As whitewater evolves, paddlers are looking for ways to improve their performance on the water – so here are some ways to get you feeling better out on the river. Over the next few weeks, look out for my posts on diet; strength; fitness; and the mental aspect of training and racing. Each of them has some tips and tricks for staying in shape and perform on the water. You can also check out my earlier post with some helpful training tips here.
As an athlete, what you eat is the fuel that propels you through those brutal training sessions and gets you ready for the next one. Your diet plays an essential role in your energy levels, performance and recovery. It is therefore handy to know a couple of main facts about nutrition for optimal athletic performance.
Fats, protein and carbohydrates all provide your body with fuel to maintain energy. Carbs are an athlete’s main fuel used by working muscles. Adequate intake is essential for preventing muscle fatigue. Protein can be used as a source of energy and is absolutely essential for the growth and repair of muscle tissue. Fat is an essential component of any diet as it helps the body to absorb nutrients as well as being a great source of energy.
Aim to eat a balanced diet that contains each of the food groups in the correct proportions. Your carbohydrates should come from fruits, veggies and whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa or rolled oats. Your carbs should make up around 65 percent of your diet. Get protein from lean meats, fish and eggs, or beans and dairy products like cottage cheese and Greek yogurt (*getting around 1.5 g per kg body weight). Although fats are important, we should monitor how much we are eating them, they should take up about 20 per cent of your calories. Saturated fats are not considered to be healthy for the heart, whereas unsaturated fats, found in avocados, olives, nuts and oily fish, are considered to be heart-healthy.
Eating proper, decent quality, food not only gives you energy, but also a whole range of nutrients that are needed for proper metabolic functioning. Make sure the majority of your energy intake comes from nutritious calories that also provide your body with nutrients like vitamins, minerals, protein, fibre and good fats. Avoid empty calories! To get the biggest range of vitamins and minerals into your diet, pick as many different colors of fruit and veg as possible.
Last but not least, don’t forget that breakfast kick-starts your metabolism and helps you stay alert and awake throughout the day. Make sure you always eat a nutritious breakfast. Make it wholesome and make it count!
Post workout nutrition
What you consume before, during, and especially after your workout is important. Eating well before an event ensures you have the energy to perform at your best, while a good post-workout meal helps you recover. By consuming particular nutrients after your workouts, you improve your body composition, performance, and overall recovery.
When we work-out intensely, we damage tissues and we use fuel. This ultimately makes us stronger, leaner, fitter, and more muscular. Research suggests that it’s most important to get post-workout nutrition immediately, and within two hours after training to aid in the repair of damaged tissues.
There are all sorts of recovery drinks and shakes designed to be consumed post-workout which are great and convenient to consume immediately after a training session (generally recommended 3:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio). But don’t forget the real food! Once your workout is complete have a whole food meal within an hour or two. In your post-workout meal, aim to get quality carbohydrates and protein.
Water is an essential part of your diet. Drink plenty of water and avoid empty calories from things such as fizzy drinks, energy drinks or juices with added sugar. Eat your calories don’t drink them.
It is important to drink plenty of water before and after your workout. Proper hydration ensures the optimal internal environment for your body to maximise results.
There is a cool bottle on the market called Hidrate Spark, which tracks the amount of water you consume in the day.