There are hundreds of different ways to tackle this difficult question. If you are looking for the simple answers, you are more than welcome to move on to some free online eating templates for athletes to follow, however they are not going to understand or be able to help you perform optimally for your sailing class or your body.
Now, a bit of a disclaimer. This is not a prescription per se, but more of a recommendation. Prescriptions can only be given by doctors and are individualized. However, we can provide you with some knowledge in how to properly adjust your nutrition to compensate for the rigors of some of the elite sailing classes.
There are many factors to consider about the question: “What do I eat during my regattas?”
Main Factors of In Competition Nutrition:
– Your Digestion
– Your Training State
– Your Lifestyle
2. The Competition (Regatta)
Ask yourself a few questions about your food hygiene practices first;
- Do you sit down to eat?
- Are most of your meals in the week solid food meals?
- What percentage of your foods are packaged?
- How often do you chew per bite of each meal you have?
- What foods make you feel light, vibrant, and mentally acute?
- What foods weigh you down and make you want to have a nap?
The purpose of these questions is to highlight the importance of proper absorption. Food assimilation is first and foremost one of the most important variables that you must control.
In addition, a good mental state in relationship to food and eating is key. That is, are you anxious about your food choices? Are you stressed at most times when you eat? Significant stress during a meal can compromise the breakdown of vital nutrients. This is something that should be considered year round, not just during your competitions.
One factor athletes forget is sailing competitions are stressors as well. Positive or Negative, it is simply stress. Your adaption and ability to overcome that stress is what the series of competitions leading to a finals or World Championship is all about.
If you practice methods to lower anxiety (daily purpose rituals and consistency), good food hygiene (chewing) and develop an awareness of the types of foods you fuel yourself with, you will be able to support yourself before, through and after the every competition successfully.
- Chew 20 times per bite
- Site down to eat
- Do not drink any liquids with meals
- Breath and relax consciously when you eat
- Prepare, smell, eat and enjoy most of your meals
These may seem like simple concepts. However, it is often the simple fix that yields measurable health improvements. Funny how that works.
YOUR TRAINING STATE:
Have you put the time into training for the sailing events both physically in the gym as well as on the water?
– Can you perform a Body Weight Back Squat?
– Can you perform a Deadlift 1.25x your Body Weight?
– What is your 2K row time?
– What is your 30 min row distance?
– How much weight can you Strict Pull Up for one time?
– How long can you keep a Braced and Supported Trunk?
– Can you complete the race in any breeze strength without strength limitations?
Anyone can participate in these classes. However, in order to succeed, create a career, and see longevity in the sport at the top level there are certain barrier to entry with both the physical strength and endurance, as well as mental acuity and experience in these high speed, high powered boats. These answers also provide a framework for crafting a proper nutritional plan.
Each sailing classes are a bit unique to the timing of the races, lasting anywhere from 12-30 minutes. With a short rest in between and multiple races a day, it is important that contractions of the body need to powerful but aerobic in nature so that the athlete can last 3-4 hours of on the water racing, for multiple days in a row.
It is important that sailing athletes are able to make multiple dynamic contractions that happen over and over again each race (pulling board down, grind gennaker in, grinding runner on, etc) as aerobic as possible. Athletes that are under-trained for the sailing requirements of certain classes will become anaerobic in nature (an energy system response that lacks oxygen) and will find that they struggle to maintain energy output for the entire race, race day, regatta, especially if its windy. When athletes are well-trained their bodies energy response remains aerobic and sustainable for the entire event.
How does this play a role in nutrition for the competitions? Your fueling requirements are based on your current ability.
A majority of under-trained athletes in these high performance classes will make the race muscle endurance based (more alactic/aerobic in nature). The fuel requirements when the dose response is in this manner is less on sugar management at stored and muscle and lymph level, but more on their energy balance and keeping their CNS fresh and ready for more contractions (turn of winch, trim of sails, pulling boards up/down, furling gennaker, etc.).
Well trained athletes will make most of the entire regatta aerobic in nature – with a high power sustained in the entire time domain, no matter what the source of power required. These athletes will have less demand on organizing sugar as a primary fuel source. The sugar is only there to support quick increases and decreases in power and balance to the cortisol (bodies stress hormone) effects of the race.
