Tag: rowing nutrition tips

Sound Bites, Vol.4 #1 – Refueling Alternatives

Sound Bites, Vol.4 #1 – Refueling Alternatives

Refueling your body after strenuous activity is a must for rowers!  Especially when you have multiple races over a day or weekend.  Our coach likes to provide gummy bears to rowers–it’s a quick source of glucose plus they are fun!  But are they the best […]

Sound Bites! Vol.3 #3  Vitamin D:  To D or Not to D?  That is the Question.

Sound Bites! Vol.3 #3 Vitamin D: To D or Not to D? That is the Question.

Now that it’s winter, a nutrition topic that I think particularly germane is vitamin D. Why? Because much of the vitamin D we need is produced through the interaction of the sun’s ultraviolet (UVB) rays with substances under the skin. And winter, besides yielding less […]

Sound Bites! Vol. 3 #2 – Refueling

Sound Bites! Vol. 3 #2 – Refueling

Today refueling is on my mind–and with fall head racing approaching, perhaps it should be on your mind, too.  Why am I thinking about refueling?  Because 1) of the Green Lake Summer Extravaganza–for many racers the harbinger of fall racing season, 2) this morning I ran my usual Sunday 10K on the old Strawberry Festival course–nice country run with some big country hills, and 3) my legs felt tired and heavy the second half of the run.

So I wondered if perhaps I didn’t refuel appropriately the day before.

I raced hard in two races on Saturday but I also  had a long day of sitting outdoors.  I ate just salad for lunch, no doubt using up glycogen from my liver stores.  And perhaps the slice of pizza, green salad, and glass of wine at dinner that night, plus 1/2 peach and handful of raw peanuts for a bedtime snack was not bad – but not optimal.

Let’s look at what might have been a better refueling plan and some tips for optimal nutrition and hydration strategies during head race season. It’s important to consider whether you are at a local head race limited to one race for the day, or whether you are traveling to a regatta with multiple days and perhaps more than one race, like Head of the Charles.  In this latter scenario, you will require refueling not only for the race but for the travel, possibly long outdoor days, and unfamiliar locale as well.

Of course, it’s hard to think of refueling in isolation from other parts of your nutrition plan.  Refueling is a little like the finish of your stroke–refueling  leads seamlessly into pre-exercise nutrition, eating during exercise, and then post-exercise refueling once again, just like the finish flows into and affects the recovery and catch.

First, refueling should begin as soon as possible after a long bout of hard training or racing.  Although newer researchsuggests that the window for refueling is longer than once thought, most authorities suggest within 15-30 minutes consuming about 1/2 gram carbohydrate per pound of body weight, with about one fourth that amount in protein.  For a 170 lb. rower, this equals 85 grams of carbs plus 20 grams of protein.  An easy-to-eat post-exercise choice containing these amounts would include 8 ounces Gatorade, a medium bagel topped with one ounce ham and a slice of cheese, and 10 gummy bears.

As noted, this refueling strategy applies primarily to longer bouts of activity, generally an hour or more, for example after hard practices (including rowing, weight training, running, biking, etc) and during regattas with multiple races, especially if there is a short time between bouts.  If you are racing 1-2 races with several hours in between, timing and high carb, high protein intake post-exercise are probably not an issue.  A normal, well-balanced meal or snack should generally be sufficient.

So, was my post-race refueling on wine and pizza optimal?  Probably not– perhaps having milk instead of wine or having spaghetti instead of pizza might have been better.  In retrospect,however, I was probably tired from a long day at the race course and maybe that banana and few gulps of water I had pre-run just wasn’t enough.

With that in mind, here are a few nutrition tips for when going into this fall’s head races:

1.  During the hard weeks of training leading up to races, be sure to eat enough food to maintain a healthy weight.

2.  Make sure your meals and snacks contain plenty of carbohydrate, protein, vitamins, and minerals by including foods from all food groups–5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, 4-6 servings whole grains, 4 servings low-fat dairy, 4-8 ounces lean animal and/or vegetable proteins, moderate amounts of healthy (unsaturated) fats, and limited sweets .

