A Surfer’s Diet: On and Off the Waves
There is no question that pro surfers are in peak physical condition-- the combination of full body cardio from hours of steady paddling combined with explosive pop ups, not to mention the myriad muscle groups that are engaged simply to stay upright and poised on the board all combine to create a sculpted, fit and healthy body. But, as any nutritionist will tell you, true fitness isn’t made in the gym or on the waves, it’s made in the kitchen. Above all else, a natural and healthy diet can keep your body ready to tackle the waves, and put your energy level through the roof. Although a healthy diet is important for all surfers, from beginner to pro, eating the right foods can affect more than just your time on the waves-- it can improve every aspect of your life.
We’re sure the importance of a healthy diet isn’t news to you. After all, we are constantly inundated with messages about health, diet and fitness. But, often the information we receive in the media is skewed, unrealistic, or just plain false. So, we decided to set the record straight and provide you all with a clean Surfer’s Diet, suited for anyone who wants to get in shape for an upcoming trip to the beach, surf vacation, or anyone who wants to improve the way they treat their body. In order to get the inside scoop on a killer surfer’s diet, we consulted our resident surf guides, who have years of experience training surfers to tackle the waves. We also looked into different scientific studies about surfing and the optimal diet to learn any secrets that might be out there. Below you will find all you need to know about your day-to-day diet, such as the best foods to eat before and after surfing, how much to eat when starting to train more often, all the way to natural supplements that can help you prevent sore muscles and tendons. Whether you are a pro surfer, a casual surfer who wants to have more energy on the waves, or simply someone who wants to live a healthier lifestyle, the info below will give you a good starting ground for making the most out of your diet. Enjoy!
What to Eat and When
Nutrient timing is important to ensure that your muscles have the energy before a workout, and the building blocks to repair after one. This is true when surfing, lifting weights, or for any workout. Although there is a lot to the science behind it, there are a few take-away facts that will help you get the most out of your diet.
1: Eating Before a Workout/Session
Surfing is a lot of work. And that takes a lot of energy. Where does this energy come from? Food, of course! But some food groups, particularly carbohydrates, are your body’s ideal energy source before a workout, because carbs are quickly changed into glucose, your body's main source of energy. We recommend at least one to two servings of healthy complex carbs such as sprouted grain bread, brown rice, quinoa, or beans before surfing or working out so that you have all the energy you need to give it your all!
2. Eating After a Workout/Session
After you finish a few sets in the gym or on the waves, your body will have burned through all of the carbs you gave it before the workout, and will be craving a quick boost of energy to help facilitate muscle growth and repair. The best way to do this is by providing your body with protein and simple carbs. Simple carbs, or sugars, break down most quickly into your bloodstream and let your muscles know that they have enough energy stores to enter a stage of hypertrophy (muscle growth). The addition of protein into the mix will provide your muscles with necessary amino acids, the building blocks of muscle, kickstarting the repair and growth process. One quick and easy way to get both your protein and simple carbs is by consuming a glass of chocolate milk. Or, a whey protein shake can be consumed, but watch out for unhealthy ingredients like sucralose and aspartame.
3. How Much Should I Eat?
Eating the right amount of food is probably the biggest mistake anyone makes when training. And, counter to what most people think, many people eat far too little to provide their body with what it needs to become fit and strong. In fact, unless you are eating more than you were before you started working out or surfing more often, your body will cling onto fat and build muscle frustratingly slow, as it will go into ‘survival mode’, attempting to conserve energy (fat being the best way to do this) in what it perceives to be a food scarce world.
However, this doesn’t mean you should run to the nearest McDonalds and get a Big Mac! You should aim to eat only about 300-500 (closer to 300 for women and 500 for men) calories more than your normal diet. The key here is to make sure you are eating the best calories. ‘Empty calories’, or calories that provide no nutritional value, such as most oils, as well as soda and chips, will do nothing to help you become more fit. High quality, high-calorie foods like nuts, however, will provide your body with much needed fiber, protein and poly and monounsaturated fats. Second, make sure to consume more protein than usual-- your body needs it! Here are three high quality foods that can add extremely nutritious calories into your diet:
-Avocado (fiber, countless nutrients, and heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats)
-Tree Nuts such as almonds and cashews (Poly-unsaturated fats and great protein to boot!)
