A guide to eating at tournaments

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Before a speech and debate tournament, you’re poised to deliver amazing speeches and offer up astounding rebuttals to opposing competitors. So, naturally, nutrition is the last thing on your mind.

At a tournament, it’s easy to get so excited about competition during the day that you forget to eat healthy – or even forget to eat, period. There's nothing like the hectic, energetic atmosphere created by rounds of individual events, then partner events and debate rounds, followed by more rounds, followed by more rounds. The fact is, most students aren't going to sit down for breakfast, lunch and dinner on the same schedule they would on any other day. Thus, I present a guide to eating at speech and debate tournaments for you to reference the next time you’re digging in to a basket of nachos with extra chili and cheese.

1. Don't eat during a round. It's rude.

2. Bring water. Every good speaker knows drinking water is one of the best things you can do to care for the voice and support the body. Water is also a healthy way to keep hunger at bay when you’re sitting in a round and can’t bolt out the door to the concessions stand. Hard candy is also great to throw in your bag before a tournament – if you don’t bite into it, it’s quiet, so you can savor it while you watch a performance. Just make sure you open that noisy wrapper before the competitor starts speaking!

3. Use the hosting school’s concessions. At most tournaments, the hosting school runs a concessions stand complete with chocolate bars, chips, nachos, sodas, water and Gatorade. It’s easy to grab a quick snack from concessions and sprint off to your next round – and you’re also supporting the hosting school when you do it. You’re not going to earn any Weight Watchers points for this, but hey, it’s nice to indulge once in awhile.

4. Eat breakfast. Traveling teams will often eat breakfast at the hotel or go out to a local bakery for morning meals, and if you’re local, it’s best to eat breakfast at home on the day of a tournament. However, it’s always a good idea to bring a few granola bars and some fresh fruit with you to a tournament to munch on while you’re waiting for the first set of postings. 

5. Eat something that resembles lunch. This is usually the toughest meal to manage at a tournament because most schedules simply don't allow for a lunch break. Still, you should try to eat small snacks around the time you would usually sit down for lunch. Concessions stands will often have something like a wrapped sandwich or a hot dog, which you can grab on your way to the next round.

6. Always remember to bring cash. Most teams eat at restaurants for the majority of the weekend, so be prepared to bring enough money to handle at least one nice sit-down meal and a few trips to fast-food joints. This can range between $25 and $55 for a two-day tournament, depending on where your team eats and how familiar you are with dollar-menus. Also, I stress bringing cash; if you’re on a budget, it makes it easier to keep track of how much you're spending and even split an entrée with one of your teammates at a nicer restaurant. Don't forget to contribute to the tip!

7. Don’t overeat or undereat. If you eat too much at a tournament, you’ll probably end up feeling sick. All that running back and forth between rooms and postings added to the natural excitement and/or nervousness you get from competing will likely end badly. Likewise, if you completely avoid eating at a tournament, you’ll feel tired and you’ll probably eat a ton of food when you’re done for the day, which might make you feel sick the next morning. You can maintain a balance by eating snacks between rounds and avoiding anything greasy. Again, water is key to a healthy speech and debate tournament diet. 

This is so true! Last weekend at our state competition, things got backed up and I went back to the cafeteria for the first time at 4 pm.....then I realized I hadn't eaten lunch yet!

I do support using host school concessions, I do, but I think it's a good idea to pack a snack you can keep in a bag with you as well. Sometimes you don't have time to get back to the cafeteria between rounds and hunger strikes anytime.

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