Before the race
For your body to perform well during periods of prolonged exercise, you need to have a good store of energy (glycogen) in your muscles. It’s not enough to just rely on eating a good breakfast, you need to build up your glycogen levels over several days to ensure your stores are topped up! Runners call this carb loading.At least 2 days before your event you should be eating foods that are:
- Carbohydrate rich
- Contain Protein
- Reduced fat
Typically, this would include lots of whole grain pasta, lean meat and fish and plenty of fruit and vegetables.
In addition to the food your eating, think about hydration. Try drinking a pint of water with every meal. This will help flush toxins from the body and ensure you’re properly hydrated.
Race day (breakfast)
Your breakfast should be a major meal as it’s your last chance to build up your energy stores before you hit the water. However, you can’t hike if your stomach is working away digesting all that food and making you feel weak. So ideally your breakfast should be eaten about 3 hours before the first race. Eat food’s you’re used to and know you can digest easily. Also ensure you get plenty to drink, especially if it’s hot.
Pre-race eating should be:
- Carbohydrate rich
- Light and easily digestible
- Fat and Meat free, as this takes too long to digest
Sorry but you really shouldn’t be eating bacon sandwiches – leave those for the adults!
On the water
When you’re on the water you should be aiming to eat something at least every 45 minutes. In practice this will usually mean you eating between races. Because of the nature of sailing, choosing something to eat is often a challenge. Sweets are a popular choice but won’t give you the nutrients you really need to perform at your best. Many sailors now are turning to energy gels and bars as they are perfectly balanced and easy to consume.
Whatever you decide to eat on the water, is should be high in carbohydrates easy to digest.
Hydration on the water is essential too. You should have at least a litre of water and may even want to consider using hydration tablets such as those sold by Science in Sport or Nuun. These contain electrolytes and salts that help replenish those lost during exercise.
At the end of the day
Sailing is a physically demanding sport and multi day events can really take their tole on the body. In order to maximise your recovery, you should aim to eat something within 20 minutes of getting off the water. Try and eat something high in carbohydrates to replenish your energy stores but also try and include some protein. This helps repair and rebuild muscle.
As ever drink plenty of water!
And finally – don’t leave anything till race day – experiment with your nutrition before the event and listen to your body.