A Winning Nutrition Strategy for the Pacific Paddle Games

Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt
Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

A Winning Nutrition Strategy for the Pacific Paddle Games

2015 has given us one of the most competitive SUP seasons to date, with several major races – including those at the Payette River Games, Carolina Cup and the Columbia Gorge Challenge – decided by razor thin margins. The difference between a podium finish and a near loss can be the result of many variables, but nutrition and hydration should not be among them.

To help contenders for the Pacific Paddle Games stay on top of their intake, we asked Dr. Stacy Sims, adjunct faculty member at Stanford University and the founder of Osmo Nutrition, to come up with a blueprint for hydration and fueling before, during, between and after the course and distance races at PPG 2015.

Days Before PPG

When it comes to keeping body water levels high, you simply can't wait until race day. When the body is running low on fluids, you're going to have to fight harder to maintain adequate hydration during exertion. Similarly, if your body's sodium stores are already depleted, they're going to get drained even more during competition.

That's why it helps to put a pinch of sea salt in your drinking water for at least 48 hours before the first race. The sodium helps your body better absorb the fluid, as it's at the right osmolality. You should also be eating clean so that you're body isn't fighting to purge itself of artificial ingredients.

Morning of PPG

As you'll be burning a ton of extra calories at PPG, you're going to want a large breakfast that's a balanced mix of complex carbs, healthy fats and protein. One option is oats with berries, nuts and a small spoonful of coconut oil. If you usually drink coffee then go ahead and have your morning cup of Joe, but avoid sugary, high caffeine "energy" drinks as they'll make you jittery.

In terms of hydration, keep putting a pinch of sea salt in every 20 ounces of water to top off body water levels. If you eat early, have a carbs-plus-protein snack 45 minutes to an hour before the race, such as a banana and a handful of nuts.

During the Course Race

If you've been pre-hydrating correctly in the hours and days leading up to PPG, you won't need to go overboard with hydration during the course race, particularly as it's a short event. Sipping salted water should be fine during the race, but do your fueling on the beach beforehand.

After the Course Race

After the first race it's time to replenish lost electrolytes again. If you don't have an electrolyte-enhanced drink on hand, reach for water with a pinch of salt again. You'll also want to ingest 20 to 30 grams of complete protein. As time is of the essence and rapid digestion a necessity, a protein shake is the best form factor. You'll also want some carbs to restore glycogen levels before the distance race.

During the Distance Race

As this is a longer race, you're going to want to put an electrolyte-rich solution in your hydration pack. This should also contain a small amount of glucose to keep your blood sugar levels up, or you can pop a couple of glucose tabs. If you just drink water, it will sit in your gut until you pull in sodium to put it in the correct osmolality range for absorption.

On the flip side, if you consume too much sodium with your fluids they will also stay in your digestive system until more water gets pulled in. Both inadequate hydration scenarios have a high metabolic cost and will drain your energy, as well as impacting body water and sodium levels.

After the Distance Race

Done with the distance race? Then it's time to again drink an electrolyte recovery blend or salted water, and to take in another 20 to 30 grams of complete protein. Not only does this boost acute recovery, but it extends your window to better absorb protein at dinner for continued muscle replenishment.

It's also wise to include water-rich fruit such as tomatoes and watermelon in your post race meal, as these will top up glycogen levels and enhance re-hydration. And make sure you consume another protein-rich meal within three hours of going to bed, which your body will use as fuel for recovery during sleep.

More nutrition tips for racers.

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