-Eggs (Magnesium, Iron, and Protein. Don’t eat too many though, as they are a little high in cholesterol)
Honestly, the best thing to do is eat a well rounded diet, and listen to your body. If you are more hungry after surfing, eat more! Just eat natural, close-to-the-earth foods, and you’ll be on your way to a healthy and fit lifestyle. Here are three simple rules to follow:
1. Eat a variety of foods
Research shows that our body needs a bunch of different nutrients, and the only way to get the full diversity of life-saving nutrients is to eat varied meal. One sure-fire way to get different micronutrients is by eating fruits and veggies of different colors. Each color of plant corresponds to a different set of nutrients, so the more colors you eat, the more nutrients you have. This is a great excuse to get adventurous with your cooking and try new things!
2. Cook your own meals
When eating out its often impossible (or just very inconvenient) to figure out how much you are eating, and, more importantly, what is in your food. More often than you would expect, restaurants will add unhealthy ingredients like MSG as a way to try and make their food taste better. Cooking at home ensures you have total control over what goes in your body, and prevents any unwanted additives from entering into your diet.
3. Focus on quality
Not all foods are created equal. Canned spinach will never be as healthy as frozen spinach, which will never be as healthy as fresh, organic spinach. This is because many of the vital micro nutrients in veggies and fruits perish very quickly, making the nutritional value of the food decrease; as it turns out, food that is perfectly ripe is not only more delicious, but is actually better for your body. A good rule of thumb is the sooner the plant was picked, the healthier it is. That is why local foods often provide the greatest nutrient density.
As a rule, most supplements are to be avoided. Although many products claim to give an easy way to fitness and health, they usually end up causing the body more harm than good. However, there are a few out there that can help your reach your fitness goals in natural and holistic ways. The products below are just a few of these.
Great after a workout, as this protein absorbs into your bloodstream faster than all other protein sources, making it the perfect cocktail to boost muscle repair after a run, a great set of waves, or anything in between. Here is a link to the cleanest whey protein around, free of any and all additives. Plus, it has a very weak taste, so it goes great in smoothies (or, try mixing it with chocolate milk and peanut butter after a workout for the perfect refueling drink)!
For those of you who prefer to get only plant-based protein (a move that is definitely good for your health in a lot of ways), try this protein powder on for size. It has several different sources of plant-based protein that combine to make a complete protein, and every serving also has two servings of dried kale, spinach and alfalfa. Best of all, it doesn’t taste nasty like many other plant-based proteins (hemp protein, were looking at you).
Grown in lakes and oceans, spirulina is a cyanobacteria (dont worry, it’s safe!) that is packed with all kinds of great nutrients, including iron, vitamin B6 and B12, copper and protein. In fact, it has a greater density of protein than beef! All of this taken together means spirulina packs a nice health-punch. The best part? You only need a serving or two a day. You can buy some here.
4. Chia Seeds
While not technically a ‘supplement’, these little seeds can be added to a variety of dishes to add texture as well as a plethora of healthy nutrients. Among others, chia seeds have 5g of fiber in each tablespoon (20% of your daily value), Omega-3’s (6 times more than salmon), as well as poly-unsaturated fats and protein. Sprinkled on top of yogurt, added to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a little extra crunch, or even added to juice (learn how to do this here), chia seeds are a secret trick to sneaking in extra healthy nutrients. Here is a good brand to buy
Good old ginger. It’s long been used in tea and other herbal drinks, and for centuries has been touted for its pain relieving effects. However, it wasn’t until recently that scientific studies began to back these claims up. Although the research into the herb is still young, preliminary studies suggest that it is effective for reducing joint pain and muscle soreness, due to its anti-inflammatory effects. For this reason, it could potentially be a life-saver for surfers! We’ve all felt the day-after soreness from a long afternoon surfing, especially when we haven’t had a session in a while. Thankfully, a little bit of ginger (maybe ginger tea in the morning?) can help us out there.
Surfing is so much more than a sport. It’s a statement about what we value in life; it reminds us of the simple good things of life, and how to focus on these basic aspects that are so important to our happiness. Eating right is one of these simple pleasures. Good food connects with our own body, helps to open our mind, and brings people together. This is why we think a ‘Surfer’s Diet’ isn’t just for pro surfer’s, it’s for people who care about doing things the right way, and having a great time along the way. That’s why we made sure to include only the best and most nutritious recommendations in our surf diet above; because we love surfing, and we love everything related to it. Treating our bodies the right way helps us to surf, but also reminds us why we surf in the first place.
That’s all for now, everybody. Thanks for reading! Hopefully you learned a few tricks and tips for taking your nutrition, and your surf game, to the next level. For more blog posts, check out our Lifestyle Blog section of our website. Also, subscribe to our surf report for breathtaking pictures, good stories, and news about the week’s surf conditions at the Lodges.