Video of the Week: Nutrition for rowers, pt. 2

A couple years ago I posted a video on nutrition for rowers that included a ton of great info on getting the proper nutrition to fuel your training. You can check that post out here. Above is another video from a rower who talks about his diet, general nutrition strategy, and some of the different approaches that are out there (some good, some not). If you’re heading to college in a few weeks and are trying to figure out how you’re gonna get the calories you need (especially if you’re faced with the prospect of not having your mom cook all your meals anymore…), this is a good video to watch.

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Question of the Day

Hey! I’m a freshman first year varsity female rower at a high school club team. All fall we’ve really only have done 2 land workouts that we do on a weekly basis. Workout #1 is a longer workout that involves running and erging for about an hour and I almost always throw up on this workout no matter how I try to change what I eat/how much fluids I consume. Our practice starts at 3:30 so its not like I’m working out right after a meal. Workout #2 is a shorter interval/SS workout on the erg and I usually don’t throw up or feel that bad on these workouts. I haven’t actually done that many land workouts since I was part of a boat training for HOCR but since, I always feel really nauseous during/after the workout. Recently, I started feeling sick on the shorter workout #2 and we just did a new 1min sprint interval workout and I felt so bad after. My stomach/throat just felt really acidic and I ended up doing really bad. I never really thought my vomiting was something too serious since it was usually just some water/air and I never threw up last year when we did harder workouts. But now I think it might be something more since it occurs so often. I know that stomach acid is really bad for the throat and I was wondering what foods I should avoid eating, when I should eat/what snacks to eat before practice, and how I should bring it up to my coaches. I’ve already told my parents and I think I’m going to see my doctor during break. Thank you so much! I love your blog it helped me sooo much my novice year.

I would definitely check in with your doctor because they’ll obviously be able to give you much better advice than I can. One of my friends in college had a similar problem and eventually found out it was the result of a peptic ulcer so the doctors he was seeing put him on a pretty rigid diet of super bland foods and medication to control the acid reflux. Luckily the foods he ate were still rowing friendly – oatmeal, toast, chicken, salad, fish, fruit, etc. – but it did get pretty boring after awhile and it took awhile for him to figure out how to get the necessary number of calories each day.

He had everything under control for awhile but then our senior year he finally had surgery for it because the ulcer wasn’t healing properly and the doctors were worried about it perforating. He was told to stop rowing numerous times and just kinda ignored them because the pain and discomfort wasn’t any more than what he was already experiencing when he was training and things seemed to be under control with his diet and the meds. Once it got to the point where they recommended surgery he realized he probably should have taken more time off to recuperate though so … just keep that in mind if your doctor gives you a similar recommendation.

As far as telling your coaches goes, just be straightforward with them. Obviously this is something out of your control so it’s not like they can be pissed at you for needing to modify the workouts or take time off. It sucks but your health is more important.

I’d stick to basic foods like oatmeal (those little single cup things are great), a bagel, toast … one of my friends eats an avocado every day before practice so you could try that too, along with maybe some nuts, fruit, etc. I’d stay away from spicy stuff, alcohol (…duh?), and anything that’s heavy on the citric acid, like grapefruits, tomatoes, oranges, etc. Avoiding dairy might be worth trying too. This was how another of my friends found out her previously unknown dairy allergy was causing her to throw up regularly at practice – she started eating a cup of yogurt before practice each day and didn’t make the connection until her doctor suggested cutting it out for a week. Assuming you do have an ulcer of some kind though, dairy can also exacerbate the problem by increasing the amount of stomach acid you’re producing (despite the fact that it initially makes you feel better by coating the stomach lining).

It might be worth keeping a food diary for a week or two so you can track what you’re eating, how you feel before/after practice, what workout(s) you did that day, etc. Most doctors/nutritionists will suggest doing this anyways as a way to narrow down what might be causing the problem so consider doing that before you see your doctor, that way you can hopefully expedite the process of figuring out what’s wrong.

Question of the Day

Hi! I have been told by a collegiate rower that I’m good friends with, that if I want to cox in college I will probably have to lose about 10 to 12 pounds. And I was told I probably won’t be able to row in college unless I grow because I am only 5 foot three. As of now I weigh between 125 and 130 depending on the day and I know it’s not really a problem for me to lose weight. I know I can do it healthily without becoming too thin or anything. Do you have any suggestions on workouts I can do and ways to start eating healthier?

