Shooting is a skill-based discipline where strength, flexibility, and overall fitness play a key role in ensuring consistency and accuracy throughout long periods of training and competition. Categories include shotgun, pistol and rifle. Shooters must be prepared to compete in all kinds of weather conditions.
Shooting originated as a means of survival, and it was practiced in order to hunt game for food. As the industrial revolution made hunting for food less necessary shooting evolved into a sport. Shooting is a skill-based sport where consistency, accuracy, and concentration are key features. Strength and endurance are important to support the firearm for long periods.
There are three disciplines in shooting:
Training for shooting across all three disciplines is mainly skill-based in order to perfect technique on time, speed and accuracy. With this repetitive-style of training, elite athletes need to be physically and mentally fit, as they may spend two-to-three hours on the range a few days a week. Outside of the shooting range, some elite shooters may engage in strength and conditioning programs to improve:
- Strength – in particular, core strength, to maintain the position of the firearm for long periods of time and absorbing the gun recoil in shotgun events. They also require upper body strength to lift and hold the gun steady whilst shooting; an action that is repeated many times each round
- Flexibility – to allow rifle shooters to comfortably maintain kneeling and prone positions for extended periods of time
- Aerobic fitness – to achieve a lower resting heart rate and ensure the athletes can perform at their best (physically and mentally) for long periods
Domestic and international shooting competitions are generally held in the summer months; though athletes must be prepared to compete in all kinds of weather conditions. The major international competitions are:
Maintaining concentration, preventing physical and mental fatigue and promoting adaptation to maximize the benefits of time spent in the gym and on the range are the primary goals of training nutrition. Food not only fuels muscle, but also fuels the brain for focus, skill and concentration on the range.
A nutrient-dense diet is important for shooting athletes. Consuming a wide variety of foods from all food groups, including low-GI carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats. Basing meals around training sessions is useful, for performance, appetite and body composition.
Portion advised and well-timed snacks can prevent over-eating later in the day. Choosing quality, low-glycemic index (GI) carbohydrate-based snacks with small amounts of protein prior to training will maximize energy needed by the eyes, muscles and brain for enhanced concentration and stamina. Examples include fruit, whole grain crackers with cheese or peanut butter, bars or trail mixes. Avoid high-energy and sugary foods such as candy, pastry, "Energy Bars", which can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar levels and leave you feeling sluggish.
Dehydration can impair focus and concentration and can negatively impact skill and co-ordination. Shooters should drink adequate fluids to maintain good hydration levels during training and competition. Fluid requirements vary depending on the athletes’ size and gender as well as environmental conditions (e.g. hot, humid weather, which can be common during training and competition). A rule of thumb would be a 12oz bottle of water per stage.
Sports drinks may be useful as part of a fluid plan during events as the fluid, carbohydrate and electrolyte mix can improve fluid absorption from the gut, improve mental focus and promote fluid retention.
It is important to rehydrate after competition, especially if competing in multiple events on the same day.
Eating before competition
Competition days are long, requiring shooting athletes to spend an entire day at the range. They must be organized and prepared with food and fluids for the entire day – ideally this should be a self-packed cooler bag or thermos. Depending on the time of the day prior to a round commencing, an ideal pre-competition meal should contain low-GI carbohydrates to prime the body and brain and deliver a sustained release of energy and prevent blurry vision or energy slumps. The pre-competition meal should be something familiar and enjoyable that does not cause stomach upset. Practicing with different food options during training is a good way to find the best pre-competition meal for each individual. Possible options include:
- Protein/Wholegrain sandwich/roll with lean meat
- Oatmeal or low-sugar cereal with milk and fresh fruit
- Fruit salad with Greek yogurt
- Poached eggs and avocado on sourdough toast
- Tuna fish with whole grain crackers
Nervous athletes may find it difficult to eat before an event. In these situations, eating something light earlier in the day can help with digestion to avoid gut upset. Liquid based carbohydrates (e.g. Karbolyn, Cluster Dextrin, or Collagen powders) may also be easier for nervous athletes to consume.
Eating and drinking during competition
Shooters have breaks ranging from 30 minutes to over 90 minutes between rounds, providing opportunities to eat and drink. As competition can be completed in hot conditions, replacing fluid losses and keeping cool at breaks is important. In addition, carbohydrate can enhance performance and delay the onset of central fatigue.
Practical hydration and cooling strategies include:
- Sip regularly on fluids throughout competition
- Use individual bottles to keep track fluid intake
- Choose higher electrolyte fluids as the sodium promotes fluid absorption and retention
- Add ice to bottles and store in thermos to keep cool
Include small, easily digested snacks between events will help will keep blood glucose levels topped up to sustain focus and avoid fatigue. Snacks should be low in fat to help ease digestion. It is important to be prepared on the day and not rely on range facilities at competition venues to provide suitable options.
Some appropriate snack choices include:
- Protein bar
- Fresh fruit or dried fruit as part of a trail mix
- Whole grain sandwiches with lean meat and salad, or peanut butter and jam
- Whole grain wraps with lean meat or tuna, avocado and salad
- Grainy crackers and cheese
- Low-sugar bars
Sports drinks can provide a convenient and compact source of fuel (carbohydrate) and fluid if eating is uncomfortable for the athlete.
There are three main goals of recovery nutrition:
- Refuel muscle glycogen (carbohydrate stores)
- Repair muscle (for function & development)
- Rehydrate (replace fluids lost through sweat)
Recovery meals and snacks are particularly important after hard training sessions and long days of competition – especially if competing over several days. Suitable recovery options can include:
- Sandwich with turkey, cheese and salad
- Sushi with salmon, tuna or chicken filling
- Stir-fry with lean beef and vegetables on rice
As alcohol negatively impacts recovery it should be avoided – especially around multi-day competitions.