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Why eating and drinking will help you to perform better in the saddle

Kimberley Garlick, is a nutrition and rehabilitative Pilates specialist with tips to keep your body in peak condition, to improve your riding performance.

Good nutrition fuels your body like jet fuel in a V8 Super Car.

Food and fluid choices affect your cognitive behaviour and body function. Eat and drink the right stuff and you will have optimum reaction time, temperament, composure, memory and energy to compete at your best.

I am sure if I was talking to you about your horse’s nutrition I would be preaching to the converted but it is often forgotten that your four legged friend requires you to be in the best shape possible also.

My number one recommendation is to increase your water intake and reduce all sugary drinks and this is why. A lack of water to the brain causes poor focus, decreased memory, increased brain fatigue, headaches, increased anxiety and aggression along with poor sleep. Your brain is 85% water and I recommend a minimum of 2 litres per day on a normal day and much more on hot demanding days. If you suffer cramping, get headaches, notice you haven’t gone to the loo or that your urine is bright yellow it is highly likely you are dehydrated. Rehydrate immediately with just room temperature water to avoid brain fog and worse case scenario renal failure.

Sugary drinks are not an alternative; they not only affect the waistline but also create havoc on our hormones and insulin levels. The increase of dopamine (the feel good hormone), gives the highs but with that you’re bound to have the lows and this can cause massive mood swings, anxiety and poor decision making. Water is cheap and your mind, waistline and muscles are going to thank you.

Nutrition is a minefield and many have specific dietary requirements but generally the basics still apply. Nutrition is about feeding the systems of your body.

Breakfast is essential for any athlete as it prepares the body for the day. Your energy levels can be directly affected by breakfast and you should try to have a low GI (glycaemic index) option. Weetbix, natural muesli, yogurt, berries, eggs, multigrain toast and avocado are all great options. It is all about slow releases of sugar to the blood stream to give you long lasting energy for both brain and body.

Your metabolism requires refuelling often. Eating small meals about every 3-4 hours is ideal. Good snack ideas are almonds, yogurt, apples, bananas, natural muesli bars or good protein bars.

Lunch options can be as simple as sandwiches or wraps, use avocado instead of butter with proteins such as chicken, tuna, lean meat with as much salad as you like. Try to limit your deli meats and cheeses.

Dinner can become arduous for the busy rider and their digestive system. To create less work for you and the digestive system eat as early as possible and avoid high fat stodgy food. Keep it simple when you are time poor and experiment when your time is ample. Many people fall apart when their dietary recommendations are too complicated. So here are some simple dinner suggestions, small serve of protein with salad or vegetables or a stir-fry with basmati rice. Try sweet potato as a replacement for potatoes.

Avoid pasta, normal rice, bread, creamy sauces and deserts. To help decrease your sweet cravings try brushing your teeth straight after dinner and you will no longer want that ice cream. Your dinner choices affect sleep, morning moods, and tomorrow’s energy.

All of your well thought out training and planning can fall apart at the seams if your nutrition isn’t right. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. The biggest change is to increase your water intake and decrease your sugary drinks then go from there.

Happy eating and riding!

Kimberley Garlick
Northern Rivers Pilates
Dip Nutrition
Dip Rehab Pilates