Food specialists discuss dietary habits for optimal performance in the lineup.
The New Year is still relatively new and resolutions may still be resolutions. So when you look in the full-length mirror, how’s it looking? Although we all come in various shapes and sizes, there can be a relationship between how your body looks (and how it feels to you) and how your body performs. It can often come down to what you feed or don’t feed yourself with. It’s always good to take inventory and for most of us, it only takes a few adjustments in nutrition to actually see and feel the difference. The main thing is to experiment by eliminating one or two negative nutrients (usually habits), then add one or two positive nutrients and then give it a little time so your body ‘adjusts’ and begins to feed on the new, improved you. It doesn’t take long and the benefits will be rewarding both in and out of the water.
Surfline published this piece not long ago and I’ve been saving it for a good time to republish it for the 911 community. So, Happy New Year and here is some functional food for thought…
Sports nutrition for surfers is about fuel, recovery and rebuilding.
While our individual demands may vary somewhat relative to genetics and our personal health and fitness objectives, there are some general guidelines we can all follow.
Why should we care about what we eat as long as we’re not hungry? Because research is proving what we probably always knew anyway: you are what you eat — literally! The food choices you make that create your energy, your ability to maintain it while surfing, and recover from an intense session or full day in the water so you can charge even harder the next time.
It seems that high-quality, nutrient-dense, fresh, organic, plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, grains and beans are just easier for us to process and are what our bodies crave. Eating them regularly will improve how you perform, feel and recover (from surfing and even injury). After a short period of time improving your nutritional choices, you’ll even see an upgrade in how you look (skin, hair, eyes, waistline).
When you eat processed foods, you are eating “food” produced and heavily-marketed by companies that are economically-driven. You might be saving money in the short term, but every time you eat it you’re making it really tough on your body’s digestive system to break it all down and put it to use. These foods make it much, much tougher and take the body much longer to breakdown and absorb the nutrients, vitamins and minerals it needs in order to do important things like provide you with energy, perform bodily functions and build a healthy immune system. Most of your immune system is in your lower intestine — the better your digestion, the stronger your immunity.
Again, there is way too much material available to even scratch the surface here relative to what we need to know about our own nutrition and hydration needs. Bottom line is to build a fresh habit. Keep it simple, natural, raw and organic whenever possible. If you want to feel alive, eat food that is fresh and alive.
Below, Dr. Tim Brown asks Dr. Doug Andersen — former sports nutritionist for the LA Kings and the AVP (pro volleyball) as well as working with the (formerly known as) ASP for many years as a tour doc — questions pertaining to surfers and their diets.
You’ve worked and designed nutritional programs for some of the greatest athletes in the world. Are there special considerations you recommend for surfers?
Yes and no. For example, what is best for someone surfing at Maverick’s in the winter would differ than from the trip to the tropics where they drop you off for long sessions in warm water and hot sun. Next, I need to determine what a person means when they define themselves as a “surfer.” A 40-year-old who surfs one hour 4-5 times a week before work and a 20-year-old who surfs four hours 3-4 days a week on the day’s he’s not in class are both correct to define themselves as surfers but have different needs.
How do I know if my nutrition is up to par? Is there a test?
My answer would be to ask some low tech questions. How do you feel and how do you look? When I ask how a surfer feels, follow-up questions would be: How is your energy during the day? When you surf? Compared to friends close to your age? I’d then ask about how they recover and find out their rate of minor injury and minor illness.
So, before I’ve asked one question about food, if the person has low energy or tires before his friends do, seems prone to minor injuries or catches every cold that comes along, their nutrition may need improvement. The follow-up questions to “How do you look?” would be their thoughts about their body and/or physique, skin, hair and nails. If problems with their external appearance are unreasonable — gaining two pounds is not getting fat, and having two pimples is not an acne problem — there is a chance that the foods they choose may not be up to par.
One final note regarding complaints on energy, immunity, injury, recovery and appearance is that these (as well as others) can have many causes. Blaming every problem solely on nutrition (which sometimes happens with alternative medicine) is no different than never considering nutrition (which sometimes occurs with traditional medicine). In both cases, it is the patient who gets shorted.
If I’m eating healthy, what can I eat to help my body heal as quickly as possible? Should I take special vitamins or supplements?
If you really are eating healthy, your recovery will not be impeded by nutrition. Healthy eating is defined as enough, but not too much, protein, carbohydrate and fat — and that the types of P-C-F consumed will provide the right amounts of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, fiber and phytochemicals.
If I’m traveling to a different country, what should I take with me for energy for long sessions and to recover quickly so I can maximize my time in the water without burning out?
