Fit For Sailing

Andrew Verdon explains the importance of "eating to recover" after every sail or gym session.

Good recovery means providing the body with all the nutrients it needs, in a speedy and practical manner, to optimise the replenishment of fuel stores. Eating is the first step in good recovery practices from sporting activities or training.


Muscle glycogen is the main fuel used by the body during exercise. Inability to adequately replace glycogen stores used up during exercise will compromise performance in subsequent activities.

The major dietary factor in post-exercise refuelling is the amount of carbohydrate consumed. In the immediate post exercise period, athletes are encouraged to consume a carbohydrate-rich snack or meal that provides 1-1.2 g of carbohydrate per kg body weight within the first hour of finishing. This first hour is the “window” when rates of glycogen synthesis are greatest.

For most athletes an amount of 50 grams of carbohydrate is perfect. The list at the bottom gives examples of snacks providing at least 50g of carbohydrate.

The type and form (meal or snack) of carbohydrate that is suitable will depend on a number of factors but should be something healthy and that the athlete enjoys eating. Be sure to plan ahead and have a good quality snack available at the end of training or competition. Then always consume it within 30 minutes of finishing. Make this a habit as the first step when reaching the shore or as you de-rig on the way back from the race area.

Muscle Repair and Building

Prolonged and high-intensity exercise causes a substantial breakdown of muscle protein. During the recovery phase there is a reduction in catabolic (breakdown) processes and a gradual increase in anabolic (building) processes, which continues for at least 24 hours after exercise. Recent research has shown that early intake after exercise (within the first hour) of essential amino acids from good quality protein foods helps to promote the increase in protein rebuilding. Consuming food sources of protein in meals and snacks after this “window of opportunity” will further promote protein synthesis, though the rate at which it occurs is less.

Research shows that athletes will benefit from consuming 10-20g of high quality protein in the first hour after exercise. Adding a source of carbohydrate to this post exercise snack will further enhance the training adaptation by reducing the degree of muscle protein breakdown. See the list below for carbohydrate-rich snacks and a number of everyday foods that provide around 10g of protein.

Carbohydrate-rich recovery snacks
(50g CHo portions)
• 700-800ml sports drink
• 2 sports gels
• 500ml fruit juice or soft drink
• 300ml carbohydrate loader drink
• 2 slices toast/bread with jam or honey or banana topping
• 2 cereal bars
• 1 cup thick vegetable soup + large bread roll
• 300g (large) baked potato with salsa filling

Carbohydrate-protein recovery snacks
(contain 50g CHO + valuable source of protein)
• 250-300ml liquid meal supplement
• 250-300ml milk shake or fruit smoothie
• 600ml low fat flavoured milk
• 1-2 sports bars (check labels for carbohydrate and protein content)
• 1 large bowl (2 cups) breakfast cereal with milk
• 1 large or 2 small cereal bars + 200g carton fruit-flavoured yoghurt
• 220g baked beans on 2 slices of toast
• 1 bread roll with cheese/meat filling + large banana
• 300g (bowl) fruit salad with 200g fruit-flavoured yoghurt

Source: AIS Sports Nutrition department resources.

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