An athlete in training has nutritional needs above and beyond the average daily recommended nutritional guidelines due to increased energy expenditure during training sessions. With this in mind, here are some points to consider about your nutrition as a rower.
The general nutritional guidelines are below:
|Nutritional Building Block||Amount|
These values provide a baseline for the amount of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats the average person needs on a daily basis. But there is a fair amount of subtlety involved in how the nutritional requirements of a rower differ from the Average Joe.
For example, during morning workouts your blood sugar levels are at a daily low after having fasted through the night while asleep. Low blood sugar levels lead to low cortisol levels. Cortisol is a derivative of cholesterol that helps enable our body’s conversion of glycogen into usable energy. Therefore, decreased blood sugar and cortisol levels during a workout can lead to a poor workout session due to reduced available energy. To optimize a morning session eat something such as apple juice and a couple slices of toast prior to the workout in order to jump start your blood sugar and cortisol levels. This will allow your body to better unlock the energy stored as glycogen in your muscles and will leave you feeling ready to get the most from your workout.
Since rowers tend to have long training sessions of an hour or more, they need to have ample glycogen energy stores to support prolonged energy consumption during a workout. By increasing the number of times you eat throughout the day, you can optimize the amount of glycogen your body stores as the day progresses. This leaves you with a maximum amount of glycogen at your disposal once practice time rolls around. By snacking frequently on food that is nutrient dense, rowers can help ensure they meet their energy needs.
Converse to fueling prior to a workout, rowers must also focus on aggressively recovering between exercise sessions. This does not mean simply resting, this means upholding the 4 R’s of Recovery (see our post titled “The 4 R’s of Recovery“). The 4 R’s are rehydrate, replenish, repair, and reinforce. By recovering with 24 ounces of fluids per pound of sweat lost, replenishing glycogen with 1-1.5 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight, repairing muscles with 15-25 grams of protein, and reinforcing your immune system with fresh, nutritious foods, an athlete is well on their way to achieving physical adaptation. This adaptation is the hallmark of improvements made during training. By taking your post-workout recovery seriously you can maximize the adaption your body is making to the training. This can help bring about your best improvements in the long term.
Hydration is another important aspect of nutrition that rowers need to consider. Fluid intake is a balancing act. The amount of fluid you lose due to sweat needs to be replenished with 1.5 times that amount of fluid. This replaces the fluid lost while also providing sufficient fluids to maintain activity. Additionally, by the time you start to feel thirsty, your body has already become dehydrated. Therefore, it is important to drink every 15-20 minutes during exercise, regardless of how thirsty you are, in order to maintain hydration levels that allow optimal performance. If you want to learn more about hydration, read our post titled “Hydration“.
Weight management is another important aspect of being a rower. The preferred method for managing weight is to learn how to adjust your weight during the off-season instead of cutting weight during the in-season. Keep in mind that low energy intake will not sustain an athlete in training, nor will it allow you to reach your training goals. By setting realistic goals for weight loss and weight gain during the off-season you can maintain your target weight during the race season. This schedule frees you up to focus on getting faster and stronger without the added stress of changing weight.
A final note. Race performance is strongly impacted by how you train. Similarly, the way you fuel and hydrate during competition needs to be mimicked during practice. To accustom yourself to how to fuel and hydrate on that critical race day or regatta, be sure to practice your fueling and hydration schedule during training. This practice will help you feel comfortable with a tried and true schedule of fueling and hydrating on the day that performance really counts.