I like raw nuts and seeds mixed with dried fruits, instead of compromising on a pre-packaged trail mix that may have too much sugar, salt or roasted ingredients. That way you can have your favorite raw nuts and seeds as well as your favorite dried fruits that do not contain unnecessary added sugar and chemicals. I also recommend healthy types of jerky for those who enjoy meat. By healthy, I mean jerky with lower sodium and chemicals that’s sold in health food stores instead of what is typically found at the local mini-mart. Finally, sports bars or protein bars are a must when you’re going international. I always take enough for two a day. Usually I will pack a box of my favorite high protein bars and a box of my favorite high carb and fiber bars. If the local fare is good, I may have some to bring back or give away. But, more often than not, bringing your own can be a lifesaver.
What about a protein style of drink to help recovery?
Many nutritionists, dietitians and trainers who take a conservative approach to nutrition will tell you protein drinks are expensive and not necessary. I agree — provided you are able to prepare your own meals or have someone you trust do it for you with healthy foods you have purchased. However, in the world most of us live in, the pace of our lives dictates that we often have to eat away from home or on the run. So then my question to my colleagues is “What do you think is the better choice, the $3 cheeseburger or the $3 protein/meal replacement drink?”
For example, a protein shake such as Muscle Milk provides around the same number of calories as a small fast-food cheeseburger, with a clearly superior nutritional profile. Translated, this means more of the stuff that is good for you (vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and complex carbs) and less of what you don’t need more of, like sodium, saturated fat and refined carbohydrate. After a long session, slamming a good protein drink with a piece of fresh fruit and (if you’re still hungry) a handful or two of raw trail mix is what I recommend and is far superior to the greasy, processed, fast food you will eat if there isn’t a satisfying alternative available.
The clean water issue: what about preventing illness from surfing in suspect conditions. Can I boost my immunity to evil bugs and bacteria?
Well, the no-brainer is to not surf in the sewage. Unfortunately, eating a salad or taking some herbs is no guarantee you can avoid catching something if you surf in contaminated conditions. If you’re already run down or a bit under-the-weather, you will increase the odds of a full-blown illness.
Speaking of water: how important is it to hydrate?
It’s no secret that adequate fluid keeps you cooler in hot weather. What many don’t realize is that extra fluid will keep you warmer when you’re surfing in cold water as well. One of the best ways to last longer on a cold winter session is to drink an extra 16-20 ounces right before you go out. By weight, the typical surfer is around 65% water and his muscles are over 95% water. Keeping hydrated not only controls internal temperature as described above, it also maintains strength and endurance.
The level of performance lost due to dehydration depends on the extent of the fluid deficit. The rule of thumb is anything over 2% will negatively affect performance. For example, if a 150-pound surfer has lost more than three pounds during exercise, his performance will begin to suffer. The formula for rehydration is to drink a pint (16 oz) per pound of weight lost during activity.
Can you give an example of a great day of food for a grom, a 20- to 30-year-old and an older surfer who surf at least three times per week?
Breakfast: A bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon. If you need it sweet, add a spoonful of pure maple syrup or honey. For the older surfer, who sits more than surfs, use stevia if you need it sweeter. You may have some berries or banana on the side or mixed in. I’ll mix in a heaping spoonful of protein powder that’s slightly sweetened instead of a sweetener. (When I have a protein drink, I mix a packet of protein powder that has 40 grams of protein, 20 grams of carbs and ~4-6 grams of fat with added vitamins and minerals with a heaping cup of high fiber cereal, some type of fruit & 16 ounces of water.)
Snack: Apple, Orange or both.
Lunch: Turkey or chicken breast on wheat with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, green peppers and mustard.
Snack: Piece of fruit, or if you have a hard workout or long session planned, a handful or two of raw trail mix or a protein shake.
Dinner: A big salad with mixed greens, four colors of veggies (example: carrot, red bell pepper, purple cabbage, broccoli), two spoons of olive-oil based dressing, beans of some type (black, white, pinto, kidney or garbanzo) and nonfat cottage cheese.
Dessert: Fresh berries and non-fat yogurt, or a small protein shake or a protein bar.
DISCLAIMER: The information provided in Surfline Health & Fitness is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use this information for the diagnosis or specific treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment. You should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise, or supplemental program, before taking any medication, or suspect you might have a health problem. You should not stop taking any medication and/or should not discontinue any prescribed treatment or exercise without first consulting your physician. The opinions expressed in the Health and Fitness department are of the author and the author alone. Surfline does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.