3.  Drink 8-10 cups healthy fluids per day–water, milk, juices, moderate sport drinks–and limit or avoid coffee, tea, energy drinks, and, of course, alcoholic beverages.

4.  Get 7-9 hours of sleep most nights to allow your body time to process all the nutrients you take in during the day for building muscle and repairing tissues, and, for teens, facilitating growth.

5.  During the 4-5 days before an important regatta, pay special attention to your diet and sleep needs.

6.  On regatta day, eat breakfast!  If you have to get up super early, pack a cooler the night before with food you can eat on the way to the course–PBJ or bagel with sliced cheese or peanut butter, yogurt, banana or apple, bottle of chocolate milk, and a water bottle.

7.  During the regatta, keep fueled and hydrated. Be sure to snack on high carb foods like muffins, whole grain crackers and cheese or humus, bean burrito or breakfast egg sandwich, fruits, and w hole grain cookies or bars.

8.  After racing, eat a carb snack–sport drink, whole grain cookie, chocolate milk, or some gummy bears.

9.  Start whole process over again!


By Debby Jackson – a Master Rower, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator

Resources: Jill Castle – MS, RDN; Robert E. Keith – Professor, Nutrition and Food Science, Auburn University; Sunny Blende – MS Sports Nutritionist; Amanda Hawkins for Good Housekeeping Magazine

Sound Bites! Vol 3 #1

Sound Bites! Vol 3 #1

January–again.   Junior rowing officially started yesterday, though unofficially I don’t think it ever stopped during the holidays.  Despite the still-dark mornings, it seems that the spring rowing season is truly underway–in rowing, spring is spelled j-a-n-u-a-r-y. So, what’s on your mind post-holiday/resolution-season?  If you’re […]

Sound Bites! Vol.2 #4

Sound Bites! Vol.2 #4

Pumping Iron This fall, you may be pumping iron to get your muscles ready for those long, hard head races, but are you eating enough iron?  Your stamina and aerobic capacity depend on adequate body iron stores.  Low iron intake can result in anemia which definitely affects performance.  When you […]

Sound Bites! Vol.2 #3

Sound Bites! Vol.2 #3


Unless you’ve been living under a rock (as opposed to on The Rock), you know that it’s that time of year for Vashon Island Rowing Club’s 3rd Annual Passport to Pain bike ride.  Coming up on Saturday, September 14th, P2P includes a choice of three routes:




This year, P2P has a Team category.  VIRC Women’s Crew has put together an 8+ with cox for the ride–kind of like an eight on wheels.  Each woman will ride 2 hills.  Not sure what the coxswain will do but a whip, uh, I mean water bottle, might be helpful.

Women from other rowing clubs are encouraged to put in entries and join us for this non-competitive “fun” event.  Vashon is lovely in September and the feast after the ride will be well-worth your time.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I feel compelled to reveal that I personally am not riding—I’ll be helping to sponsor the team–sort of a Pay2Pass maneuver).

Needless to say, the calorie and fluid requirements for such a long ride are pretty huge.  Add to that all the energy and sweat that the months of practice burn up and you’ve got a heck of a nutritional deficit built up if you aren’t fueling properly.  Now that there is only one month to go until the actual event, it’s super important you have a strategy for good nutrition–this will keep you feeling your best and able to enjoy the ride (or at least up your chances of  not keeling over before finishing the ride).  Over the next month, here are some suggestions on what and how much you should be eating and drinking.


Next to oxygen water is the most important substance for bodily operations.  On average, our bodies are 60% water–very fit men may have up to 75% water (muscle has a high water content) and fatter bodies may have as little as 50% water (fat has very low water content).  Our hydration status is especially important when exercising in hot environments (translate:  during the 2nd half of the P2P).  To estimate average fluid needs, use this simple formula:

0.5 ounces x Body Weight in Pounds = Daily Fluid Requirement in ounces

For instance, if you weigh 140 lbs., simply multiply 140 by .5 to estimate your daily fluid needs in ounces, then divide by eight to estimate your fluid needs in cups per day, rounding up to the nearest full cup.  [example:  140 x .5 = 70 ounces; 70 ounces divided by 8 = 9 cups of fluid per day].  Note that this is an estimate for the average adult and extreme exercisers (such as you!) will need more fluid to account for extra sweat and respiratory losses.  Fruits and vegetables are high in water content and can contribute to total water needs.

