Surfer: a healthy diet provides the nutrients that will keep your energy levels optimal | Photo: Cestari/WSL

Taking care of yourself through sports nutrition is just as important to being a good surfer as any other factor.

Water sports enthusiasts, in general, need lots of stamina to keep up, and it's important to know what your body needs.

Being an athlete requires good nutrition to keep your energy levels optimal - especially when training and performing in a competition.

The following guide features healthy food recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and ideas and tips to keep surfing all day and healthy all week.

What to Drink: Fluid Intake

Drinking water is a crucial aspect of physical fitness, and no section on nutrition would be complete without an honorable mention.

When you're dehydrated, you don't perform well - you get tired faster, and the risk of heat stroke increases.

So, how much fluid is enough?

Water: when you're dehydrated, you don't perform well | Photo: Julia Zolotova/Creative Commons


Here's a basic water intake guideline. It varies from surfer to surfer:

  • 4 hours before training: drink 300-500 ml of water;
  • 2 hours before training: drink 150-350 ml of water;
  • 20 mins while training: drink 130-250 ml of water;
  • If you train again within 12 hours: drink at least 1.5 liters of water;

Adding sodium to foods or fluids can help you retain fluid and maintain plasma electrolyte balance.

That's not hard, right? As you can see, it doesn't take much.

So, how do you know if you have had enough? Here's a simple way of monitoring your hydration levels - check your urine:

  • If your pee is light-colored, you're well-hydrated;
  • If you can only squeeze out a little and see a darkish color, drink up;

Are you surfing in the heat? This probably applies to 80 percent of surfers, but you will dehydrate faster if you're not used to it.

If you are going to a competition in a temperature you're not used to, acclimatize yourself before competing:

  • Train in a similar environment before competing;
  • Go to the site at least a week before game day and practice;

Easy access to water will also increase consumption:

  • Keep fluids close and accessible;
  • Keep water chilled;
  • Add a little flavor;
  • Sodium can enhance taste and encourage the desire to drink;

Are you tired of drinking water? Make your own sports drink. You can quickly make a fluid replacement drink by mixing:

  • 500 ml of unsweetened orange juice;
  • 500 ml of water;
  • 1.25-1.75 ml of salt;


Smoothies are probably the best way to get all the nutrients your body needs before and after physical exercise or training.

The benefits include:

  • Quickly and easily digestible, meaning fast energy and quick recovery;
  • Do not have to be broken down, like solid foods;
  • Hydration;
  • Simple and convenient;
  • Easily consumable even if you're not hungry;
  • One smoothie can contain all the essential nutrients your body needs for training before and/or after;

The best smoothies will be fluid blends that are:

  • High in carbs;
  • Moderate in protein;
  • Low in fat and fiber;
  • Have just a dash of electrolytes (sodium and potassium);

Smoothies: they contain all the essential nutrients your body needs for training, before and after | Photo: Anthony Shkraba/Creative Commons

Here's a super easy smoothie recipe:

  • One 355 ml can of frozen orange juice (not thawed);
  • Two 355 ml cans of 1 percent milk or skim milk (use empty juice can for measuring);
  • One pinch of salt;

Blend everything in a blender, and it'll make four servings.


The effects of caffeine are still not completely understood. However, consensus says that the benefits of caffeine are:

  • Stimulation of the central nervous system;
  • Reduces perceived effort of exercise;
  • Enhances muscle fiber contraction;

If taken an hour before exercise, just a small amount of caffeine (70-150 mg) can enhance reaction time, concentration, and alertness and improve performance for both endurance and short, high-intensity actions.

Several beverages containing caffeine - drip coffee, brewed coffee, instant coffee, espresso, brewed tea, cola, etc., are examples.

Other good and natural sources of caffeine are:

  • Guarana seeds;
  • Kola nut;
  • Yerba mate;

Coffee: if taken an hour before exercise, it can enhance reaction time, concentration, and alertness and improve performance | Photo: Pixabay/Creative Commons

The possible adverse side effects of caffeine are as follows:

  • Insomnia;
  • Headache;
  • Nervousness;
  • Anxiety;
  • Inability to focus;
  • Arrhythmia;
  • Tachycardia;
  • Hypertension;
  • Lightheadedness;
  • Irritability;
  • Nausea;
  • Gastrointestinal distress;

You are always the best judge of your body and your comfort intake levels.

Caffeine takes time to work through your system. Take it sparingly and in small doses. Give it about 30 to 60 for effects before having more.

What to Eat: Dietary Intake

Know which food to ingest before, during, and after surfing.


