The Argument Against Tournament Lunches

Posted by: on Jan 26, 2015 | 10 Comments

That idea that tournaments should provide a full lunch for all their participants for each day of competition is well accepted by tournament organizers throughout Asia (at least in the tournaments I have played in. Japanese tourneys may differ).

But is this really best for the players health? For tournament scheduling? For tourney finances?

Here Kuala Lumpur-based Aaron Herman argues strongly that we should do away with the ubiquitous mid-day feasts.

As with all guest articles, the opinions expressed below do not necessarily represent the views of Asian Ultimate Life (though its boss never eats his tourney lunch). Asian Ultimate Life opinion articles are presented to increase communication within and between ultimate frisbee communities in Asia.


I do ask that if you have comments on this article, please comment in the comment section below. Many of you have begun discussions on Facebook pages, which  is great, but the comments are dispersed. I would love to have international discussion on this topic.

If your comment contains personal attacks it will not be posted. Don’t waste your time. Stick to the content folks. 





A little piece of advice to ultimate tournament organizers in Asia…..

When planning your tournament you should strongly consider NOT providing a lunch and NOT setting aside time for a lunch break. The main reasons:


1.IT IS NOT HEALTHY – It is not healthy to eat a big meal during an Ultimate tournament. This is especially true for the lunches that I see served at tournaments in Asia, which often include foods such as deep fried chicken, heavy curries, mountains of rice, oily noodles etc. When participating in an event that requires lots of exercise over an entire day, you need to be constantly eating small amounts of healthy food, which provides energy throughout the day. A big meal is detrimental to your playing.

In her article for Ultiworld, Kate Schlag compares hunger to thirst, suggesting they be handled the same way:

Many sports nutritionists say that once you’re thirsty, you’re becoming inadequately hydrated–and you’re already playing below your optimal level. Hunger is similar, but the effects are even more pronounced–once you’re hungry, your ability to run fast, jump high, and throw far is reduced significantly. Your decision-making may also take a hit; hunger strikes, and you’re no longer the best player you can be. For most people, I recommend eating small amounts of food often (every couple of points, for example) as opposed to large amounts only a few times a day. This will provide your body with sustained energy, and your GI tract won’t be as stressed since you’re eating such small amounts of food.


See these articles for more details


  1. IT WASTES TIME – Even if you do make the mistake of supplying lunch for your tournament, you do not want to have a lunch break in which no one is playing. Games are already too short for most tournaments (usually an hour or less), and by taking a lunch break you are eating away at game time. If you really feel that you must provide lunch, then simply make sure each team has a bye during one of the three rounds in the middle of the day during which time they may eat. There should never, never, never be a time in which games are not being played. Maximize your field space and your daylight hours!


  1. IT WASTES MONEY – The money spent on providing a lunch that is useless at best, and usually actually harmful, could be far better spent in other areas. This of course should include making sure that healthy snacks, fruit etc… which will actually help people make it through the day, don’t run out….(editted upon request of author).





  1. Martin Page
    January 26, 2015

    I could not have said it better.

  2. nick
    January 26, 2015

    completely agree (from similar tourn experience). there are some people who need telling their mouth has an off-button at feeding time. and that food supercedes all other needs and preferences. if its a tournament, make provision for sport a priority

  3. Aaron Herman
    January 26, 2015

    People – The beer comment was meant to be taken as a joking send off to lighten the mood. Sorry if it confused those of you that don’t know me.

  4. Wolfgang Maehr
    January 27, 2015

    I think the post is a little sensationalist and might easily drive home the wrong points as it emphasises “not serving lunch”.

    While I agree with your premise, I mostly disagree with what you say:

    1. Asuan tournament lunches are hardly feasts. Many players I know are still hungry after lunch. And that’s not only Western players or men but also women.
    2. A responsible athlete needs to learn to take care of their body for optimal performance. Any reasonable player I know, knows to take care of their tournament nutrition. (Food, isotonic, beer,…)
    3. Only some of the smaller tournaments have explicit lunch breaks. I think Penang Hat some years ago was the last tourney that had a lunch break. But yes, ideally 2 games bye for lunch would be good.

    Now, if you would have simply argued that instead of ready-packed and time-limited lunch, a tournament should rather have a perpetual buffet, I’d be fully with you.
    The only challenge then is the logistics of how hot serve substantial food and not just bananas/fruits freshly and continuously.

  5. Tim Flanders
    January 27, 2015

    I pretty much agree with points 2 and 3, but point 1 saying “it’s unhealthy”, is over the top…

    I certainly *don’t play at my peak* for the next game (1+ hours) after eating most/all of a provided full meal lunch (I know I should stop eating half way through, but… sometimes it’s the exotic food, sometimes it’s not wanting to be wasteful…) 🙂

    BUT, it’s NOT “unhealthy”. Unless someone was to eat 2 or 3 full lunches and try and play at peak level… then I’m sure that would end badly… and messily…

    Another case for a set lunch time (or “midday break”) is that it allows for some fun activities to be held (esp. for Hat tournaments). e.g. longest time aloft competition, hammer in a box competition, etc.

