By Helen Lovett

Surfing is a demanding activity. We could write an encyclopedia on how surfing benefits our bodies, but many of us do not understand how to help our bodies elevate our surfing. Helen Lovett is a new contributor to the site and a freelance writer in the areas of diet, nutrition, and fitness. She has worked in the healthcare sector for many years and we are excited to have her shed some light for us who may have been surfing during first period.

Nutrition for Surfers

When it comes to nutrition, surfers should concentrate on three main areas: energy, muscle recovery and regeneration. Just an hour of surfing can torch between approximately 200 and 400 calories per hour and really work your core, leg and arm muscles, making it a high-energy sport that requires the right fuel. By making it a point to power up through food, you will not only avoid the dizzy spells and weakness that ensues from poor nutrition, but also enable yourself to set the bar a little higher each time you hit the waves.

Freshly Squeezed Nutrition

A good place to start is with nutritious, whole foods. Steer clear of high-sugar ‘energy bars’ and processed foods and learn how to prepare delicious, nutritious meals comprising organic fruits and vegetables and lean sources of quality protein; you don’t need to be Martha Stewart to prepare a delicious meal. There are plenty of online sites that will teach you how to whip up dazzling dishes in as little as 10 to 15 minutes. If you still have doubts as to whether organic produce is worth it, bear in mind that recent studies show that organic fruit and veggies contains much higher levels of antioxidants, which enable your cells to perform their functions optimally. Organic foods are also lower in toxic metals like cadmium, which build up in the organs and can cause everything from sluggishness to kidney and liver disease.

Water is Life

Water is another crucial element of feeling good and energized and staying hydrated will keep your body warmer when you are surfing in cold waters. Begin drinking water as soon as you get up; don’t leave hydration until you feel thirsty, as this is a sign that you are already dehydrated. Right before you head for the water, drink an extra 20 ounces. This will help you with endurance as well; remember that your muscles are mainly made up of water.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a crucial energy source for surfers, providing up to 50% of the energy they need when they begin surfing. Carbohydrates turn into glucose and are stored in the muscles as glycogen. During exercise, they are reconverted into glucose, which is our main source of energy. To ensure that you don’t run out of the powerful stuff during a day out on the beach, at least seven days prior to a competition or hectic day, make sure at least 50% of your diet is comprised of carbohydrates. Around three days before, raise this amount to 70% of your daily food intake. Obtain your carbohydrates from pasta, potatoes, cereals and grains, but avoid ‘convenience’ foods like packaged biscuits, white bread and sugar-rich cereals and muesli bars. The latter will no doubt raise your glucose levels, but they do so too quickly. When too much glucose is shunted into the system, the pancreas start to produce too much insulin and eventually, your body can grow insulin resistant and you can develop Type II diabetes. High-sugar foods also cause energy levels to spike then plummet, leading to fatigue, sluggishness and cravings for more sugar-rich foods.

Proteins

Surfers should ensure they consume at least 1.7 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. Immediately after surfing (30 to 60 minutes after), you should consume protein, to enhance muscle recovery, as well as carbohydrates, to replenish lost energy. Most surfers find that protein shakes and bars are handy, especially when they are traveling. When purchasing protein products, opt for bars and shakes that contain Vitamins B6 and B12, as well as Vitamins C and E, zinc, calcium and pantothenic acid (which can help reduce tiredness). If, despite powering up post-exercise you notice that you are constantly feeling fatigued or you are unable to concentrate on other aspects of your life, your body and mind may be craving rest and replenishment. You may need to lower your training intensity for a week or two and concentrate on eating healthily and getting a good night’s sleep. Overdoing it in the water can be counter-productive, leading to reduced performance, soreness and stiffness, tiredness, muscle wastage, adrenal exhaustion and a decreased oxygen uptake. Nutrition is only one part of performing at your best; rest and a healthy attitude towards sport are two no less crucial pillars of enjoying and excelling at your sport.

Fats

Try to ensure that healthy fats (found in foods like Wild Alaskan salmon and walnuts) make up at least 15% of the calories you consume on a daily basis. Fats are an important source of energy. We recommend that you make a healthy snack using walnuts and other seeds and nuts. It beats relying on commercial trail mixes, which can be riddled with sugar and preservatives.

Vitamins and Minerals

One of the most important reasons for consuming fruits and vegetables is their high vitamin and mineral content. B vitamins, riboflavin and thiamine play an important role in keeping energy levels high. Also ensure your iron intake is sufficient; iron can be source from whole grains, cereals and many fruits and vegetables.

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