Contrary to popular belief, carbs are good for you, and you will need them when training and performing.

Carbohydrates are stored in your muscles - where you need the energy - so you can go harder, longer.

People often get confused about carbohydrates.

Some are not so good, such as simple carbs found in lots of processed foods, and then there are the good ones, the ones you need, found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and yogurt.

The other misconception is how many carbs to consume, which varieties, and when.

Because surfing is such an endurance watersport, loading up on carbs while riding waves for long periods of time will significantly increase your performance.

It's great to load up while training.

Come competition day, though, it is better to decrease the percentage of carbohydrates from fiber and stick to lighter, easily absorbed ones like fruits and veggies.

Due to the nature of competitions, with all the stop-and-go activities, if you load up with too much protein and fiber, you may find yourself feeling bloated and heavy.

Too many carbs, like anything, of course, is not good. It's best to load up 1-4 days while training before a competition.

Otherwise, you'll just be putting on extra weight that's not going anywhere if you're not training.

Pasta: a good source of good carbohydrates | Photo: Klaus Nielsen/Creative Commons

Here are a few examples of sources of good carbohydrates:

1 large bagel = 60 g
1 small banana = 15 g
1 cup/250 ml cooked pasta = 30 g
¾ cup/175 ml cooked oatmeal = 15 g
1 cup/250 ml flaky unsweetened cereal = 30 g
1 cup/250 ml cooked rice = 45 g
1 medium potato = 30 g
1 cup/250 ml milk = 15 g
1 cup/250 ml cooked corn = 30 g
1 cup/250 ml fruit yogurt = 30-40 g
2 cups/500 ml sports drink = 30 g

Now, memorize the following tips:

  • Your body needs carbs to burn for energy, or you'll get tired fast;
  • Load up 1-4 days while training before a competition, so you have lots stored;
  • Come game day, stick to lighter foods so you don't feel heavy or bloated;
  • Don't load up on carbs when you're not training - you need to burn off those consumed carbs, or you'll put on extra weight;


Chances are, if you're eating enough quantity from a wide variety of food sources, you are getting enough minerals.

Minerals are also very important for sports nutrition and energy.

So, if you're not sure if you're getting enough or if you're feeling tired or exhausted, here's a list of excellent mineral sources:

  • Iron: green leafy vegetables, beans, tofu, cabbage, millet;
  • Calcium: almonds, soya milk, broccoli, spinach, watercress;
  • Zinc: lentils, whole grains, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds;
  • Iodine: asparagus, kelp;
  • Magnesium: soya beans, avocado, bananas, apples, nuts;
  • Selenium, phosphorous, and potassium: strawberries, tomatoes, chickpeas, and yeast extract;

Competition Day

Are you entering a surf contest? Prior to competing, generally allow:

  • 3-4 hours to partially digest a big meal;
  • 2-3 hours for a moderate-sized meal;
  • Less than 2 hours for a pre-event snack;

When it comes to hydration, remember the following:

  • Drink 500 ml of fluid 2 hours before your event;
  • Drink 250-500 ml 45 to 30 minutes before your event;
  • Drink 150-350 ml every 15 to 20 minutes during your event;

Competitive surfing: a pre-heat nutrition and hydration plan will balance the body's energy needs | Photo: Dunbar/WSL

If there are less than 90 minutes between events or heats, choose mostly carbohydrates with ample fluids.

For example, water, sports drinks, sports nutrition bars, fruit, unsweetened juices, bagels, low-fat muffins, cereal bars, granola bars, trail mix, fruit leather, or nuts.

If you've got more than 90 minutes between events or heats, have a mini-meal with ample fluids like water, juice, or milk.

For instance, a half-to-full sandwich, peanut butter, and crackers, or low-fat muffin and cheese.

Recovery Mode

Spend energy to get energy - very true.

But you need to re-pay that spent energy back to your body, and the body isn't a very patient loan shark.

The sooner you replenish with the right nutrients, the better your body will respond and recover.

Exercise is hard on the body, and within just two hours, you may have used up all stored carbohydrate energy, started breaking down various muscle and red blood cells, and lost over two liters of water (sweat).

The body's cells are most receptive to re-nourishment in the first 30 minutes after intense activity - this is stage 1. Within 1-2 hours, it is considered stage 2.

There are four main nutrients necessary for these critical recovery stages:

  • Carbohydrates;
  • Protein;
  • Fluid/Sodium;
  • Antioxidants (especially vitamins C and E and beta-carotene);

So, what's a good example of a post-exercise sports nutrition recovery meal plan?

