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Regatta Nutrition for Young Rowers

by Jill Castle, MS, RDN | Jul 22, 2013
Regatta! The word alone is exciting, but for young rowers, heading to a regatta is the ultimate reward for hours and days of devoted training. With a schedule that can last a day or two, or even longer, a competition such as a regatta requires the rower to have a game plan for nutrition.
Regatta! The word alone is exciting, but for young rowers, heading to a regatta is the ultimate reward for hours and days of devoted training. With a schedule that can last a day or two, or even longer, a competition such as a regatta requires the rower to have a game plan for nutrition.

The training diet is focused on meeting energy and nutrient needs day in and day out, so that the young rower is not only fueled for workouts, he is also growing and developing well. While energy needs are also important for competition, nutrition must fulfill additional criteria:

Nutrient-, and calorie-rich foods: Racing is not the time to load up on pizza, chips and soda (or cookies and candy). While parents may want to “treat” young rowers for their efforts, save these for the end of the regatta. Rowers need premium energy sources, loaded with as much nutrition per calorie as possible. Carbohydrate-rich foods such as fruit, whole grains and veggies provide a nutrient bang for the calorie buck. Protein sources are also star players, such as lean meats and nut butters. And some foods fit the bill for both carbohydrate and protein, such as low-fat dairy products (or non-dairy substitutes). Keep the fat in check, as this nutrient can slow digestion and contribute to stomach upset. Make sure fats are healthy sources such as nuts, seeds, olives or plant-based oils.

Timing: Eating at a regatta can be erratic, depending on the duration between races. Choosing what to eat depends on how much time is available and the digestibility of the food. For example, a rower wouldn’t want to eat a whole submarine sandwich with only 45 minutes between races. Consider these guidelines:

Less than an hour between races: Focus on carbohydrate sources that are quickly digested such as fresh fruit, canned fruit, fruit pouches, 100% fruit juice, veggie- or fruit-based smoothies, and sports drinks.

One to two hours between races: noodles, rice or pasta with a low-fat sauce such as marinara; bread with lean deli meat or thinly spread nut butter topped with sliced banana; bagel and low-fat cream cheese; or granola/cereal bar and 100% juice.

More than two hours between races: Go for a healthy meal that focuses on carbohydrate and protein, such as a lean meat sub (save the cheese and mayo for after the regatta); pasta salad with veggies; or a Greek salad with olives and feta served with hummus and pita bread. Lots of foods can work here—just make carbohydrate, protein and low fat the priority on race day.

Hydration: Young rowers don’t want a “drinking problem” during competition. Adequate hydration is one of the most important aspects of successful competition, especially during the hot summer months. Have plenty of water and sports drinks on hand and leave the soda, sweet tea and other sugary drinks at home. Juicy fruits, veggies and dairy products can also contribute to hydration, so load the cooler with watermelon, cucumbers and smoothies!

Portability: Egg salad without refrigeration all day is a recipe for stomach cramping or even food poisoning. Food safety is a must, especially when regattas are all day long, in the heat, or both. Invest in a good cooler and ample ice packs to keep the foods requiring refrigeration nice and cool. Dairy products and meat sources require refrigeration. Fruits, vegetables, and starches without creamy sauces (dry crackers or cereal for example) do not need to be refrigerated, and are easy to transport. Remember, whatever you would normally store in the fridge at home, such as pasta salad, belongs in an icy cooler at the regatta.

Here are some of my favorite items to pack for your next regatta:
  • Fruit leather
  • Hummus and pretzel containers
  • Whole grain crackers and peanut butter packs
  • Fruit sauce pouches (apple, peach, mango, etc)
  • Mini-bagels spread with nut butter and jam, wrapped in tin foil
  • Ready pack salad bowls and low-fat dressing; top with deli meat, hummus or cheese
  • Short Cuts grilled chicken in a whole wheat wrap with lots of crunchy veggies
  • Fresh sliced fruit with nut butter packets or to-go cups

There are lots of items you can bring along to a regatta—just remember to keep it real, nutritious and energizing!

Jill Castle, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and childhood nutrition expert. She is the co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School and creator of Just The Right Byte, a child and family nutrition blog. She lives with her husband and four children in New Canaan, CT. Questions? Contact Jill at Jill@JillCastle.com.
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