Surfing demands a lot from your body, and if you want to perform at your best, you need to fuel it with the right kinds of healthy food.
A proper diet is essential for surfers to maintain good health, improve performance, and prevent injuries.
We need to consume enough calories to fuel our bodies during long sessions and a diet promoting fast recovery so you’re all set for tomorrow’s waves.
Let’s take the guesswork out with our ultimate guide to surfing nutrition with example diets and a proper breakdown of what you should eat and drink before and after the surf.
Understanding The Importance of Nutrition For Surfers
You can optimise your performance and stay healthy by fueling your body with the right food. And it’s not rocket science; we’ve got some great research on good sports nutrition.
Let’s look at the basics of healthy eating and some food choices you can make to instantly improve your ocean performance.
Paddling and catching waves is physically demanding. A balanced diet that includes nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats is essential to maintain our energy levels and perform at our best.
Carbs are our body’s primary energy source; we need heaps to keep those paddle muscles going through a long surf session.
Complex carbs, like wholegrains, fruits, and vegetables, are your best energy sources. They provide sustained energy that can keep us going for long periods of time and help us avoid the crashes involved with simple and refined carbs like bread and sugar.
*Helpful reading – Get the full story on surfing calories burned here.
Proteins are essential for shredders of any age or body type. Ensure you eat enough protein will be key to turning you into a fast, lean surfer.
They help repair and build our muscles, which is crucial for us to perform at our best. Make sure to include lean meats, fish, eggs, beans and nuts in your diet.
Healthy fats were demonised for a long time, but they’re one of the healthiest fuels for your body.
They provide us with long-lasting energy and help us stay full for longer. Good sources of healthy fats include nuts, seeds, avocados (my personal favourite with scrambled eggs), and fatty fish.
Try to limit saturated fat and other bad fats like trans fats. They’re hard for the digestive system to break down, and you can normally find them in foods low in nutritional value.
Vitamins & minerals
These nutrients are essential for our overall health and help us avoid injuries and illnesses.
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is the best way to ensure we get all the necessary vitamins and minerals.
Now we’ve got to grips with the basics of good nutrition. Let’s move on to an example diet geared towards improving your time in the water and making you feel better all around.
Meal Planning for Surfers: Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
It’s easy to tell you what you need to eat and then leave you to it, but we want to go further and suggest some simple meal alternatives that will hit all your nutrition basics.
Let’s look at some great meals and snacks you can knock together in no time and give your body everything it wants and needs.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for a good surfer! It kickstarts your metabolism and gives you the energy to start the day. A balanced breakfast should include protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.
Some light breakfast options before or after your session include:
- Greek yoghurt with fruit and granola (make sure to grab granola with no added sugar)
- Oatmeal with nuts and berries
- Avocado toast with a side of scrambled eggs (my favourite breakfast in the world, try adding chilli flakes if you like a bit of spice)
- Protein smoothie with spinach, banana, and almond milk
We want to get enough protein for lunch to help our muscles recover.
Here are some easy options for meat lovers and vegetarians alike:
- Grilled chicken or fish with brown rice and roasted vegetables
- Quinoa salad with avocado, black beans, and salsa (chilli sauce is a winner here)
- Turkey and cheese sandwich on whole grain bread with a side of fruit
- Lentil soup with a side of whole-grain crackers
Believe it or not, dinner should be your lightest meal.
We want to focus on getting enough protein to help our muscles recover and repair overnight without feeling too full before bedtime.
Some dinner options for surfers include:
- Grilled salmon with roasted sweet potatoes and green beans
- Vegetable stir-fry with tofu and brown rice
- Turkey chilli with a side of quinoa
- Spinach and feta stuffed chicken breast with a side of roasted broccoli
Daily snacking helps to maintain energy production and avoid overeating during meals. Some great snack options for surfers include:
- Apple slices with almond butter
- Carrots and hummus
- Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
- Protein bar or shake
- Piece of fruit
Now we’ve covered what to eat, let’s move on to your hydration needs.
Hydration In The Waves
Staying hydrated is a must for optimal performance in the water. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, cramps, and impaired cognitive function.
Water is the most important nutrient for the human body, and we need to drink plenty of it to stay alive.
We should drink at least eight glasses of water daily, but in the sun’s heat, you need to drink even more to replace the fluids lost through sweating and nonstop surfing.
We should aim to drink water before, during, and after our sessions to hydrate properly.
If you’re lucky to be somewhere tropical, coconut water, rich in natural electrolytes, is perfect for rehydrating quickly.
Coconut water is a great alternative to sports drinks, but be careful not to overdo it; you’ll be surprised how many calories it has.
How do you know if you are dehydrated when you’re surfing?
Signs of dehydration include thirst, dry mouth, fatigue, and dark urine. If you start experiencing these symptoms, stop surfing and rehydrate immediately.
