Tips to improve rider nutrition

Are you notorious for eating poorly at horse shows, or grabbing a fast food meal while rushing to the barn? These rider nutrition tips can help!

The importance of rider nutrition can’t be over emphasized. We wouldn’t dream of riding a dehydrated, hungry horse, but it’s not unusual for us to make our own nutrition secondary. Solving this problem requires acknowledging that there is a problem, doing some pre-planning, and then changing old habits.

Planning ahead

The first step to better riding nutrition is planning to have adequate foods on hand. This is obviously going to vary based on the conditions. If there is an ice chest or refrigerator available, the situation is different than if the food needs to be safe at room temperature for a long period (such as at horse shows). Also, you want foods you like to eat, that taste good to you and will sustain you through the activity. I would encourage practicing the foods along with the workouts to see what works best for you. You might be surprised to see which combinations hold you the best, and agree with you.

A frittata is a pre-prepared meal that some people enjoy. It consists of sautéed vegetables with added scrambled eggs and seasonings. It can be done a day in advance. You can prepare several servings, cut it into wedges, and then chill it. It is easy to carry along and eat out of your hand. The vegetables can be customized to whichever ones you like best.

Get ahead of the game

The next step is to be sure to start the competition well hydrated and well nourished. If you begin in good shape from having eaten well and pushed water the 24 hours before, you are much less vulnerable to issues during the competition. So the night before, have a big meal that is balanced with a protein, vegetables or salad, a starchy vegetable like potato or corn, and good oils like organic butter, olive oil or coconut oil. Avoid alcohol the night before competition because of its dehydrating effect.

Balanced snacks

For athletic nourishment, the fundamental principle is to have a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat for maximum performance. This combination gives a sustained blood sugar over the long haul. What does this look like in foods, you might ask? An example snack would be an apple with the core filled with peanut butter. The peanut butter provides the fat and protein while the apple provides the carbohydrate. It’s fresh, easy to carry, easy to eat out of hand, does not require refrigeration and many people enjoy it. A sandwich can work well also. Even a slice of pizza has all the components.

A sweet snack that is straight sugar, like a soft drink or juice, would not be a good idea. Diet soft drinks are also a problem – they are not hydrating, have caffeine that can cause jitters, and negatively affect the blood sugar. A better tolerated option would be something like chocolate or nuts where there is the fat in addition to the sugar. Coconut oil and cocoa butter are good fats.

Hydration is key

Make sure you are well hydrated during the 24 hours before competing. In order to achieve this, drink eight glasses of water the day before, and make sure you don’t consume any alcohol (dehydrating). On the day of your show, plan your water drinking a half hour before your next saddle break. If it is very warm, include electrolytes such as salt and potassium to replace the electrolytes lost in your sweat. An easy electrolyte drink to make at home and bring along is half orange juice and half water, with half a teaspoon of salt.

Creating good habits

Good nutrition generally starts with a plan or menu. If we do not have good ingredients on hand, it is not possible to prepare good meals. It is possible to purchase many good foods pre-prepared, but they also need to be acquired. Sometimes people do not make a plan because they actually want an excuse for eating the immediate gratification foods available for quick purchase. Unfortunately, they will probably not feel as well or perform as well on these foods. Some people decide to fast and just don’t eat or drink anything. Not eating food will probably be okay if you are not hungry from poor food choices the day before, but being dehydrated from not drinking water can create more serious problems. So drink your water even if you decide not to eat.

In conclusion, take a little time to plan and purchase your food and beverages, practice including your nutrition in your activities, and create good habits around eating. You will feel better, perform better, and probably have more fun if you make rider nutrition a priority!