By Helen Talbot (@Helehula)
Just as with any other sport, maintaining a fit and healthy body is important for surfing. You don’t need to be super slim or have pumped-up muscles to be able to surf, but you do need to have strength and endurance. One of the ways you can physically prepare yourself for surfing is by following a healthy diet before and after you get into the ocean. This article contains advice on how to do that!
Get enough calories for energy
It is essential that you consume enough calories to provide energy for your surf sessions. You will burn a lot of calories while surfing so your body needs the right amount of fuel! This amount varies from person to person, but the general guideline is that men should consume around 2,500 kcal per day and women 2,000 kcal. If you don’t eat enough before heading out into the water, you run the risk of feeling weak and tired before too long. On the other hand, if you eat too much and/or too soon before you do sport, you may feel heavy and experience indigestion. It’s all about striking a balance and eating just the right amount.
Proteins and carbs in pre- and post-surf meals
Your pre-surf and post-surf meals should contain a mix of both proteins and carbohydrates. Before you exercise, your body needs carbs for energy and protein to provide amino acids for optimal muscle function. After exercising, your body should be provided with the right ingredients to repair and replenish what has been used up. But what should you eat specifically? Some ideas for healthy carbs and proteins to add to your surf diet are:
- brown rice
- sweet potatoes
You may have heard that fat is unhealthy, but that’s not strictly true. Fat is good, as long as it is good fat. But what does this mean? The fats you want to be providing your body with should not be what are called saturated or trans fats – the kinds of fats you find in cakes, biscuits, French fries and crisps. The fats you should be looking for are mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, which can be found in a whole range of delicious foods such as avocado, olive oil, salmon, sardines (unmissable here in Portugal!) nuts and seeds. Eating these fats will not make you fat, but they will help your body to work to the best of its abilities – which will end up helping your surfing.
Fruits and vegetables
Of course, you already know about the importance of eating lots of fruits and vegetables and that you should aim for about 5 portions per day. This advice goes for everyone and not just for surfers. But you should especially be looking to eat a lot of green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and broccoli (because they contain a lot of vitamins and minerals that your body needs and they are a good source of dietary fiber), berries (because they are full of anti-oxidants that need to be replenished after physical activity) and bananas (a rich source of potassium and magnesium – both help the body to recover after exercising).
There are some foods out there are that so jam-packed with goodies for your body that they are called superfoods. Some examples of superfoods are chia and hemp seeds, turmeric, raw cacao, goji berries and coconut water (very effective at rehydrating your body after doing sports). Considering that surfing is a very demanding sport, your body can use all the help it can get to be in the best possible condition, so try adding some of these to your surf diet. There is one superfood that is especially loved by surfers: açaí, a berry from the Amazon that is bursting with anti-oxidants and has an amazing flavor. Where there are surf schools, you’ll often find cafés serving açaí bowls! Costa da Caparica is no exception; close to Gota d’Água surf school, you can find various options.
Stay hydrated! You are constantly losing water and this process is accelerated during physical exercise. You may not notice it because you are in the water, but you sweat a lot while surfing. It is very, very important that you drink enough fluids to replace what has been lost. Most guidelines say to drink 1.5 – 2 liters of water per day, but this amount may need to be increased when you are exercising heavily and/or when the weather is warm. Accidently drinking sea water while surfing does not count towards your daily intake, by the way 😉
It is important to keep in mind the concepts of balance and moderation. You do not need to eliminate anything 100% from your diet (if you love donuts, for example, you should be able to eat donuts from time to time) but be reasonable. Just remember that things like cakes, pizzas, burgers, chips, sweets and fizzy soft drinks are not that good for your health so try to limit how much you eat of them. The same goes for alcoholic drinks – there is no need to completely avoid them, just be smart and don’t drink too much (especially if you are going to surf soon after!)
By now, you should have a good idea of how to eat healthily in order to best prepare yourself for surfing. If you come to surf with us at Gota d’Água, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to nutritious and balanced meals – the breakfast we provide in the camp will prepare you well for your morning surf sessions, and in the local area we have a variety of great cafés and restaurants where you can eat healthy lunches and dinners. My top tips for Costa da Caparica are açaí bowls (açaí topped with fresh fruits and granola) and freshly grilled fish from the beachfront. Enjoy your meal and happy surfing!