Stage 1

For stage 1, within 30 minutes after exercise, your body will need:

  • Banana, yogurt, or juice;
  • Peanut butter sandwich, strawberries, milk, or juice;
  • Flavored milk, granola bar, apple, and water;
  • Sports drink, cheese strings, grapes, juice, or water;
  • Low-fat muffin or bagel, homemade smoothie (blend milk, yogurt, fruit, juice, and ice);
  • Protein bar, orange, pretzels, and juice or water;
  • Meal replacement drink, carbohydrate sports bar, apple, or water;

Stage 2

For stage 2, 1-2 hours after exercise, your body should get:

  • Meat or cheese sandwich loaded with veggies and milk or juice;
  • Chicken and vegetable stir-fry with brown rice and milk, juice, or water;
  • Whole wheat pasta with meatballs, vegetable salad, and milk, juice, or water;
  • Grilled salmon, quinoa, or whole wheat couscous, raw veggies with light dip, and milk, juice, or water;
  • Bowl of cereal with yogurt or milk, fresh fruit, and water or juice;
  • Scrambled eggs with cheese and diced peppers, whole wheat bagel, and milk, juice, or water;
  • Lentil soup, whole wheat bun, Greek yogurt/regular yogurt, fruit salad, and water, soy beverage, or milk;
  • Pasta salad tossed with chopped vegetables, canned tuna or chicken breast, and milk, juice, or water;
  • Cottage cheese or Greek yogurt, fruit salad, low-fat muffin, and milk, juice, or water;

Fruits: they help maintain a stronger immune system and prevent cell damage | Photo: Lisa/Creative Commons

An Everyday Diet Plan

While you're out of the water, it's also essential to have healthy eating and drinking habits.

Fruits and Veggies

We've all been told to eat our veggies and that they're good for us.

But in case you need more examples, here are three extra good reasons fruits and veggies are great for sports nutrition:

  • Fruit and veggies help maintain a stronger immune system;
  • Fruit and veggies prevent cell damage;
  • Fruit and veggies provide lasting energy;

Remember that it is especially important to get enough fruit, including superfruits and veggie nutrients, when training, competing or traveling because of the extra stress put on your body.

The Reds

They contain nutrients such as vitamins A and C.

Vegetables like tomatoes also contain lycopene, which is one of the phytonutrients responsible for the color red.

Vitamins A and C are essential for building strong bones.

Go for tomatoes, red bell peppers, beets, radishes, red onions, red/purple cabbage, etc.

The Greens

They contain lutein, zeaxanthin, folate, Vitamin A, and potassium.

Lutein, zeaxanthin, and Vitamin A help protect the eyes and promote good vision. Potassium plays a crucial role in muscle contraction.

Go for dark leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, arugula, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, Brussels sprouts, green peppers, etc.

The Oranges

They contain potassium and are rich in carotenoids such as beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is converted into Vitamin A in the body and helps support immune function.

Go for carrots, pumpkins, orange-colored squash, sweet potatoes, etc.

The Purples

They contain nutrients like anthocyanins, which may have antioxidant properties that support heart, eye, and brain health.

Go for eggplant, purple potatoes, purple cabbage, etc.

The Whites

They contain allicin and indoles, which have antioxidant properties.

Go for onions, garlic, potatoes, cauliflower, mushrooms, turnips, parsnips, artichokes, etc.

Grilled salmon: a good source of healthy unsaturated fats | Photo: Malidate Van/Creative Commons


Are you getting enough good fat? The right kind of fat is good, but only certain fats are.

Not enough fat in the diet may compromise growth and maturation and negatively affect health, including hair, skin, and bones.

Fats are good for:

  • Providing energy;
  • Transporting and absorbing vitamins (A, D, E, K);
  • Protecting organs and cells;
  • Creating specific hormones;

Sources of Fat

Polyunsaturated fats, especially when including Omega-6, are essential. These are found in such foods as:

  • Nuts and seeds;
  • Sunflower, safflower, and corn oils;
  • Fish and fish oil;
  • Avocados;

Monounsaturated fats are also very good, but in moderation:

  • Olive and canola oil;
  • Peanuts and peanut butter;

Saturated fats are ok, but in small, less frequent portions:

  • Dairy and meat;
  • Hydrogenated oils;

Trans fats are bad fats. Your body can't absorb or break them down. Stay away from them. They can be primarily found in processed foods.

Food Storage

Foods lose their nutrients from excessive exposure to air, sunlight, water, and heat.

