Saturday, June 2, 2007

Washington State Meal Plan

In Washington State, the scholastic tournaments are one day, five round swiss events. Stamina and energy use are key for most players that play in these events. If you happen to be at one end of the spectrum or the other (statistically you should win 1 or 0 games, or all 5 games pretty easily), this will tend to mean less to you. Your diet and stamina, will not mean as much.

But for many players, a successful tournament result is what happens in the last round. The round that happens after 80% of the chess and thinking has happened. And due to the nature of swiss pairing, this person will tend to be very close to your rating, which usually means, it is a coin-flip whether you win or not, by far your hardest round. You will dramatically improve your chances by managing your energy levels throughout the tournament. (anyone on a restricted diet for whatever reason, modify based on your needs)

This is not an everyday diet, and is only for the special conditions of a tournament. It is important to eat balanced diets in general, with balanced normal calories, with little refined sugar. It is equally important to be in good physical condition, as that will give you stamina, but if you are participating in a full school lifestyle this should be ok.

Finally, I am not a doctor, nor a nutritionist, and you should never do anything you learn from a website. Do not attempt this at home. If you do so, it is because you chose to, and not because you were directed to by me.

Anyways, one day chess tournaments are pretty special things. There are several things that happen in your body. First is that your brain tends to function on high during games. It wants massive amounts of oxygen, blood, and glucose. These are the brain's fuels. Being out of shape is the number one reason you will not get the fuels that you need. Digesting food, is number two. The second thing that happens, is that a chess tournament is highly stressful, this increases adrenalin creation, which increase insulin production, which will provide energy to your muscles, lower glucose levels, and can cause a variety of physical symptoms. Finally, chess will create fight or flight responses from the beginning of the game, until you are finally winning. The player will feel enhanced paranoia, and will have increased adrenalin, with all of the above. The bodys liver will respond by creating even more glucose. Ultimately, if not managed well, you can easily start crashing and feeling tired, and not alert by your fifth game.

Eating starts the night before. Since chess is not a physical game, you do not want to carbo-load the night before. You do not want an excess amount of sugar in the system at the beginning. You will be overactive, need to move and jump too much, and you will not be able to focus clearly at the beginning. Carbo-loading will also cause you to change levels too much. Have a normal balanced meal. Have a little bit extra. This will help you sleep as you start consuming those calories, and it will help let your liver store extra energy.

The morning of the tournament. You want a balanced meal, about 3/4s of what you normally eat. You want fat, protein and some carbs. It is ok if you are diverting blood for digestion here. You are going to be burning up your energy stores, and you want them to be replaced over time during the morning. You want to have some activity between rounds because you will be hopped up due to adrenalin increase, massive sugar increase, and your body muscles will be rich with sugar. You do not want so much activity that it causes independent loss of energy. But this is more than you think, and it will be difficult to get there. In general this means that you are better off, not going through games or learning between rounds, but walking, kicking a ball, throwing a ball are good activities.

Lunch (usually between rounds 3 and 4). You want a light lunch here. About 50% of your normal calories, balanced, and possibly some refined carbs. You know, a handful of Goldfish(tm) and a half a meat sandwich. You do not want a full lunch as your body is going to greedily start to replace your food stores, and will move blood and energy from the brain to digestion. It will tend to put that off, if you have enough food, to let you find more food. So you should be hungry after lunch, a bit.

Now, prior to round 5. A glass of Gatorade, and about a half of a candy bar. Often you are not hungry at this stage. That is good, but you want to make it through at your best through the game. This will temporarily increase your blood sugar levels for the game. Your brain activity and adrenalin will use it all up, and will not cause any long term issues. But you will find that you tend to play better, and be more focused then your opponent, who will have either eaten too much, eaten the wrong things, or is completely burned out.

After the game, you should go and get a full meal somewhere. This will be restorative to the body, and somewhere either that night or later, you can go over the games.

My best friend has won many more last round games this year than last, since we have focused on the stamina problem. It hasn't affected his normal life, either food or activity. So it's worked for us. But remember, Never take food recommendations from some blog on the internet. Don't do it!


Anonymous said...

Great advice there at the end! ;-)

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