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Five Nutrition Rules to Kick Off a Great Season

by Jill Castle, MS, RDN | Aug 27, 2015
As a new rowing season begins, many rowers want to reap the rewards of their training. While a lot goes into a great rowing season, getting nutrition right is one way that rowers can make the most of their performance and their season.

As a new rowing season begins, many rowers want to reap the rewards of their training. While a lot goes into a great rowing season, getting nutrition right is one way that rowers can make the most of their performance and their season.

Follow these nutrition rules to start the season off right:

1. Never Skip a Meal. Meals provide the foundation of nutrients that the body needs throughout the day to perform, both on and off the water. About 36% of kids and teens, respectively, skip breakfast. Almost 17% of kids and young teens skip lunch. When rowers skip a meal, they put their body behind in calories and nutrients. Plus, meal skippers may be more prone to overeat later on, and may choose less than healthy food options. Make sure to start the season with good eating habits and include all three meals in the daily eating plan.

2. Always Have a Snack Plan. Whether rowers have emergency snacks in the gym bag, or a sit down snack at home before practice, they should always have a plan for what and when they will snack. Studies tell us that kids and teens snack too much on the wrong foods. Snacks for rowers should be designed to provide fuel for exercising and key nutrients for recovery from exercise. A snack plan helps the rower be less likely to eat junk food, sweets and other less than healthy options for training and competition. Remember, premium fuel, not junk fuel, is needed for optimal athletic performance.

3. When in Doubt, Drink.  When rowers feel sluggish on the water, are fatigued, or just don’t have the umph they usually have, the issue may be dehydration. One 2013 study of youth soccer players at summer camp showed that most of them came to practice with some degree of dehydration and progressively became more dehydrated on subsequent days of practice. This study highlighted that young athletes may be more distracted from the task of routine drinking and may not drink enough during activity or throughout the day. Young rowers should be drinking 2-3 liters of fluid each day, or more, depending on sweat rate, exercise demands and climate. 

4. Don’t Overdo Eating at Night. Many young athletes pig out at the end of the day. They come home after a workout, snack, snack some more, have dinner, and snack even more. Then they get up the next morning and find they aren’t hungry for breakfast. So they don’t eat…until lunch. Then they go after school to row, with or without their snack. Afterward, they’re starving and the whole cycle starts over. Not only does overeating at night mess up your appetite regulation for the next day, it can leave a rower under-fueled for performance and overeating at night, when excess calories are prone to being stored as fat.

5. Save the Junk for Later. The rowing season is not the time to indulge in junk food. Soda, chips, desserts and fried food can wait. Yes, of course, rowing is a big calorie burner, but you don’t want to overdo unhealthy food. It often contains too much fat and not enough carbohydrate, and may be lacking in essential nutrients for the job of growth and development. Rowers want the opposite from their food for athletic performance: more carbs and lower fat content.

Jill Castle, MS, RDN is a childhood nutrition expert and author of Eat Like a Champion: Performance Nutrition for Your Young Athlete. She lives with her husband and four children in New Canaan, CT. For more about Jill, go to www.JillCastle.com.

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