Nutrition for Power Athletes – This Means YOU Rowers!

Listen up all you Renegade Rowers!  Here’s a great piece by our Renegade Dietitian, Alex Black, on what you should eat and when!

This week we’re talking nutrient requirements! It’ll be awesome, I promise. As I’m sure you know, athletes may do several two-a-days a week while juggling class and/or work, and may not always get adequate rest. This only makes the need for proper nutrition and recovery more important.  So as promised in my last post, I’ll go into a little more detail about protein and carbohydrates, how much of each you need, and the best way to recover after a tough workout.

Power Sports. Since I mentioned power sports earlier, let me take a minute to define that. A power sport is essentially any sport that requires high power output to be successful. Competition events usually last between 1-10 minutes in length. Examples include rowing, 800 m sprints, swimming, and some parts of CrossFit (think 7 minutes of burpees, Helen and Fran). The following nutrition recommendations are specifically for people training and competing in these types of sports.

Energy from food comes in the form of three types of nutrients called macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. I will go into more detail about fat later, but for now I just want you to remember to include good fats like nuts, seeds, avocado, and oils in your diet while avoiding saturated fats found in fried and processed foods and baked goods.

Carbohydrates are the body’s most readily available form of energy. The body uses carbohydrate in the form of glucose and stores it in your liver as glycogen. During workouts and competitions your body will draw on its glycogen stores, as well as some stored fat, for energy. Having enough glycogen stored up for the body to use will allow you to perform at your best, both in competition and training. On the other hand, not getting enough carbohydrates and energy to meet your needs over an extended period of time can weaken your immune system – meaning you could get sick more often – and make you feel less energetic. And who wants to be tired when you’re trying to train and get better?

How much?  According to the most current research, power athletes need 6 – 12 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per day (weight in kilograms = weight in pounds divided by 2.2) to keep up a healthy immune system and full glycogen stores. How much carbohydrate you need depends on the intensity and volume of your training, as well as whether you are male or female.

Females should shoot for an intake on the lower end of the recommended range, and males the upper end. So for example, a 120-pound female rower who is in intense preseason training would try to eat around 8 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight, or close to 440 grams of per day. However the same athlete would need less than 330 grams of carbohydrate (6 grams per kilogram of weight) per day during the off-season.

The best sources of carbohydrates are root vegetables, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and whole grains.
Protein is one of the most important nutrients for athletes, and not getting enough over time can cause problems such as low energy levels, slowed healing of wounds like bruises and cuts, greater than normal muscle soreness, and trouble sleeping, among other things. Protein is involved in many important reactions occurring in the body and is a main component of hair, nails, and DNA.

Muscle is made of proteins, and eating enough protein allows your body to repair and rebuild muscle after it is broken down during training. The current recommendation is that athletes eat 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. For our 120-pound rower, this comes out to between 65 and 93 grams of protein per day.

The best sources of protein are meat, eggs, and fish. Try to eat leaner meats like chicken, fish and turkey most of the time, but definitely add in some red meat too.

Lastly, timing of energy and nutrition intake is key. You may meet your energy needs for the day, but if you don’t time food around activity, you could still be low on fuel during the workout. It is important to have enough energy before a workout so you don’t hit a wall, and it is just as important to recover with protein and carbohydrates so that your body can repair itself and be ready for the next training session or competition. The ideal post workout snack will have 30-60 grams of carbohydrates and 15-25 grams of protein. The goal is to have this snack within an hour after finishing your workout. During this time your body is a well-oiled machine, working efficiently to repair and recover. So make the best of it by giving it what it needs!


Now that I’ve talked math and nutrition, if you’re still with me, it’s time to talk food. I usually do one recipe with each post, but this time I’m going to give you three ideas for post workout snacks that will give you the nutrients you need, and I’ll explain why each of these snacks is great for recovery.

1. 3 slices of deli meat, 1 banana, 1 oz of almonds

The meat and nuts will combine to give you 15-20 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbohydrate. The banana is also a great source of potassium, an important electrolyte (we’ll talk about those later too) and almonds also have calcium, which not only promotes bone health but plays a key role in muscle contraction. This snack is also easy to transport (as long as you can keep the deli meat cool or eat it within 2 hours).

2. Smoothie – 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt, 1 cup of berries, and ½ cup of orange juice, ice. Blend in mixer or blender until smooth.  

The Greek yogurt meets your protein needs and the berries and juice will give you the carbohydrates you need. This can be refreshing in the warmer months, but is a little more difficult to transport. You can also throw some berries in a single-serving container of yogurt, or just grab a flavored Greek yogurt.

3. Chocolate Milk

Chocolate milk has recently been gaining favor as a recovery drink among athletes. Drinking a little over 1 cup will give you your 15 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbohydrates. Like the banana and almonds, chocolate milk contains potassium and calcium, both important recovery nutrients. Chocolate milk is tasty and portable. It’s perfect for sipping while you foam roll or work on stretching and mobility after your workout. Chocolate almonds milk provides the same benefits and is better if you are lactose intolerant or simply dislike milk.

1 thought on “Nutrition for Power Athletes – This Means YOU Rowers!

  1. Pingback: Fitness for Goalkeepers: Energy Systems Part 1 – Goalkeeping Central

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