Specific difference in energy expenditure and nutritional needs between each sailing athlete on the boat can vary widely depending on their position and role on the boat. A “floater”, or the workhorse on most elite sailing classes, ends up having the most physical demands, lots of powerful contractions, and high front end power requirements. Where as a “driver” will have very little contractions, but needs high mental acuity for a long period of time in a great aerobic state. Thus the bodies response of each athlete will also vary on position, and breeze strength.
- If you are elite – keep doing what you are doing – remain hydrated well and balance energy through your races and competition weekends.
- If you are novice – keep sugars at bay, and just use being fresh as your litmus for improvement…
How many hours of solid sleep you get will dictate your performance on race day and during the entire weekend. Also, the time you dedicate to strategy, practice, execution, more practice are all positive performance indicators (PPIs) of a competition.
Your consistency in training and sport specific preparation of individualized training leading up to competitions will have a direct effect on your performance and result.
There are many “ways” that athletes adapt and survive. A sailing competition is a time when consistency must meet intensity at a perfect balance. Chaotic life DOES NOT LIVE around a chaotic competition. In most cases it drains and disables that athlete physically.
Now you might be asking, what does this have to do with nutrition for a sailing competition? If you do not have the solid base of support to DO and RECOVER FROM a high performance sailing event, how do you expect to continue racing many events throughout the year leading to your Championship or end goal?
Ask yourself about how well you are managing all the resources required towards your end goal (world match race tour champion, Olympic medal, etc.), and more so HOW the recipe is being written. That is, have you written down on paper the program, the training plan through your competitive season, the food plan through events and during training, etc…?
If not you might be left behind or surprised when it comes time to balancing recovery and optimal performance for your competitions.
- Write and plan out the entire schedule of training, food and lifestyle adjustments for your training cycles, events, etc..
- Place reminders through notes or even have teammates or coaches keep you on track of honoring sleep, water, recovery and good food choices…
- Sleep in a darkened room like a cave under cooler than normal temperatures per night for a minimum of 8 hours…
THE COMPETITION (REGATTA)
There are thousands of different does responses for each sailing class, each position, each breeze condition.
Every person will get a different effect than another in the same race. This is because we all handle stressors differently. So in an attempt to figure out what fuels this and how to recover from this in a nutritional standpoint, the first place we need to go are the ACTUAL requirements in the task.
The REGATTA is the task:
The task is on average for most classes from Thursday – Sunday with an average time per day of 3-4 hours, with each race 12-30 minutes long that contains mostly aerobic endurance and alactic power. It is a wonderful balance of short intense bursts of alactic power lasting 10-20 seconds of effort in maneuvers that needs to be sustain for the entirety of the days racing and weekends event in all wind conditions.
The entire time prior to and during the RACE and REGATTA, the athlete must be thinking about HOW TO optimize this balance of these two energy systems. We HAVE TO assume that each race will be an average time and a certain KIND of wind condition in order to create a generalized idea of what to eat around it. But it is THIS dose response that helps with fuel choices prior, during possibly and more so after racing.
- Be aware that multiple energy systems are used in an Regatta and understand how each position and wind condition changes the demands on the athlete…
- Since a majority of the racing lasts between 20-30 minutes – this will help determine fuels needed before, between and after racing.
Based on the sun and the moon and our overall temperament, we will have varying levels of “energy” for the Races each day. You must consider what time you have been training for competitions and that they line up with the timing of your race schedule. Some events will start earlier in the day then others, and some will last into the sunset. Your training timing in the gym and on the water prior to events should aim to reflect the race times. A mistake we observe consistently is when athletes training physically in the gym at odd hours outside of normal sailing times ends up messing with the athletes energy cycle and output come race day.
When you wake up in the morning, your body goes through multiple session of trying to figure out how you are getting through the day. It sees the sunshine and that indicates one thing, it smells food and this indicates another – this is done to adapt and create efficiency for us to survive and reproduce. The downside of that is that we can get lazy and make things easy – i.e. cars, smart phones, etc…
The upside of this is that we can use this “rhythm” of sorts to help us prepare our minds, our gut and our muscles/lungs/ heart for the Race day – by practicing at the same time. When your brain and mind and body get a rhythm set up, it will in most cases work best during an Race Day when you have been practicing those style training session as a similar timing.
Every time you do a workout or a sailing training on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday around mid-day (11am-3pm) for most sailing classes, your body is setting you up to make that session more and more efficient EVERY week. Every Wednesday night all year you go to bed and your body is setting up the mind, nervous system and FUELS needed for that weekend of competition.
