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Six Unhealthy Eating Habits Young Rowers Should Break

by Jill Castle, MS, RDN | Dec 01, 2015
Good eating habits promote health, overall wellness, and may even optimize athletic performance. Bad eating habits, on the other hand, may get in the way of an athlete’s progress and future potential.
habitsGood eating habits promote health, overall wellness, and may even optimize athletic performance. Bad eating habits, on the other hand, may get in the way of an athlete’s progress and future potential.

Which unhealthy eating habit is your young rower making?

Skipping Breakfast: It’s estimated that about twenty percent of kids  (9-13 years old) and thirty-six percent of teens (14-18 years old) skip breakfast. The reasons vary, but in the case of the rower, they may include running short on time in the morning, not feeling hungry, or eating too much the night before, which can suppress hunger in the morning. All growing athletes need breakfast, as it revs up their engine (metabolism), helps them pay attention in school, meet important nutrient requirements, and feel energized throughout the day. Almost anything for breakfast is better than nothing. Try a smoothie, instant oatmeal, a handful of nuts and cereal, a bar, or even a box of flavored milk.

Not Eating Enough at Lunch: Some rowers forget that lunch foods are the fuel their bodies will use during after-school practice. Opting for a salad or a cup of soup for lunch, or a sandwich and nothing else won’t keep the rower energized and ready to work out. Lunch should contain a blend of carbs, protein and other nutrients. Try a sandwich or wrap on whole grain bread served with a cup of soup and fresh fruit, or the full hot lunch, which will provide a balance of nutrition. If school lunch leaves the rower a bit hungry, pad it with an extra roll, fruit or milk.

Forgetting the Pre-Training Snack: If rowing practice doesn’t happen right after school, then a pre-training snack is likely needed. Try a starchy carb-based snack such as a baked potato, bagel, or half a sandwich.

Overeating: Growing rowers get hungry, which is a reflection on their growth and the energy expenditure associated with exercise. If the rower gets too hungry, he or she may overeat, and perhaps even binge (eat a large amount of food in a short period of time). Overeating can cause unwanted weight gain. If overeating occurs at night, it may interfere with the morning appetite, disturbing a healthy rhythm of eating meals during the day.

Making Unhealthy Food Choices: Candy, sweet muffins, chocolate-coated granola bars, chips, and cookies are “sometimes” foods for rowers and shouldn't be eaten routinely. Once in a while is acceptable, but relying on unhealthy foods to sustain a training program or as preparation for a competition is silly. While these foods can fit into the rower’s diet, their role should be minimal. Eating the right foods, and downsizing the wrong foods, is an area where many young rowers can improve.

Forgetting Fluids: A headache, feeling tired, and a sense of hunger are all potential signs of dehydration. Dehydration stems from getting behind in fluid consumption. Ideally, rowers should drink fluids all day such as water, milk or small amounts of one-hundred percent juice, come to practice with water (or a sports drink if training in hot, humid climates), drink throughout training, and replenish with more fluids during their recovery and the rest of the day.

Jill Castle, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian, childhood nutritionist, and youth sports nutrition expert. She is the author of Eat Like a Champion: Performance Nutrition for Your Young Athlete. Learn more about Jill at www.JillCastle.com.
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