Fuel your indoor rowing machine sessions

What should you eat before and after indoor rowing training sessions? Nutritionist Jacqueline Birtwisle suggests some easy recipes to fit in around your training

The below recipes are all suitable for a 70kg rower, so consider slightly adjusting the amounts depending on your weight relative to a 70kg rower.

Pre-row breakfast

  • Three slices of thick bread – wholegrain if tolerated, weighing about 40g each
  • Butter and jam, honey or yeast extract on two slices Peanut butter on one slice
  • Satsuma or kiwi fruit
  • Glass of water
  • Cup of tea or coffee with skimmed milk



Why is this good for you?

Eating breakfast provides fluids and tops up reduced glycogen stores after the previous day’s training, and provides carbohydrates for the liver to store as glycogen. It’s also about meeting your body’s nutritional requirements for the rest of the day.

However, food is only useful if it’s digested and absorbed properly. A meal high in protein, fat and fibre,* generally takes longer to digest and so is more likely to cause gut upset. Along with a good amount – around 1.0-1.5g of carbohydrates per kilo of bodyweight – a pre-indoor rowing breakfast should provide some protein and some fat.

A satsuma or kiwi fruit for vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron from the wholemeal bread and peanut butter and provides one of your ‘five a day’. This breakfast provides around a gram of carbohydrates per kilo of
bodyweight, 20 grams of protein and 20 grams of fat, plus important fluid before a training session lasting an hour or less.

* 11 grams fibre (switching to white bread would lower the fibre intake)

When to eat it?

Allow 1-2 hours after eating breakfast before training, choosing foods that are ‘comfortable’ in your gut. But if you find yourself with less than an hour until training then keep the fat low by switching the peanut butter for more jam or yeast extract.

Post-row breakfast

  • Porridge
  • Milk
  • Raisins
  •  Honey
  • Yoghurt (possibly Greek-style)
  • Glass of orange juice
  • Glass of water

Why is this good for you?

This recovery breakfast ticks all the boxes for the main nutrients of carbohydrates, fats and proteins and fluids, together with potassium and the antioxidant vitamins C and E, plus B vitamins, important for carbohydrate metabolism.

The addition of a Greek-style yoghurt boosts the protein intake while keeping the fat, and therefore overall calories lower. If you’re struggling to keep weight on, or are wanting to increase bulk, then using regular Greek yoghurt and milk will boost the protein and calorie intake.

The carbohydrates will restore glycogen stores, while the milk, juice and water will restore fluids and electrolytes. The protein is important for the repair, rebuild and adaptation processes within muscles and other cells.

When to eat it?

If you have around 24 hours before your next training session, then enjoy this breakfast at your leisure. If you have a second training session in less than eight hours, then eat as soon as practically possible to enhance the refuelling process.

This article first appeared in Rowing & Regatta magazine.

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