An important indicator that you are getting enough fluid is the “pee test.”  If your urine is pale yellow and plentiful, you are well-hydrated.  If  it’s dark yellow and has a strong odor, you are dehydrated and need to stop exercising, rest, and start drinking water.  Best time to evaluate this is during your practice rides.

Not only can you check out your urine (fun!) but you can weigh your self before and after your ride (without clothes is best, your sweaty jersey will be pretty heavy).  For each pound lost during the ride, you will need to consume 8-16 ounces of water or other fluids (eg, sport drink) to keep adequately hydrated.

Another reason to drink plenty of fluids is that dehydration may exacerbate delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), although this suggestion has not been proven and, in fact, has not been shown to be the case with moderate dehydration.  Personally, I experienced the worst case of DOMS I’d had in years after running the May 2013 Tacoma City Marathon.  I had trained well and was fit enough but the day of the run was hot and the last 10K was really tough.  All I can figure is that dehydration was a big factor in both declining performance and surprisingly sore muscles the entire week post-race.  Next time, I will drink more and I suggest you do the same for the P2P just in case.


Calories come next in the line-up of important nutritional factors to consider.  Calories  are a measure of energy, and you’ll be expending a lot during practice and the ride itself.  Calories needs vary among individuals based on such factors as age, height, weight, sex, activity level, metabolism, and environmental temperature.  It’s bit confusing for bike riders–some authors suggest that bikers often overestimate the number of calories they need (note:  for a super-funny article, be sure to click the link), while others chronically under-eat in an attempt to increase their power to weight ratio.  Both over- and under-nutrition can definitely contribute to illness and declining performance.

During the P2P, it’s not unreasonable to assume you will burn 4,000-6,000 calories.  Hopefully, you are heading into the race with a good month of proper nutritional intake that will set you up for a good ride. Eating a balanced, healthful diet for a period of time before the ride will keep your muscles and brain in top form so that you can enjoy the ride on the day of the event.


Another important consideration is when to eat during your ride.  There are 4 main opportunities to take on fuel during your ride:

  • Before the ride
  • On the bike
  • At rest stops
  • After the ride

Basically, this means you need to eat a good-sized breakfast with adequate carbohydrate and some protein and fat.  For example, 1 cup oatmeal with 10-12 walnuts + 2 Tablespoons raisins, 8 ounces low-fat milk, a banana, 1 slice toast with a Tablespoon peanut butter + jam, and 8 ounces orange juice provides about 900 calories + 30 grams protein.  Or you may prefer a 2 egg veggie omelet with 1 ounce lean ham, bowl of mixed fruit, glass of chocolate milk, and slice of toast with peanut butter + jelly for about 1,000 calories + 40 grams protein.

Rather than just eating power bars and drinking a sports drink on the bike, consider packing a couple PBJ sandwiches cut into quarters and stashed in your jersey pockets or bike bag.  You can drink high calorie/protein beverages like Muscle MilkBoost Plus, or Carnation Instant Breakfast (partially freeze them and carry in your bike bottle rack; have water in your camel-back).

In addition, when riding the P2P, you’ll hit the town of Vashon about half way through your ride.  This is the perfect place to stop for a  meal.  There are many great restaurants to fuel-up for the second half of your ride–which I am told is pretty rigorous (okay, grueling was the description Bruce gave me–hot, hard, and horrific).

After the ride, you can fuel up at the post-event meal sponsored by Vashon Island Rowing Club.

The Last Word:

The Passport 2 Pain is a fun day filled with hard work but also the camaraderie of a great crew of biker friends.  Enjoy the hospitality of Vashon and it’s resident rowing club, but be sure to be prepared for the hard work by putting some of the above suggestions into your biker’s tool-kit.

