Nutrition is a vital component of any athlete’s health, year-round. But the demands of top-level competition are different from typical training and rest days because the body is under greater stress to perform and then recover quickly, particularly during a multi-discipline event such as the Standup World Tour, a long-distance downwinder, or on a marathon expedition. While on the water, athletes need easily digestible simple sugars that top up glycogen levels and provide an immediate boost. Favorite sources include sports drinks like Gatorade and H2O Overdrive™, all-natural food bars from KIND and ClifBar, and fruit such as bananas (which also have the bonus of containing tryptophan, which can calm the nerves before and during a race).
Paddlers also require a combination of fat, protein and complex carbs to give sustained energy throughout the day (and night, in the case of expeditions). A handful of trail mix is a quick fix that offers a combo of all three, and some athletes like Shane Perrin also swear by beef jerky to deliver protein and replenish sodium lost through sweat (thank goodness sports drinks don’t come in jerky flavor – it’s one or the other!).
Once they’re done, SUP racers need adequate protein to help repair muscles before launching into another high-performance day, along with more glycogen replenishment. On the protein side, lean meats, fish, and eggs are all good choices, and the combination of fast-acting whey protein and slow-acting casein (both found in dairy products) mean that there is actually something to those ‘Got Milk?’ commercials.
Fruit is a must for replenishing glycogen, and paddlers such as Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama (see more of Dave’s tips below) drizzle locally-produced honey on their pineapple, melons, papaya and other fruit for the added benefits of allergy-reducing compounds and thousands of micronutrients that aid immune and nervous system function. Complex carbs such as bread and pasta can also help drained bodies recover from the rigors of competition. If you’re sensitive to gluten, try quinoa- or rice-based pasta or gluten-free tortillas and bread from Ezekiel 4:9.
We checked in with some of the top SUP athletes to get their nutrition tips for before, during and after competition. —Phil White
Dave Kalama: “For breakfast, I eat eggs and cereal. During the race, I mix 50/50 Gatorade and water, and use gels. I try to average 24oz of liquid per hour to combat dehydration. Post race, I down a protein shake and lots of food.”
Connor Baxter: “I use a lot of Hammer Gel products and Pocket Fuel Naturals, as well as Vemma. All these thing keep me strong and fueled to win.”
Alison Riddle: “I actually started working with a nutritionist, Jonathan Jones, last year before Molokai and he opened my eyes to what I should be eating and drinking race day and the days leading up to a big race. Now I have a routine of what I eat race day.
For breakfast I always have oatmeal with peanut butter (and not the ones with chemicals and fake stuff), or sometimes switch it up and have almond butter. I eat a banana and drink some black coffee.
What I put in my water packs during a race is always HDX. I really like the way it tastes and it keeps me hydrated. It doesn’t have a ton of sugars like the typical sports drinks and it isn’t filled with chemicals.
I am one of those people that have no problem putting down a bacon cheeseburger after a long race!”
Bart de Zwart: “During expeditions, you need to eat food every hour to keep the energy coming. The secret is to bring a diverse amount of food because you will start to dislike even your favorite bar after 12 hours. If you can mix it up with dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, dried meat and freeze-dried foods you will be able to keep going for a long time.”
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