Power Up Your Nutrition

Veronika Lukasov / veronikalukasova.com

Race preparation begins before the boat ever hits the water.

As an athlete and a nutritionist I certainly appreciate how the right foods at the right time can enhance my performance and improve my mood. Regardless of when a person exercises, the body demands sustained energy. Sustained energy means you are hydrated and your body is getting a constant supply of energy.

Pre-Practice Hydration:

No matter what time of day you row, hydration plays a major factor. Begin your hydration the night before. Sip water and other non-caffeinated drinks. Drink enough so your urine is a pale yellow. If it is darker, drink more. If it is clear, drink less. (Check out The Cleveland Clinic’s “The Color of Your Pee” infographic.)

Energy Supply and Storage:

You want to save the stores of energy for late into your practice. In order to do that, you must eat energy prior to your workout. That can be a real problem for the early morning workouts, since most of us do not want to wake up any earlier than we must. Drink a shake that has around 14 grams of protein and 10-20 grams of carbohydrates. Keep the fat to 7 grams. Try this easy recipe you can prep the night before:

In a blender or storage container, combine

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 banana
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves

Add 3 ice cubes in the morning and mix it in the blender. This is also a great post-workout breakfast – add ground flax seed, which provides fiber, as well as heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids that offer anti-inflammatory effects.

Don’t want to make your own, you can find plenty of pre-made shakes at the grocery store. Be aware that one bottle often contains 2 servings, so drinking just half the bottle before practice will provide all the protein, carbs, and fat you’ll need to get you through.

Post-Practice Hydration:

Immediately after a long row, you must hydrate and not just with water. Replace the electrolytes (salts) you lost by consuming off-the-shelf sports drinks, which commonly contain the sodium, potassium, and water you need. Or drink diluted orange juice (1/1) for water and potassium, paired with a few pretzels and you should get all the sodium you need.

Post-Practice Nutrition:

The most crucial time for what you eat is after a workout. You want carbohydrates to replenish the energy you used from your muscle stores, and protein to repair your muscles. Within 30 to 60 minutes after your workout:

  • drink an 8 oz. glass of chocolate milk; or
  • eat a handful of nuts and ½ cup dry cereal (trail mix); or
  • 1 slice turkey and 1 slice bread; or
  • 1 apple and 1 slice cheese

After that, enjoy what you want but keep the rule of thumb of 10-20 grams of protein, 1 teaspoon of fat and 15-45 grams of carbohydrate at each snack (lower number) or meal (higher number).  Also the amount of carbohydrate varies by the individual’s body size and metabolic rate. The same can be said, but to a lesser degree, about fat and protein. Download this handy 2-page PDF from The Athlete’s Plate for nutrition suggestions for easy, moderate, and hard training/race days.


The same principals for early-morning workouts apply to evening workouts. If time is on your side and you can make something besides a shake before practice, try one of the following:

  • 1 Pear, 1 slice of deli meat and cheese, 1 slice whole grain bread, water
  • Banana, 2 Tablespoons of peanut butter, 1 slice of whole grain bread, water
  • Greek yogurt, berries, nuts, whole grain bread, water
  • Sweet potato, 2-3 ounces turkey cutlet, water

Again, the principal is to eat 1-2 carbohydrates with a protein, and a small amount of fat. After your workout, load up on veggies, salad, the rest of your protein, and at least 1 grain.

Power up with water and the right foods to breeze through those power 10s.

Karyn Baiorunos, M.Sc is a nutritionist with the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, D.C. and received coxswain training through DC Strokes Rowing Club.