The media is filled with news and information on the latest ways to improve human health and athletic abilities. You can improve your physical performance in every area from cycling to golf to spelunking! Yet equestrians seldom get the same attention.
Perhaps this is due to the long-held belief that the horse does all the work. Any rider will know that it’s a rigorous and physically demanding activity.
Half an hour of trotting will burn more calories than half an hour of low impact aerobics.
Factor in the additional energy requirements related to competition nerves and adrenalin and you’re clearly looking at a specialised area of study.
A good, balanced diet is essential to optimising peak performance. While most of us are familiar with countless diets to shed kilos, we’re not all so knowledgeable about a sports diet. Unlike traditional weight-loss diets, the goal should be to maintain energy levels, assist with muscle development and sustain good joints and bone density.
As with any healthy meal plan, fresh natural foods are your best bet. Refined sugars and processed carbohydrates not only pack on ‘empty calories’, but also cause unnatural energy spikes and dips which will affect your performance. Try to regulate fats and opt for unsaturated sources. Current dietary trends lean towards low carb/high protein diets. Traditionally, riders have been advised to keep a balance of both.
Don’t skip meals. You will perform better if you eat regular, balanced meals interspersed with healthy snacks. This will ensure that your body has a constant supply of energy to burn. Missing lunch and then heading out for a ride will leave you feeling ‘foggy’ and quick to tire. As a result of low energy levels, your aids may become inconsistent and your horse will be less likely to work correctly.
Post-training nutrition is just as important as meals before you ride. Hydration is obviously part of this.
A balanced diet should provide most of the vitamins and minerals you need, but riders may benefit from supplementation of three minerals which are often lost in sweat. Sodium is necessary to help your body absorb water, maintain fluid balance and stimulate the thirst reflex. Calcium is necessary for strong bones, as well as protecting against muscle cramps during exertion. Other options include broccoli or kale. Eventers and endurance riders may find them running low on potassium after long periods of exertion.
Text: Brigitte Billings, Photography: Shutterstock
For the full article, get the April 2015 issue of HQ Magazine, available via subscription, from your favourite news agent, and now also at Sportsman’s Warehouse!