By Kenzie Fitzpatrick
Regarding shooting sports and health, you can’t perform at your highest level without proper nutrition. Being mentally tough and physically fit are both critical in shooting sports. For most shooters, after they’ve spent time in the sport they’ve chosen to pursue excellence in, they master the mental game. But many shooters fail to understand what their body needs to perform, why hydration is crucial, and what caloric intake they need for one or more days of shooting.
If you want to level up and take your shooting more seriously, there are a few things off the range to consider improving upon to do so.
Shooting Sports and Health Habits to Level Up
While hydration may seem obvious or simple, many shooters do not hydrate appropriately in preparation for a match. You're already behind on hydrating if you haven’t started drinking water until after that first buzzer goes off. If I’m headed to a local match, I will start drinking more water than I usually would the day before. On my way to the range, I like to get a start on hydration by drinking at least 16 ounces of water, if not more. For major matches, especially in warmer climates, it’s crucial to start hydrating days before leaving and stay over-hydrated during the competition. If you begin to feel thirst on the range, that indicates that your water level is already low.
At the end of one day of shooting, don’t stop drinking water just because you’re done for the day. Your body needs more fluids to recover from water and electrolyte loss. And one of the worst things you can do for yourself the night before any shooting competition is to drink alcohol, which only contributes to dehydration.
Most elite-level athletes will prepare for whatever strenuous activity or sport they compete in by focusing on good nutrition days in advance and going in with a caloric surplus rather than a deficit. For shooting sports and health, it is no different. Fried foods and eating luxurious meals you wouldn’t usually have at home can throw the body off if it’s not what it’s used to. What you eat for dinner if it’s a multi-day match and how late you eat that dinner will also affect performance. The more you focus on eating foods that give you energy and fuel your body, the better your shooting performance will be.
What you eat during a match will also affect your performance. Stopping mid-match to eat a hamburger, a pulled pork sandwich, or whatever food the match is serving is doing your body a disservice. You’ve probably already experienced getting sluggish after lunch and realizing you probably shouldn’t have eaten all you did. Instead, consider snacking on snacks high in protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats throughout the day. You should avoid snacks high in sugar, bad fats, and lacking healthy nutrients.
Sleep is one of the hardest things to come by, especially when you’re at a major match, catching up with your old buddies, and swapping stage run stories until midnight. We’ve all been there, and while we may not regret spending time with friends, getting good rest is part of the match performance.
Shooting sports and health go hand in hand, and I, for one, have seen how much of a difference changing my eating habits and losing weight has directly improved my match performance. I made a lifestyle change with a goal to good sleep, eat right, and stay hydrated every day of my life. Now that I’ve hit A class, I’m more determined than ever to get better and don’t have room to let poor habits back in my life.