Sound Bites! Vol.1 #4
Labor Day and the Dog Days of Summer arrived and have passed. The last sprint race of the season is over (Green Lake Extravaganza) and we are now staring into the fall head racing season wondering what to do to maximize our rowing efforts.
Fall head racing is so different from spring sprints. Although technique is as important as ever, physically we must switch gears from the high-intensity of full-out sprinting to endurance-racing. Strategy and head games come into play as we jockey around buoys, bridges, and bow numbers. Coxswains, as well as rowers, need to be on top of their game to reach their goals–which usually means winning races or simply rowing at your best.
No doubt our coach has a weekly training plan to help develop and refine rowing techniques, strategies, and power you need to reach your goals throughout the season. To support this training plan, it is important to develop and maintain a nutrition plan that will ensure you have the energy and nutrients you need at the right times. A few extra gummy bears before or between practices or races is not going to do the trick in the fall. Here is a 10 point plan to get your nutrition engines revving.
1. Keep a food diary for 3-5 days to help identify factors to consider in your nutrition plan. Be sure to include at least two weekdays and one weekend day. Circle the good things about your diet (eg, fruits, veggies, lowfat dairy, lean proteins, whole grains). Put a box around the not-so-good-things (eg, regular soda, french fries, ice cream, coffee/energy drinks, skipping meals, overeating, etc). Pick out two or three things you are willing to change and then consistently incorporate those changes into your current eating plan.
2. Eat a balanced, consistent fueling diet with whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and optimal fluids–as opposed to a junk/fast food diet.
3. Eat breakfast. It’s true that eating a well-balanced meal before school or work gets your body ready to work and your mind ready to think. The Sept 2012 issue of Northwest Runner has a great article, Sports Nutrition for the Student Athlete, by Heather Nakamura, MPE, MS, RD, highlighting easy to prepare examples of carb, protein, and fruit/vegetable combinations that are tasty and will fuel you throughout the day. For more of Heather’s nutrition information, check out Northwest Runner on-line.
4. Maintain a healthy weight. Do you need to gain or lose weight? See Sound Bites Vol 1 #2 (March 2012) for more on how to calculate your energy/calorie needs at various ages and activity levels. Strange as it may sound, rapid weight gain or loss can result in a body that is higher in fat and lower in muscle mass.
5. Balance your calories to help lose weight. Use your trusty food log to help identify 250-500 non-essential calories each day. By eliminating these foods, you should see an average loss of 1/2-1 pound per week—which means 2-4 pounds by the time of that first head race in late September. An increase in activity (think long endurance rows at 20 spm) can add a loss of another 2-4 pounds over that same time period.
6. Eat your carbs when your body needs them most: at breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snack. This will help give you energy for afternoon workouts. If you skimp on food during the day, your ability to row powerfully in the afternoon will be diminished. After practice, eat a snack with carb and protein to replace the storage sugar (glycogen) you body has used for practice. If your rowing practice is in the morning, the same plan can work to facillitate weight loss, but you may need a carb snack before your workout.
7. Make dinner a meal of lean protein (eg, fish, skinnless chicken breast, extra-lean hamburger, black or kidney beans, tofu, etc), a big leafy green salad with low fat dressing or other vegetables , and fruit for dessert. If you want to lose weight, skip the starches (potatoes, rice, pasta, bread) at dinner.
8. Eat lean protein in appropriate quantities to add lean body mass. Weight gain requires the addition of calories and protein along with a strength-training program. Adding extra meat, eggs, cheese, protein powders, and energy bars to your diet without adding weight training will only add extra body fat. (See Sound Bites Vol 1 # 3 -April 2012- to help estimate your protein needs.) A typical muscle-building regimen with 3 sessions per week will result in about 1/2 to 1 pound of new muscle each week. Generally, this would require a protein intake of 1/2 to 1 gram protein per pound of body weight per day (or about 75-150 grams per day for a 150 pound athlete). Talk to Coach Parr about exercises that will add rowing-specific muscle—abdominals, quadriceps, triceps, latissimus dorsi, etc, as you continue to work on improving the quality and quantity of the food you are eating.
9. Stop eating foods that make your digestive system unhappy. Symptoms such as abdominal gas, bloating, cramping, and constipation can all have negative conseqences for performance during practice and at head races. Limiting high fat foods (eg, cheeseburgers, bacon, sausage, extra-cheese pizza, fries and chips) and increasing raw veggies, fruits, and water can help ease constipation. Add high-fiber foods (eg, dried beans, raw fruits/vegetables, oatmeal, bran, etc) gradually to your diet becasue fiber can increase gas and bloating until your body gets accustomed to it. If intestinal difficulties or allergy symptoms continue to be problematic after making dietary changes, consult your physician for advice. Don’t restrict your diet unnecessarily without appropriate medical guidance.
10. Keep a positive mental attitude about what you eat and how you train. Eating healthy can mean the difference between winning and losing at your next race!
Debby Jackson, MEd, RD, CD, CDE, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator and masters rower with Vashon Island Rowing Club.