, energy intake must match training intensity and load as precise as possible. This not only allows for adequate fuel to cope with training demands but also prevents undesired weight gain. The athlete diet should therefore focus on nutrient dense foods with very little room left for highly processed treat foods if any. Consulting an Accredited Sports Dietitian can help you determine an individualised meal plan to achieve your training and competition goals.

Fluid Needs

Some athletes who have not taken their nutritional preparation seriously revert to high levels of dehydration (using saunas and sweat suits) to make weight. This can be unwise as excessive dehydration can be detrimental to performance as well as increasing the risk of heat stroke. A good indication of adequate hydration status is to aim for pale yellow urine over the day. After weigh-in, athletes should continue to sip on fluids over the day to replace sweat losses incurred during competition.

Eating before competition

Making Weight:

There are several tips which can help an athlete achieve their target weight over the 2-3 days prior to competition.  Avoiding excessive salt intake can help with minimising fluid retention (and hence “water weight”). Some athletes try to fast before competition to minimise the amount of food inside the gut, however, this prevents optimal pre-competition fuelling.  A better alternative is the use of low residue foods consumed 12-24 hours before competition. Selecting low fibre cereals (e.g Rice BubblesTM), white breads, pureed fruit and liquid meal replacements can minimise the amount of undigested food in the gut, whilst providing important fuelling carbohydrate.

Between weigh-in and the event

Athletes are required to “weigh-in” 1-2 hours before the start of competition. Although, this time between weigh-in and competition is brief, it can provide the athlete with a window of opportunity to fuel-up and consume some fluids.  Athletes need to be organised to ensure they have plenty of ready-to-consume snacks to kick-start the re-fuelling and re-hydration process. Quick and easy snack foods include sports drinks, liquid meals replacements, fruit, yoghurt, flavoured milks and cereal bars.

To ensure that athletes keep fuel stores ‘topped up’ snacks should be consumed regularly throughout the day. This is particularly important if an athlete is competing in several rounds and the opportunity to eat may be limited. Athletes should not rely on competition venues to provide suitable foods for fuelling over the day. Instead, they should pack convenient, portable options such as fruit, muesli bars, sports bars, dried fruit, crispbread, crackers, jam or honey sandwiches, low-fat fruit yoghurt and fruit buns. Nervous athletes who find it difficult to eat, may find a liquid based snack (e.g. SustagenTM or sports drink) may be more suitable.

Recovery

Recovery after training and competition can be enhanced by eating a meal or snack containing carbohydrate to replace muscle glycogen stores; protein to speed up muscle repair and fluid to replace sweat losses. Ideally a recovery meal or snack should be consumed within 30-60 minutes of finishing training or competition. Sometimes it is not possible or practical to have a main meal straight after training or competition. In these situations it is recommended to consume a snack immediately after training to kick start recovery and then finish the recovery process at the next main meal. Examples of recovery snacks that contain carbohydrates, protein and fluid include:

  • Low fat fruit smoothie
  • Cereal bar + tetra pack low fat flavoured milk
  • Yoghurt + chopped fruit + bottle of water
  • Ham and cheese sandwich + bottle of sports drink