    It also gives time for everyone to relax and sit down to watch Mulatto Davao shake their booties! 😉

    I’ve heard elsewhere that the time factor in many Asian tournaments is because some tournament organisers let too many teams/players register for the number of Ultimate fields they have available. Hence shorter games and more bye rounds. That seems the more important aspect of minimising off field time.

    Also, having a first or last round bye and playing 4 straight is not a lunch break. So a fixed lunch break period for everyone allows players in that situation a breather too.

    For me the worst outcome of provided full meal lunches is the waste.

    The recent Vietnam Hat had a good buffet style lunch that let people take as much or as little as they chose. That’s a pretty good solution.

    As Aaron mentioned, having lots of fruit is always really good as well.

    Anyway, I’m still looking forward to a nice Thai lunch at the Bangkok Hat!!!


  6. Jared
    January 27, 2015

    Hey guys, thanks for the thoughtful comments. I want to bring up a couple general points that have come up on assorted facebook boards.

    1) Self-responsibility. Like Wolf says above, others have argued that it should be the player’s responsibility to eat or not eat to maximize their performance.

    I would say that the problem is that many tournaments aren’t structured for constant grazing to be as acceptable an option as a full meal. Your tourney fee pays for a box lunch or buffet. In some cases breakfast foods are available all day through. This is good. Otherwise grazers would be expected to wait until lunch and then carry their unfinished box field to field through the afternoon. I do this but it’s annoying.

    And most tourneys I play do have a lunch break. Whether you want one or not.

    2) This is a much more general point.

    On one facebook page, a tournament director who, in my opinion, ran the best-scheduled tournament of 2014, said the following about the running of their tournament. Originally there was no lunch break scheduled. Captains requested it, so a short break was put in. In post-tourney feedback, players said their lunch was rushed and wished they had more time.

    To what degree should tournament directors follow the will of the people and to what degree should tournament directors buck trends and try to do what they think is good? I guess this really isn’t a hard question, in that it is just a demand issue.

    3) Should the midday meal issue vary depending on the type of tourney it is? Tim mentioned lunch as a time for “fun activities.” Is this an issue where one way is better than the other, or should the meal situation change for different lavals of competitiveness?

    These aren’t challenging questions, but I wanted to bring in points that were being made elsewhere.

    See you in KL, Boracay and Bangkok…

  7. Aaron Herman
    January 27, 2015

    Wolf – You might want to read the articles which I provided links to after section one as well as other nutritional articles on what to eat during activities which constitute all day exercise. You do not want to have an actual meal during the day while playing an ultimate tournament. You should be grazing…constantly eating small amounts of healthy food which provides energy. The links above go into detail on this.

    Tim – No reason to compound the lack of field space problem by having a lunch break during which time no fields are being used.

    Jared – “A representative owes the People not only his industry, but his judgment, and he betrays them if he sacrifices it to their opinion.” -Edmund Burke

    • Wolfgang Maehr
      January 28, 2015

      Aaron, yes, that’s why I overall agree with your premise that people should be grazing.

      My point was just that I still think there is a balance to be found. I think the ideal solution two-fold: an all-day smaller buffet with grab-able food that players can pick up and take to the field (not just bananas, but like muffins (or my beloved pandesal) and keep snacking. And then, a warm, larger buffet for lunch, where players can eat something more substantial so that their stomachs don’t get completely confused. 😉

  8. Bonnie
    January 27, 2015

    Actually I have put my name in for TD for the the Next Vietnam hat in HCMC and I was thinking about doing Bahn mi/ sandwhiches instead of the hot food. Thoughts?

  9. Tim Flanders
    January 31, 2015

    Aaron, I still can’t agree with cutting out a lunch break.

    1. It helps those players/teams who have an unlucky draw with 1 or 2 games on BOTH sides of the lunch break. 30 minutes is better than nothing.
    2. Not everyone is a PPPG (i.e. a professional peak performance grazer), especially at relaxed low level tournaments and fun Hats. People aren’t thinking “elite performance”… they’re thinking fun. As has been mentioned, in Asia especially, getting some nice local foods is part of the enjoyment factor during the tournament.
    3. Time for a laugh watching Hammer in a box, Longest time aloft… and… let’s not forget layout waterslides!!! 😉

    Overall, the main thing I agree with you about is that grazers should be better catered for and that everyone can benefit from better managing their food/energy/electrolyte/water intake during an Ultimate tournament.

    It does come off as you simply wanting to turn the current status quo upside down.

    That will benefit some people who may not have been well catered for in the past, but then the opposite situation will arise that all the 3 square meal a day people (the majority???) will be upset. Not to mention all those who look forward to getting off their feet for 30 – 60 minutes in the middle of the day before afternoon games continue.



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