The following tips can help keep your foods nutrient-rich:

  • Store vegetables and fruits separately in air-tight containers in the fridge;
  • Ripen fruits in a paper bag (with an apple or banana) in a cupboard - not out in the sunlight;
  • Quickly wash produce just before consumption;
  • Eat vegetables raw or steamed;
  • Avoid boiling vegetables;
  • Microwave vegetables with minimal added water;
  • Cover leftover/uneaten cooked vegetables with air-tight wrapping;
  • Cover cut fruits with air-tight wrapping;

Food storage: keep nutrients in a cool and dry place | Photo: Polina Tankilevitch/Creative Commons

Eat Well And Save Money

Do you want to eat healthy without spending too much money?

We all have reasons to save a few pennies here and there - we're students and parents, we're chasing our dreams, need to buy a new board, travel to a competition, etc.

Here are a few ideas to help you get away from the mac 'n' cheese diet and get the nutrients you really need:

  • Bring your own reusable water bottle;
  • Use coupons;
  • Buy in bulk - freeze the extras;
  • Cook in bulk - freeze the extras;
  • Buy canned or frozen foods;
  • Don't buy pre-packaged/convenience foods;
  • Buy only fresh foods you can eat before they go bad;
  • Make your own snacks;
  • Pre-pack your own lunches - invest in reusable storage containers;

Things to Avoid

The best way to curb junk-food cravings is to keep healthy, quick, and tasty snacks handy, such as dried fruits, nuts, popcorn, or toasted salty beans - they really are delish.

And you can also have actual good treats like frozen yogurt or natural dark chocolate.

Of course, there's another appropriate saying you may have heard - everything in moderation.

Nevertheless, whenever possible, try to avoid or reduce the intake of alcoholic beverages, processed foods, and excessive caffeine.


We all like to drink a few beers or glasses of wine now and then, especially after a big event or big win.

Just don't do it before competing, as it will most certainly affect your physical and mental performance.

The negative effects of alcohol performance are as follows:

  • Reduces performance potential by up to 11 percent in elite athletes and perhaps by as much as 15-30 percent in high school athletes;
  • Impairs the athlete's reaction time for up to 12 hours after consumption;
  • Delays exercise recovery - alcohol impairs blood glucose for up to 36 hours, affecting energy production and optimum physical/mental performance;
  • Decreases protein synthesis for the repair of muscle tissue during post-exercise/recovery;
  • Reduces Human Growth Hormone (HGH) release by up to 70 percent during sleeping hours when (normal) release is at peak levels - negating the ability to build/maintain muscle mass efficiently;
  • Dramatically increases the release of the stress hormone cortisol - negating the training effect;
  • Depresses the immune system - statistics show athletes who drink get sick more often;
  • Drinkers are twice as likely to become injured as non-drinkers;
  • Heavy drinking results in projected losses of up to 14 days of training effect;

Do you still want that drink? Sure. Just be smart about it:

  • Do drink lots of water between drinks and after - hangovers are mostly due to dehydration;
  • Don't drink "doubles";
  • Don't overdo it;
  • Don't drink before training or competing;

Beer: drinking too much alcohol affects your physical and mental performance | Photo: Kindel Media/Creative Commons

Processed Foods, Convenient Dinners, Sugars, Candies, and Pastries

Again, with the tasty, easy stuff - it's just not good for you. It's plain and simple.

There is nothing beneficial for you in these foods, and certainly, not anything that will provide you with decent sports nutrition for training or competing.

Sure, it's quick, easy, and yummy, but you are doing yourself more harm than good - just for a quick fix.

Here are a few reasons why processed foods and sugars are not healthy:

  • Your body can't metabolize the ingredients properly, which leads to weight gain, sluggish mental and physical reactions, and mood swings;
  • It may seem cheap at the time, but often it is more expensive;
  • There are very few - if any - nutrients in the ingredients;
  • You will feel tired and hungry soon after;
  • Often, the packaging is excessive, non-degradable waste;


As mentioned above, the effects of caffeine are still debatable.

Small doses can be beneficial, but everybody has different reactions to it, and most people experience negative effects from consuming too much.

You are your body's best judge - evaluate your comfort intake levels.

Caffeine takes time to work through your system.

Take it sparingly and in small doses, and give it about 30-60 minutes for effects before having more.


It's never good to take lots of power shake mixes and supplements.

If you can't read the ingredients, stay away from them. Make sure your food and nutrition are as natural as possible.

Supplements make you feel great and will get you addicted.

They provide energy that lasts all day, keeping you sharp, alive, and ready to take on the world.

But they're not cheap and rarely state in plain English what the ingredients and their sources are.

Stay natural. Eat and drink what Nature gives you.

Words by Nicole Rigler | Skimboarder

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