Rowers & Nutrition
Rowing burns a lot of calories. Rowers need to consume more calories than their non-rowing friends in order to prevent muscle loss and perform their best. Rowers need to replenish lost calories with a good diet which includes protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Without the proper diet, rowers can loose muscle mass and will not progress. A sound diet is part of the equation for a rower’s success.
Fluids and Hydration
Fluids are an essential part of a rower’s diet. Water makes up 60% of our weight and 40% of our muscles. But water’s most important role is to cool down our body. It will prevent dehydration which we are especially susceptible to in hot and humid South Florida. Always bring a water bottle with you to practice!
Water: You should drink water all day long to ensure you are properly hydrated when beginning practice. Water is fine for workouts that are less than 45 minutes such as our weekday practices. But, for workouts that last longer than 45 minutes such as our Saturday practices or at a regatta or when it is particularly hot – a sports drink is recommended.
Sport Drinks: Sport drinks such as Gatorade offer carbohydrates in the form of glucose (sugar) which help replenish glycogen stores to keep you going. The sugars are absorbed quickly and ready for immediate use by your muscles. Sports drinks also contain sodium and potassium which are electrolytes you loose through sweating. Sodium enhances fluid absorption and decreases the risk of muscle cramping. Alternatives to Gatorade are Liquid I.V. and Vitalyte. They are lower in sugar and sodium and contain no dyes or anything artificial. Vitalyte can be purchased on REI.com or Walmart.com. Liquid I.V. can be purchased at Costco.
Or, go natural and make your own sports drink:
3 cups water or 2 cups water plus 1 cup coconut water
1/2 cup OJ or 1 tablespoon OJ or other frozen juice concentrate
2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup for added sweetness and extra energy (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Shake it all together and you are good to go! Makes 3 /12 cups or 28 ounces. Play around and make it the way you like it!
The Student Athlete’s Day in Food
A proper diet will take some planning. It may require packing your lunch and snacks. You may be able to rely on your cafeteria for healthy options but you will still have to make sure you have enough snacks to get you through your school day as well as practice afterwards. Packing your food the night before makes for a less stressful morning. It can quickly become a habit and is definitely worth the effort!
Breakfast: Make sure you get a wholesome breakfast in. It truly is the most important meal of the day. It will fuel not only your body but your mind too. It will give you an extra edge when sitting for that really hard Physics test! Oatmeal, waffles and cereal are all good starts. If you are not hungry, still make yourself eat something even if it’s just a sports bar or a smoothie on your drive in.
Lunch: No salads here unless it’s an addition to a meal. We know some girls are “dieting” at this age. You cannot do that. You are an athlete and you have practice in a few hours! You need to make sure you get a carbohydrate, a protein and a vegetable or fruit. An example would be a sandwich (peanut butter & jelly or turkey), an apple and a yogurt. Packing a lunch saves time in line which allows you to finish your food.
After School/Pre-Practice: Make sure you eat something before practice to fuel your workout. It can be as simple as a sports bar on your drive. When choosing bars, look for ones with at least 10 grams of protein and where fat is not more than 25% of the calories. Clif bars are a good option. Wendy’s, McDonald’s and Starbucks are not good options for athletes. Their food is loaded with fat and sodium. Make the effort to pack something nutritious.
Drink plenty of water with your snack. Do not wait until you’re thirsty. Thirst does not develop until after you begin losing fluids. Your performance will suffer if you are not properly fueled and hydrated. Cool liquids are more quickly absorbed than warm ones. So, for Saturday practice, you should put your water bottle in the freezer the night before. It will melt very quickly once you get outside and will be the optimal temperature during practice.
After Practice: You should eat within 30 minutes of a workout. This starts the refuel-repair-recovery process. The faster you recover, the better prepared you will be for your next workout. So, on the drive home, have a sports bar, crackers or fruit. This will give you time to get a shower before you become hangry!
Dinner: This should be within two hours after practice and is the most important time to replace carbohydrates. Replenishing carbohydrates will minimize fatigue and ready you for the next day’s practice. Meals should be 2/3 carbohydrates, 1/3 protein plus a vegetable for fiber and additional vitamins. Simple meals are pasta, a salad and milk or chicken, rice, a vegetable and milk.
Increase your carbohydrate intake three days before competition. This will boost your glycogen stores ensuring you have the energy to perform well in your races.
If you are racing more than once, when you are done with one race, start preparing for the next by replenishing your carbohydrate stores. This can be done with bagels, sports bars, fruit, chocolate milk and sports drinks. If you only have an hour, stick to fluids otherwise get some real food.
Drink plenty of water prior to and during race day. Sports drinks are also recommended on race day as just sitting around waiting for your race can be dehydrating.
This is not the time to try new foods. Stick with the foods that you know work for you.
General Points To Remember
During Rowing, your muscles use up stored energy (carbohydrate in the form of glucose) and muscle tissue breaks down. Nutrients are also loss through sweating. These need to be replenished. A proper diet that includes carbohydrates and protein will accomplish this.
Carbohydrates are the body’s first choice for fuel. After digestion, they are broken down into glucose and circulated to your blood, liver and muscles. Muscles use glucose as energy called glycogen. After a workout, the goal is to build your glycogen back up. This is done by eating carbohydrates. Failure to replenish carbohydrates will impair your performance. Good sources include: pasta, rice, oatmeal, potatoes, bread, bagels, fruit, tortillas, low-sugar cereal, crackers, pretzels, sports bars and sport drinks.
Protein is used to build muscle and provides energy. During a workout, microscopic tears occur in the muscles. Protein repairs these tears and helps to build even more muscle. A prolonged inadequate protein intake will result in the body breaking down it’s own muscle tissue so you need to ensure you are getting this nutrient. Protein sources include: fish, meat, eggs, dried beans, Greek yogurt, peanut butter, non-salted nuts, cheese and milk.
Fats are essential for endurance. 20-25% of your calories should come from fats. Too little in your diet will cause you to tire more quickly and too much can cause cramps. Try to limit high fat foods such as chips, fries, pizza, burgers, ice cream, doughnuts and processed meats like salami. Unsaturated fats from foods such as olive oil, nuts, peanut butter, avocados and fish should be prioritized over saturated fats.
Drink fluids throughout your day and during training. Carry a water bottle with you during the day to ensure you are well hydrated. Go by the color of your urine. It should be light colored or clear. If it is dark, you need to drink more fluids.
Stay clear of caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and soda. They cause dehydration, sleep disruption and other adverse effects. Do not drink “energy” drinks either. The “energy” is typically caffeine or a form of caffeine. “Energy” drinks are not the same as sports drinks which are helpful as described above.
Stay away from carbonated drinks which cause bloating and cramps. Get used to water. Put lemon in it if you want more taste.
Stay away from foods with high amounts of sugar such as fruit juices, sweet cereals, cookies, candy and soda.
Even if you’re not hungry, have something small to eat. It will pay off in your results on the water, on the erg, in runs and during races.