Check out the Complete Cheer Competition Guide For Cheerleaders and Parents!

It's easy to get stressed during competition season with extended practices, more physical demands and no relief from your regular school and social responsibilities. Many times, in periods of great stress, some of the most basic things we need to do as humans to stay strong and alert get pushed down to the end of the to-do list. As an athlete, it is important that you don't let the stress affect your sleeping and eating habits.

You need to be in absolute top physical shape and keep your strength up if you want to get through a whole routine and participate in stunt groups at cheerleading competitions. Your regular practices will probably start to get more intense as you prepare for competitions. You'll pour your blood, sweat and tears into practicing a routine, and then you'll do it again, over and over. Everything you are doing to prepare for the upcoming competition season is sculpting your body into a dancing, tumbling and stunting machine on the outside, but what are you doing to take care of yourself on the inside? Competition season can be crazy, but your health cannot take a back burner! Denying your body the rest or nutrition it needs to create fuel for your body and strength for your muscles will put you and your team at risk for injuries, or keep you from being able to suit up in your cheerleading uniform to perform with your squad.

SLEEP
To truly perform at the top of their game, athletes need to be sure to get the proper amount of sleep. Developing a consistent sleeping schedule that is followed over an extended period of time will help keep athletes prepared for the mental and physical challenges that they will face every day. During sleep, muscles are able to rejuvenate, which will keep them in the best shape to move fast, react quicker and last longer. If you are having trouble balancing your time as an athlete and student and it is affecting your ability to get enough sleep, you'll need to make changes that will allow you to be responsible for your commitments and your health.

Habits For Healthy Sleeping
  • Try to go to bed at about the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every morning. Decreasing your sleep time during the week and trying to "˜catch up' by sleeping in on the weekends is actually going to cause more disruption to your sleeping habits.


  • Watch the clock. You'll want to avoid caffeine (like coffee and energy drinks) within 6 hours of your normal bed time, and you'll want to avoid working out or eating a meal within 3 hours of your normal bedtime.


  • Stick to power naps. If you have to nap, keep it short. Limit nap time to under 45 minutes, and never nap within 3 hours of your normal bedtime.


If you are having trouble getting into a sleeping routine because you are restless, try....

...thinking about what relaxes you most, and plan on spending a few minutes doing that before bedtime to help you wind down and shut off your active brain.

...listening to calming music once you are settled in to bed. It will create white noise that can help you let go of the day's stresses.

...creating a bedtime routine that will help your body get used to your schedule. After time, your routine will start to signal your body and mind to begin shutting down so you'll be drowsy by the time you hit the sheets.

NUTRITION
A great nutrition plan needs to be followed all season long, and shouldn't be forgotten about in preparation for, the day of, and immediately following a competition performance. Your body will need the maximum amount of stored energy so you can tap into that and put everything you have into your routines.

Competition Week
You'll need to fill up your glycogen stores for the maximum amount of endurance and energy by increasing the amount of carbohydrates your body. Your food amount intake should remain the same as you usually eat; however, you should be eating complex carbohydrate foods with low glycemic indexing. Try to portion your foods into small meals or snacks that you eat every two to three hours.

Increase Your Complex Carbohydrates
  • Wheat Pastas

  • Wheat Breads

  • Healthy Cereals

  • Baked Potatoes

Decrease Your High Protein Foods
  • Fish

  • Eggs

  • Meat


Competition Day
The day of competition, you'll want to keep up the complex carbohydrate intake through small meals or snacks, while keeping your intake of fiber, fat, and protein low.

Refresh With Complex Carbohydrates
  • Wheat Bread

  • Oatmeal

  • Fruit

  • Muffins

  • Plain Crackers

  • Gatorade

  • Fruit Juices


Post Competition
After the competition, your energy level will be low and your glycogen stores will be used up. You'll want to eat something that will raise your blood sugar levels up quickly but eating foods that are higher on the glycemic index.

Raise Your Blood Sugar
  • Watermelon

  • Potatoes

  • Brown Rice

  • Bagels


As cheerleading continues to grow in popularity, the competition increases and routines call for an even greater deal of energy. Basing, spotting and flying all require skill, stamina, and endurance. Maintaining a healthy nutrition plan and sticking to a sleep schedule are important ways to make cheerleading not only more successful as entertainment and a competitive sport but also safer while the competitions heat up.
How do you prepare for competition season? Let us know in the comments section!