Surfing Nutrition

20181113_114936.jpgMost people on this planet like to eat. I have come across a few who actually don’t really enjoy the act of eating, one person said to me ‘if there was a pill I could swallow every day to get all the nutrients I need, I would chose that over eating’, whilst this still blows my mind, I’ve come to accept it. So everyone eats for different reasons, these reasons are sometimes not even driven by hunger or the desire to eat, just simply because it’s there people will eat. It’s pretty safe to say that the majority of today’s society over eats. In 2014-15 according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 67% of Australian adults were overweight or obese. These stats indicate that Australian’s are over eating (however there are many flaws in the population tools used by AIHW but it’s the best data we have right now) and for the vast majority of Australians this is a result of over eating and under exercising.

However there is one group that seems to remain separate to the rest of the population, and this group is surfers. Of course there are outliers amongst this group, but the majority of surfers would be in the healthy weight category. Some probably fall into the overweight category but it would be pretty rare to find an obese surfer. Of course there are some people on this planet that would challenge that theory, I’m by no means saying there are no obese surfers. Just saying the majority of surfers would fall into the healthy weight category. And that is purely because of the nature of surfing, it is very much a cardio based sport, meaning it requires a certain amount of fitness for people to be able to maintain a certain level of surfing. Not only that but I think a lot of surfers have a certain love for the ocean and a love for surfing which drives them to push through physical capabilities to keep surfing if the conditions are good. This leads me to believe that the specific nature of surfing will often be the driver of surfer’s physical health. Even with a really poor diet, surfers will do a decent amount of cardio training, just in the act of surfing, which stops them from gaining as much weight as they would if they weren’t a surfer.

In saying that, I did a research project where I surveyed over 100 surfers on what they ate, and then compared the results to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGTHE). Surfers did not eat well on these comparisons. They were falling short on the recommended serves of vegetables, eating too much of the ‘discretionary’ foods and generally not eating along the recommended guidelines. I then looked at their approach to nutrition from an ‘athlete’ perspective. You might wonder what this means? Basically athletes have to have pretty good diets that allow them to reach success amongst their chosen sport. A recommended athlete diet is not much different to the recommendations from the AGTHE, however amounts and timing of intake become extremely important. That’s the basic difference, usually athletes can afford to eat more of certain foods and the time they ingest certain foods becomes critical to their training schedule. When I compared the surfers to an ‘athlete’ friendly diet, the results were even more off. Surfers seemed to have absolutely no idea what you should eat before a session, what you should eat after a session, how much fluid to consume, how long you can train before requiring more fuel and how to adequately fuel for sessions. So the information I currently have on surfers is that they don’t really eat a good diet, but they are quite physically fit and in within the healthy weight range. So why would eating a good diet help in any way?

Basically this information led me to believe that if surfers were doing the right things nutritionally speaking, maybe they could push that little bit further, surf for that little bit longer and get more out of their sessions. I’d ask surfers who wouldn’t want to be able to stay out for that little bit longer if the conditions are perfect? It’s always hard to paddle in when the waves are pumping, but your arms feel like lead bricks. As a surfer, you might look fit and healthy on the outside, but the foods you are putting into your body could be limiting your ability to push that little bit further, be fitter and healthier. Would you like a bit of knowledge around nutrition to push your arms that little bit more and get more waves in on a session? Well hopefully I can help. Stay tuned!