By Debbie Jackson

Sound Bites! Vol. 2 #2

Sound Bites! Vol. 2 #2

Nutrition Tip of the the Month: Be ready for hard spring practices this season by eating well a minimum of 5 out of 7 days.  Concentrate on eating 3 well-balanced meals and an afternoon snack each day during the work/school week.  Include a quality serving of protein, a […]

Sound Bites Vol 1 # 3

Sound Bites Vol 1 # 3

We’re now deep into racing season—as I write this, Covered Bridge is a fine but fleeting memory, juniors left for Brentwood this morning, crews of masters and juniors are heading for Opening Day and/or American Lake the first weekend in May–and NW Regionals will be […]

Sound Bites Vol 1 #2

Sound Bites Vol 1 #2

                      Sound Bites

By:  Debby Jackson

EAT TO COMPETE:  Energy Needs

Now that spring racing season is truly here, eating to compete and still train hard is the order of the nutritional day.  And of course, we can’t forget about fueling all the other things we do in a day—studying, working, chores, and maybe even taking time for a movie, party, or night out with the significant other without falling asleep.

What is the #1 priority to our bodies when it comes to nutrition?  Getting enough energy to do the job!  And that means eating enough calories.  Calories are the way we measure energy from food.

There are only 4 sources of calories from food—carbohydrate, protein, fat, and alcohol.  Hopefully, alcohol is not a source of energy for our junior rowers and not too big a source for the masters.  Vitamins and minerals help your body use calories, but they in themselves do not provide energy.

The number of calories you need in a day depends on many things, for example, your age, sex, height, weight, metabolic rate, and activity level.  For the athlete, activity can increase basic energy needs by 50-100%.

The chart below shows you the estimated number of calories you need per day at different ages to maintain a healthy body weight with moderate activity:

Age Calorie Needs Example
Boys  11-14 yrs 16 calories/cm height * Boy 5’10” (177.8 cm) = 2,845 cal/day
Boys  15-18 yrs 17 calories/cm height Boy 6’2” (188 cm) = 3,200 cal/day
Girls  11-14 yrs 14 calories/cm height Girl 5’6” (167.64 cm) = 2,350 cal/day
Girls  15-18 yrs 13.5 calories/cm height Girl 6’0” (182.88 cm) = 2,470 cal/day
Men > 25 yrs 15 calories/pound Man 165# = 2,475 cal/day
Women > 25 yrs 13 calories/pound Woman 145# = 1,885 cal/day


  • To get your height in centimeters, multiply your height in inches by 2.54.
  • To get your weight in kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2.
  • Another formula to estimate calorie needs for adults is to use the Harris-Benedict Equation  (http://www-users.med.cornell.edu/~spon/picu/calc/beecalc.htm) to estimate your basal energy expenditure (BEE), then multiply the result by an activity factor:
    • Males:  BEE = 66 + (13.7 x wt in kg) + (5 x ht in cm) – (6.8 x age in years)
    • Females:  BEE = 655 + (9.6 x wt in kg) + (1.8 x ht in cm) – (4.7 x age in years)
    • Activity Factors x BEE:  Restricted 1.1 ; Sedentary 1.2; Aerobic 3x/wk 1.3, 5x/wk 1.5, 7x/wk 1.6; True Athlete 1.7

Remember, you may need more or less calories each day than calculated from the chart above.  Because you are rowing and/or working out 5 days per week, you may need to add an additional 200-500+ calories per day.

Remember, you may need more or less calories each day than calculated from the chart above.  Because you are rowing and/or working out 5 days per week, you may need to add an additional 200-500+ calories per day.  To estimate the number of calories you are eating each day, look for the calorie per serving information on the Nutrition Facts Panel (http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=10935) on packaged foods or check out a site like www.calorieking.com.  Although I’m not a big fan of frequently checking the scale, weight gain or loss is a good indicator of the appropriateness of your calorie intake.

Choosing healthy foods for most of your calories will ensure that you get the other nutrients you need to compete at your best.  Active teens usually require enough calories during the day that they can afford to eat some “junk food” and not suffer the consequences of gaining excess weight.  Adults, unfortunately, may not be able to afford that luxury. For a 2,000 calorie sample menu for 7 days, go to http://www.choosemyplate.gov/healthy-eating-tips/sample-menus-recipes.html.

In future columns, we’ll talk about carbohydrate, protein, and fluid needs during the competitive season.