If you have tried surfing before you will know that it is a sport that has very high-energy expenditure, mainly due to the intense paddling through waves.
It is therefore essential to feed your body to be ready.
Nutrition is essential for recovery
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When surfing you also use many muscle groups and that means your recovery can be harder without good nutrition.
This article goes through the best way to nourish your body before your session to make the most of your potential, although both pre-surf and post-surf nutrition are very important.
General healthy eating is the basis, but you can pay special attention to the meals prior to training for good performance and to facilitate recovery.
Dinner the night before: ensure high carb intake
It is like a balanced meal but with a bigger portion of carbs than normal (70% carbs, protein, fat).
For example, in a 2,500kcal/day diet, this would be an 800kcal meal, with 70% carbs (140g carbs), 12.5% protein (25g protein) and 17.5% fat (16g fat).
This could be a starch based meal (around 100g uncooked pasta/rice) with 150g (non-high-fat) protein source, vegetables and sauce, with a starchy dessert and a glass of fruit juice/smoothie.
Afternoon or midday sessions
If you are going to have a meal around 4 hours before (e.g. if your session is in the afternoon or midday), your meal should again be balanced but high in carbs, and it also needs to be easy to digest.
Therefore try to avoid foods that give you digestive symptoms (for some people this could be certain wholegrain foods) and high fat foods, and prioritise lean, easy to digest protein (like fresh cheese/quark/yoghurt, white fish, fully cooked egg, white meat; avoid red meat or uncooked animal protein).
Try to eat a moderate portion, to prevent being too full, and facilitate digestion. Avoid eating too quickly to prevent gas and discomfort during digestion.
Eat something 1.5 to 2 hours before.
Medium release carbs, like cereal and bread, with fruit or fruit smoothie, and if you want you can add a small portion of protein, like cold cuts, 1 egg, fresh cheese, quark, yoghurt or a handful of nuts.
A small to medium breakfast will give you some energy to start your day. Eat foods that you usually digest well.
For a long session, around 30min before start: medium release energy carb sources, like a piece of fruit, a small cereal bar, fruit juice or a smoothie would be beneficial.
Avoid big portions of very high sugar products with very high GI, as it can lead to digestive symptoms and an increase in insulin levels that can have a negative effect in your performance.
Also avoid big portions of high fat foods, as they slow down digestion, and avoid high fibre as it may lead to uncomfortable digestive symptoms during your session.
Hydration plays a key role in performance
Even though whilst surfing it is rare to feel thirsty this doesn’t mean that the body is not losing water and salts.
The truth is that you will be dehydrated during your session due to the characteristics of surfing, such as not usual monitoring of hydration status, long sessions (2+ hours), high intensity and sunshine from the sun and also from the sea’s reflection.
Dehydration has a huge impact on your performance.
This is because when losing water and salts, the body decreases the amount of fluid in the blood, which causes an increase in heart rate and will make you more tired much quicker, affecting both endurance and power.
Dehydration and concentration
Dehydration also has a negative effect on concentration and other cognitive functions that are essential for surfing, and this could cause not only a decrease in ability to perform well, but also injury to yourself and other surfers.
Before you surf ensure you start well hydrated, drink your normal fluid intake and observe the colour of your urine and check your lips and skin to assess if you might be slightly dehydrated.
Ensure you drink at least 0.5L by small sips in the hour before surfing.
If you follow adequate food intake, you probably don’t need special energy drinks before exercise.
Caffeinated drinks have a diuretic effect, as does alcohol, therefore if you had some coffee in the morning, or had some alcohol the night before, ensure you compensate by increasing fluid intake to facilitate optimum hydration.
Ten minute breaks to hydrate
Have a 10-minute break per hour to drink small sips of water.
Having a small amount of a low sugar sports drinks might be a good choice to replenish salts, which are essential for re-hydration, and some extra quick absorption carbs.
The longer the session is, the more frequent the breaks to rehydrate need to take place. For example. 5 minutes break per 30 minute exercise. After the session it is very important to re-hydrate straight away.
Any drink containing electrolytes would be best, such as fresh lemonade (with a pinch of salt) or rehydrating sports drinks. If none of these are available, water is your best friend.
After the session
Ensure you have a meal soon after that contains vegetables and salt which will give you the nutrients your body needs to re-hydrate.
Conclusion: make sure the meals before surfing are high in carbs within a balanced meal.
The last meal before exercise should be high in carbs and easy to digest. Around 30 minutes before you exercise, surround yourself with foods that give you quick energy.
Don’t forget to start well hydrated and ensure you remain hydrated during your session. Please do not hesitate to contact me for further information and resources on how to approach a balanced diet.
Connect with Expert Ruth Sebastian Alonso