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Saturday 31 October 2015

As the world’s finest gymnasts undergo final preparations for the Apparatus Finals at the 2015 World Gymnastics Championships, we’ve gone behind the scenes to find what it will take for Scotland’s Dan Purvis to eat the opposition for breakfast.

While most of us were contemplating the day ahead over a bowl of cereal, piece of toast or, perhaps, nothing at all this morning, Purvis was enjoying the breakfast of champions.

We spoke to Lead Nutritionist at British Gymnastics, Mhairi Keil, to find out how gymnasts fuel the incredible feats we have already seen at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, including the performances which have earned GB its first ever team medals at a World Championships.

She said: “Gymnastics is a highly physical sport with an aesthetic component, therefore the gymnast’s nutrition has to not only fuel their bodies, whilst keeping them feeling light, but also has to ensure it is helping to maintain an appropriate physique.

“The gymnasts have to focus on the quality of the food they consume, so they will be advised to eat nutrient rich fuel sources, such as sweet potato, brown rice, whole grains and quinoa.

“They should eat as much freshly prepared food as possible, as pre-packed and processed  foods tend to be lower in important nutrients, such as various vitamins and minerals, which are required for energy production, muscle repair and maintaining a strong immune system.”

Protein, it may surprise some, and especially the gym-junkies among us, is not the only important nutrient, but just one component of a gymnast’s diet when it comes to building muscle.

Good quality foods, rich in vitamins and minerals, are just as essential in helping the body to repair and maintain health, which means lots of fruits like pineapple and blueberries; nuts and seeds which are rich in zinc and magnesium; certain types of carbs that will help to sustain energy throughout a competition; good fats, like those in avocados; and lean proteins, including oily fish and small portions of iron-rich red meat.

So, what does the daily intake of a world-class gymnast look like? Well, as Purvis will tell you, it’s not for the weak-stomached.


If not competing until the evening, a good quality, all-encompassing breakfast is required, as there is plenty of time for food to be digested…

  • Eggs – containing good quality fats and protein
  • Wholegrain toast – high quality carbohydrates
  • Fruits and fruit juice – full of anti-oxidants and other important nutrients for reducing muscle soreness and maintaining a healthy body
  • Porridge – a secondary source of slow release carbohydrates
  • Green tea – good source of catechins, an important antioxidant


What a person eats before competing comes down to individual preference. The time of eating this meal is also very important. At this stage, the gymnast still has time to digest a full meal, hydrate and top up muscle energy stores.

  • Chicken – great source of lean protein
  • Sweet Potato – contains lots of vitamins and energy-producing carbs
  • Mixed salad – full of nutrients
  • Avocado – packed full of good fats and vitamin E


As the gymnast gets closer to competition time, they may look for more liquid-based food options to offset hunger but still remain feeling light. Appetite can be reduced in those that get anxious, so these more liquid style meals are ideal at this stage.

  • Greek yogurt – provides  calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and protein
  • Fresh smoothies – a great way to combine the many nutrients found in fruit  

During competition

Energy delivery is the primary focus at this stage, therefore easily digestible carbohydrate sources and liquid options are best during competition. Although large volumes of liquid are not desirable during a competition, as this will slosh around in the stomach, sipping on small quantities to meet thirst and maintain hydration is important.

  • Flavoured milk – contains protein, calcium and sugars
  • Dried fruit and sports jellybeans – containing electrolytes which help to retain fluids

Purvis and teammate Max Whitlock will use this knowledge as they attempt to do battle in this afternoon’s Men’s Apparatus Finals. It will require Great Britain’s charges to be at their absolute best to satiate the appetite of the World’s top athletes.

Promising a veritable banquet of world-class gymnastics, it’s set to be yet another phenomenal day to remember.

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