Even mild dehydration can impair surfing performance and hinder your ability to do various tricks and manoeuvres.
Next, I want to look at something rarely discussed in surfing.
The Role of Supplements in a Surfer’s Diet
Along with a good diet, supplements can help us get all the micronutrients we might not pick up in our daily meals.
In this section, we will discuss the role of supplements. I want to clarify that I am not a medical professional, this is just an overview, and I strongly recommend checking with your physician before you make any major changes to your diet or eating habits.
Types of Supplements
There are various types of supplements that surfers can use to enhance their performance in and out of the ocean.
- Multivitamins: These supplements contain essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function correctly.
- Protein Powder: Protein is essential for repairing and building muscles. Protein powder supplements can help you meet your daily protein requirements.
- Creatine: Creatine is a natural substance found in your muscles. It helps to improve strength and endurance.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Normally found in oily fish, they’re great for heart health, reducing inflammation, and improving brain function.
Benefits of Supplements
- Improved Performance: Supplements can help us meet our nutritional requirements and fill gaps in our diet.
- Faster Recovery: Supplements like protein powder and creatine can help us recover faster after a heavy session
- Reduced Inflammation: Supplements like omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation, mediate post-surf aches and pains, maintain joint health, and minimise the chance of injuring yourself while surfing.
Risks of Supplements
While supplements are positive overall, there are a few things to keep in mind when using supplements:
- Potential Side Effects: Some supplements can cause nausea, diarrhoea, and stomach cramps.
- Interactions with Medications: Some supplements can interact with your medications, so it’s essential to check with a healthcare professional before taking any supplements.
- Quality Control: Not all supplements are created equal. Choose high-quality supplements from reputable brands.
Avoiding Processed Foods and Sugars
The modern diet contains excess calories, unhealthy fats, and added sugars with little to no health benefits.
My best advice would be to avoid it most of the time and choose naturally sweet foods like fruits instead of sugary foods like chocolate and sweets.
That’s not to say you can’t have the occasional blowout, but moderation is the key.
Here are my top tips for avoiding nasty processed foods and sugars:
- Read food labels carefully and look for ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and artificial colours and flavours.
- Choose whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
- Cook meals at home using fresh ingredients.
- Avoid sugary drinks like soda and sports drinks. Instead, drink water, unsweetened tea, or coffee.
- Limit your intake of desserts and sweets. Instead, satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh fruit or a small piece of dark chocolate.
You’ll have more energy, feel better, and progress faster in the water; it really is a win-win.
Fast Recovery Between Hitting The Waves
Want some super quick foods that will let you hit the surf fully rejuvenated? Here are some of our favourite speedy food sources to grab and go.
Protein is crucial for muscle recovery and growth. We recommend eating 0.7-1 gram of protein per pound of weight daily and eating 30 to 60 minutes after leaving the waves. Here are some quick grab foods you could use:
- Greek yoghurt
- Biltong (make sure to avoid jerky that’s packed with sugar. You want a bit of salt, and that’s it)
- Nuts and pulses
- Protein bars
*Pro tip – Getting a consistent supply of healthy protein and staying active is one of the best ways to maintain a lean body into older age.
Smoothies are a great recovery food if you don’t use too much sugar-rich fruit. Here are some great base ingredients that you can build on:
- Greek yoghurt
- Almond butter
Rest and Sleep
While it’s not necessarily food or drink, sleep is essential for recovery and muscle repair.
We recommend getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night and taking occasional rest days to allow your body to recover fully.
You’d be amazed how much sleep can affect performance, and you want to give yourself all the advantages you can when you’re trying to get better at surfing.
Frequently Asked Questions
There’s a lot to think about regarding the best diet for surfers. Let’s examine some of the internet’s most pressing questions and see if we can help.
What are some key nutrients that surfers need in their diet?
Carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. Carbs are essential for energy, Protein is important for muscle repair and growth, and healthy fats are important for brain function.
What are some good sources of carbohydrates for surfers?
Brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread, fruits like bananas and berries, and vegetables like sweet potatoes and spinach. These all provide sustained energy and can help you power through long sessions with lots of paddling.
What are some tips for staying hydrated while surfing?
Drink plenty of water before, during, and after surfing to keep your hydration levels up. You can also eat water-rich foods like fruits and veggies.
What are some good post-surfing meals or snacks?
A smoothie with fruit, spinach and protein powder, a turkey and avocado sandwich on whole wheat bread, or some scrambled eggs and avocado are all delicious easy meals we love here at Honest Surf.
What are some common mistakes that surfers make with their nutrition?
Going for the quick calorie-dense option like biscuits or lots of bread. It can power you for your next shred, but it won’t give you the right nutrients you need to maintain and build muscle and can lead to weight gain in later life (trust me!).