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The debates on nutrition in our lives seem to never end with fad diets and must-have super foods popping up daily. Fortunately for us, scientific sport nutrition is well researched with basic fundamental strategies for athletes to follow. If you are looking for peak performance, it is essential to understand how to best fuel your body before, during and after your stand up paddle training and racing.

The knowledge below is not revolutionary, but it does highlight three common mistakes that are easily avoidable for an endurance athlete. Regardless of your experience with nutrition, there is a chance you will make one of these mistakes this SUP race season and pay the price for it. If you feel sluggish in your training or racing it might have nothing to do with your level of fitness and more to do with the way you are fueling your body or your lack of planning before a race. Use this article to learn which stand up paddle nutrition mistakes to avoid so that you can reach your peak performance on race day. The information below is pulled from different parts of the 21-page chapter on stand up paddle nutrition in our upcoming eBook, SUP Training The Smart Way.

Top 3 Stand Up Paddle Nutrition Mistakes

1. ) Don’t be a rookie and try new nutrition on race day

One of the biggest mistakes an endurance athlete can make with their nutrition is trying untested hydration or nutrition on race day or in the days leading up to it. Use your training sessions to find what helps you feel the most energetic and light before a workout. Stick to this food, hydration and timing no matter what. Don’t try your friends new miracle sports drink mix on race day because they say it is, “the best thing ever!”. Trust us when we say that not sticking to your nutrition plan is a rookie mistake that can ruin the race you trained so hard for.

2.) Don’t think you need to eat a giant bowl of pasta to carb load

You might have heard of the great, ‘carb load’, leading up to a big race. Images of a massive spaghetti dinner with heaps of garlic bread might come to mind. The reason behind a pre-race dinner filled with carbohydrates is that our body needs energy in the form of carbohydrates to store in our muscles (as glycogen) and use on race day. The truth is that your body should already have extra stores of glycogen in your muscles, before your giant spaghetti dinner, if you are following a tapering training program. The lighter workouts during the week of your race will allow your muscles to store extra glycogen. This extra storage is under the assumption that you are already eating a well balanced diet with proper carbohydrate consumption.

You can still benefit from storing up as much glycogen (energy) in your muscles as possible starting the week of your race. A general recommendation is for an athlete to take in about 3-5.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight. So for a 150-lb athlete, the goal should be 450-825 grams of carbohydrates per day. This is a pretty wide range but will allow you to gradually increase your intake as the race approaches. Start out at the lower end and work your way up to the top end of the recommendation as the race approaches.  A simple strategy for the days leading up to a race is to make sure every meal has some high-carbohydrate food in it. Your goal should be to eat foods that are high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fat for easy digestion and good balance. You can still stuff your face with spaghetti, but just know that you don’t need to stress too much about eating enough carbohydrate if you are following a correct pre-race routine as described above.

3. )Don’t forget to eat your Wheaties

On second thought, Wheaties are loaded with sugar and you should actually not eat them. A big mistake many athletes make is that they do not eat the right foods at the right time in order to promote sufficient recovery. Each time you exercise, your body depletes it’s nutrient stores and is breaking down its muscle fibers, creating micro tears in your muscles. In a healthy athlete, the body repairs these tears and makes them stronger than before. This is the process by which we make improvements during our training. However, in order for our bodies to properly complete this rebuilding process, it needs adequate nutrients.

Nutrient intake should begin as soon as possible after finishing exercise. During this critical time, it is recommended to consume a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. Simply stated, for every 4 grams of carbohydrate you consume, you also need 1 gram of protein.

It is important to remember that not all foods are created equal. Four grams of french fries are not going to be absorbed and used as efficiently by your body as four grams of high quality sweet potato carbohydrate. Remember this simple concept when choosing your foods: If your food does not walk on four legs or grow from the soil, it is probably processed and of poor quality. Make good choices in the food you use for fuel and recovery and you will reap the benefits in your training and race performance.

Try These Foods

Consume a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein as soon as possible after exercise

-Try to eat simple carbohydrates within 30 minutes of exercise completion to immediately replenish lost glycogen stores.

-A range of 10-20 grams of protein taken immediately post-exercise is sufficient to support muscle repair and immune function. Common sources include, eggs, protein shakes and specialized recovery sports drinks.

-Banana with a power gel-snack within 30 minutes

-Cup of orange juice with handful of raisins-snack within 30 minutes

-Protein shake with ½ cup of oats, tbsp almond butter, half banana, two scoops of high quality whey protein-within an hour of exercise

-Spinach salad with tomatoes, chickpeas, green beans, tuna and whole grain bread-small meal 1-2 hours after exercise

-Whole grain pasta with tomatoes-2-3 hours after exercise

Remember that becoming a better SUP athlete and reaching your goals requires many things, a solid diet being one of them. Optimal stand up paddle nutrition is essential for peak performance. Nutritional misinformation can do as much harm to an ambitious athlete as good nutrition can help. Use the information from this article and implement it into your training and racing this SUP race season. For a more detailed look into stand up paddle nutrition, technique, race strategy and training, check out our eBook, SUP Training The Smart Way.





  1. Ben May 16, 2015 at 7:45 am #

    What do you recomend eating pre race and what time frame?

  2. chase May 20, 2015 at 4:28 pm #

    Thanks for the question Ben. Every athlete needs to find their own unique combination of foods and timing for each specific race. What works for someone else might not work for you. The goal prior to a training session or race is to maximize carbohydrate stores in the muscles and liver and to top up blood glucose stores. Athletes should eat complex carbohydrates and foods with a low to medium glycemic index before a race or training. This will allow for a relatively slow release of glucose into the blood and avoids any unwanted insulin surges. Consuming carbohydrate at least an hour before the start of a workout allows any hormonal imbalance to return to normal. Examples of low glycemic index foods include rice, whole grain breads, pasta, select fruits and oatmeal.

    A good pre-race or training meal might consist of pasta in a tomato sauce, oatmeal with banana, scrambled eggs on toast and fresh fruit such as apples, pears or orange juice. Some protein in the form of fish or chicken and vegetables could accompany the carbohydrates. This meal will ideally be eaten around two to three hours prior to the start of your activity.

    You can find more detailed analysis of nutrition prior to, during and after paddling in the Nutrition chapter of SUP Training The Smart Way. I hope this helps!

  3. Jerry Napp December 18, 2015 at 8:03 pm #

    Pre race is very individual and the way to really know what to use before the race is to fuel workouts and see how the body responds.
    What complicates pre race is to get a sustained fueled response with high intensity exercise to follow. I think the guide here is not unlike running – not that critical for efforts under an hour. But critical for races that will take longer.

    I would check your list regarding foods that are “low” on the Glycemic Index. Rice and OJ are both VERY high and can definitely spike blood sugar and then Insulin in response.

  4. chase December 19, 2015 at 6:49 pm #

    Thanks for the reply Jerry. Yes, it is important to note that every individual needs to experiment to find the best pre and post workout nutrition for them. Noted regarding rice and OJ.

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