This is why we preach consistency from training into competing. Rhythm is king.
- Train at the same time periods of the day as your REGATTA race schedule all year on those days.
FINALLY, HOW DO WE IMPLEMENT THE NUTRITION
First take account of your ability, your timing, your digestion, etc…
- Since a majority of our racing happens through middle part of our day “lunch time”, priority meals for race day must occur during breakfast and dinner. Think of the middle part of the day as your execution of managing energy and fuel sources depending on the wind condition and your position on the boat. If you have your nutritional profile locked in, just ensure fueling for the 2-3 days prior and hydration is similar to what you have been doing in training; if you have been inconsistent with these times of training and fueling prior – figure that stuff our ASAP – and get back in a rhythm and practicing good food hygiene days before will help.
- Because for most sailing classes, regattas occur about once per month, in a lot of cases the functional volume for these events is less than training for a lot of people, but the intensity can be really high – training and emotional intensity – in this case, throughout the Regatta. Thus, priority is to keep sugar binges out, so are anything that causes inflammation of muscle tissues and/or the gut as these will be exasperated by higher stressed environments. Processed and packaged foods can cause changes in neural behavior – things like additives, sweeteners, high inflammatory food sources: soy, oats, eggs, casein (for certain people) are a main few we see in testing.
- Because the Race/Regatta is everything, it would be prudent to have a slightly “Fasted” state – you are never truly really fasted but to ensure you are not focusing on major digesting at a time when your body needs to send blood to the periphery is key! This means practicing in your lead up sessions on seeing how far away you can push the fuel before hand that leaves you mentally acute but light and powerful at the same time.
- Since, our race days are long-efforts of time each day our fuel sources prior to getting on the water are critical to sustain energy through the entirety of the 3-4 hours on the water. Focus should be primarily high quality proteins and fats make you feel more full longer, promotes better brain function, muscle recovery and offers lasting energy production versus carbohydrates that will cause inflammation and only last for a shorter period of energy production.
- If you have been eating regularly and are doing well in lead up sessions, then do not change a thing; this is very well a KEY strategy – NOT doing anything different from your training. Many choose to see this part of the competition like a flight, except for the fact that the dose response is not that much different than what you have been training at – (I’d) hope anyhow. Therefore, keep stuff simple and just do constant check on your vitality, recovery, willingness and confidence – This will test you if you have to rest and replenish more or nourish and charge more.
- Between Races there usually is not a ton of time (5-15 minutes on average to get recovered, change your boat settings and get some hydration and fuel in prior to the next race). It is important that any fuel you need has to be taken as soon as possible after the race to allow for maximum absorption time before the next Race. As a result it is important to not eat foods that will cause inflammation and take a ton of time to digest. Simple lean proteins (chicken) and simple fats (avocado, portioned nuts and seeds) can be good for a longer break times (15-30 minutes breaks) or a simple protein shake, otherwise stick with good hydration that has some amount of sodium to replenish salts from sweating. If you feel that you don’t have adequate energy during your Race Day it is likely that you have not been preparing properly during prior training, your morning nutrition was not adequate or you are generally too dependent on fast burning sugars (carbs) for fuel sources.
- After each Race Day, ensure that you take a lot of time to cool down, like 20 minutes to walk, easy bike, swim, or use multiple modalities for 20 minutes at an easy pace (rower, jump rope, planks, and holds); this will remove built up waste in muscle tissues if there is any and help you get recovered before the next day of racing. Once you have recovered from the sailing then this is the time to have your post Race Day nutrition. For you are over-fat and out of shape, best post Race Day meal plan is to sit down and chew a real meal in a short time after your back on shore. If you are lean, and are a hard charger that is often gets stressed, consuming some amino acids only 20 min after will help – then eat a regular meal with adequate lean protein, nutritious fats and some health carbs 30 minutes after this. If you are in the best shape of your life, go hard and recover well, extremely experience with physical training and sailing extreme classes, consume water only afterwards and when your digestion calms down – chew some real food of the same quality as above with a focus of your daily carbohydrates just post sailing to replenish glycogen stores if needed based on your position and energy expenditure.
- Around the Regatta, focus on lifestyle consistency, not changing much, maybe eating lighter and leaner and cleaner. Ensure that you are doing checks and balances on your energy, rhythm and confidence. This will give an idea how to balance it all to succeed as much as you can throughout the Regatta and competition season.