It is normal for athletes to feel nervous before a competition. However, unsolved pre-competition anxiety may hinder athletes or a team to function optimally. In modern competitive sports, psychological preparation of an athlete or a team is as much important as athletic skills and team working.
Signs and Symptoms of PCA:
- Preoccupation with competition.
- Poor concentration.
- Jitteriness and agitation.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Increased muscle tension.
- Clenched jaws.
- Sweaty palms.
- Increased heart and breathing rates.
- Gastrointestinal disturbances, such as stomach upset, loss of appetite, early satiety, flatulence and feeling full.
Consequences of PCA:
- Decreased athletic performance.
- Athletic discrepancy disorder.
- Increased risk of post – exercise rhabdomyolysis (PER).
- Loss of competitive drive.
- Decreased motivation and self-confidence.
- Triggering IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
Management and Nutritional Supports for PCA:
It would be a good idea to discuss your nervousness and anxiety with your coaches and a sport psychologist if available. Sport psychologists use different techniques to handle pre – competition anxiety.
Dietary changes and food supplementation help athletes cope easier with pre – competition anxiety.
- Refined sugars.
- Candies, cakes and cookies.
- Caffeinated drinks.
- Carbonated beverages.
- Whole grains.
- Lean proteins.
- Fruits high in serotonin: dates, bananas, and papayas. Serotonin is the main hormone in the body involved in controlling anxiety.
- Foods high in tryptophan: milk, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, spirulina, soybeans, and oats. This amino acid converts in the body into serotonin.
- Foods high in inositol: cantaloupe, citrus fruits (except lemons), brewer`s yeast, wheat germs, cabbage, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Inositol involves in nerve transmission and eases nervousness.
- Chamomile tea.
- Omega-3: 2 – 3 grams a day. This essential fatty acid has a calming effect.
- Magnesium: 400 – 600 mg a day.
- Calcium: 1000 mg a day.
- 5 – Hydroxytryptophan (5 – HTP): 200 – 300 mg a day. 5 – HTP increases serotonin level and reduces anxiety. CAUTION: 5 – HTP should not be taken in combination with anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications.
- Melatonin: 6 – 9 mg a day. It improves sleeping quality and promotes relaxation.
- GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid): 500 – 1500 mg a day. It eases nervous tension and promotes relaxation.
- L – Theanine: 200 – 400 mg a day. This amino acid improves concentration and reduces irritability and anxiety.
- Inositol (Vitamin B8): 500 – 1000 mg a day. Inositol involves in nerve transmission and eases nervousness.
- Saint – John`s wort: 600 – 900 mg a day. This herb contains hypericin that elevates mood and helps with anxiety. Caution: do not take this product along with other anti-anxiety medications.
- Passion flower extract: as a capsule, 450 – 900 mg a day, as a dried herb, 3 – 6 grams, as a tea, 2 – 3 times a day, or as a tincture, 5 – 10 ml a day . It promotes tranquility. This plant contains flavonoids that are responsible for its anti-anxiety activity. Passion flower shows better results if combined with valerian.
- Valerian root: 450 – 900 mg a day. It has a calming effect and shows better results if combined with passion flower.