Workouts = Run, bike, or swim for at least 45 minutes 3-4x a week at pace that’s hard enough to get your HR up but still allows you to hold a conversation. If you don’t consistently workout already maybe start with three days a week for 30 minutes and work your way up from there.

Eating healthier = Just make smart(er) decisions about what you put into your body. Eat breakfast every day, even if it’s something small (Chobani + 1/3 cup of granola is my go-to) and make sure you’re drinking a decent amount of water each day too. I have a 32oz Nalgene that I try to empty by the end of the day so you could do something similar if you aren’t normally a big water drinker (like me). Don’t overload your plate, eat appropriate servings of veggies, fruits, etc. and be mindful of your sweet tooth, if you have one. You don’t have to cut anything out but you do have to keep your goals in mind and exert some self-control (which admittedly will be hard over the next month).

Video of the Week: What it takes to fuel a Blue

Having been to the grocery store and out to dinner with my guys many times over the last year, I’m well aware of how much rowers (especially male rowers) eat. Two (or three) entrees at restaurants, seven eggs for breakfast, gallons of whole milk, etc.  – at this point it doesn’t even shock me anymore. Luckily for them though, I don’t think their weekly grocery bills total $600+.

“Do you really need that?”

Over the last few days I’ve been emailing with a coxswain who initially wanted some advice on what to do over the summer to make sure they’re in shape for the upcoming fall season. As most of you who have asked me the same or similar questions over the last few weeks know, my response was and has been to just make sure you’re within a healthy range (which gives you plenty of leeway) of your respective racing weight by being smart about your diet and doing something  like running, cycling, etc. a couple times a week. Really simple stuff, nothing too crazy.

Related: I know it’s silly but staying a lightweight is consuming me. Literally every moment of the day I’m thinking of ways to be smaller and I hate myself for even worrying about this so much, like 123 is a FINE weight but at the same time … I hate being like this. It’s really worrying and I’m not eating as much anymore and I just need advice. 

Now, as most of you know, I have zero patience when it comes to coaches and rowers who openly disrespect coxswains and make unnecessary (and often times, pretty hurtful) comments about their weight when their weight isn’t an issue. I totally get being pissed when your coxswain is far, far over the minimum but seriously, speaking in general here, you guys have got to stop doing this. Below are some excerpts of the emails this coxswain sent me after our initial ones where we talked about getting in shape for the fall (shared with their permission).

“…Our coach is generally just impatient with us while we’re on the water and they complain about it more than I do. And to top it off, whenever we went to a meal during races, our coach would scrutinize what I ate and tell me things like. “Hey you need to fit in the seat…” Or “Do you really need that” but then tell me that she would prefer I didn’t starve myself.  She mentioned me losing weight before going into summer and said that “then we can actually go fast”.”

They told me that they’re a vegetarian so a lot of what they eat when they’re traveling is fruit or something else light.

“… I honestly have never had an eating disorder, like EVER. But after being treated like that I have been so vulnerable and not confident and it is so horrible because it made me not confident in other things too, so much that when I came home I asked my mum if I could talk to a therapist about it, like I’ve been struggling to bring myself back to the person I know I am, which yeah, is completely shitty.”

Making comments like that is not cool, it’s not funny, and it’s not appropriate. There’s a difference between playfully ragging on a friend (which you can really only get away with if you have a solid relationship with the person and even then, there are limits…) and being a jerk. I don’t want to get too into this because I’ve talked about all of it numerous times on here before but consider this another reminder/plea to just think before you say anything like what’s posted above to your coxswain(s). You don’t know how it’s going to affect them and if an eating disorder is something they’re already struggling with (which you most likely wouldn’t know about), hearing someone say “you need to find in the seat” or “do you really need that” can be pretty damaging. For more on that you can check out the posts in the link below.

Related: National eating disorder awareness week

I would also stop for a sec and consider this: I get a lot of emails from coxswains and when I find them serious enough to post on here I keep the details as vague as possible so as to not give away who they are or who they cox for. There are obvious reasons for doing that but I also do it because I want everyone who reads this to assume that it was your athlete and your coxswain that emailed me because, for all you know, it was. So … if you’re reading this and are thinking “wow…that sounds like something I said to my coxswain this year…”, this post is probably about you.