Fuel yourself: The importance of nutrition for the busy equestrian
ARC Nutrition was founded by Hampshire-based sports nutritionist (ANutr) Alice Clarke. Also a keen equestrian herself, Alice kindly took time to share a few of her nutrition tips for busy riders.
Any rider will probably agree that we are often guilty of prioritising our horses’ food and nutrition miles ahead of our own. The yard feed room boasts an impressive array of food and supplements alongside a comprehensively-planned whiteboard for the week.
On the flip side, our own kitchens are barely stocked with the basics and we’re on first-name terms with the guy at the corner shop down the road. However, it is important to remember that it is the combined output from both ourselves and our horses that is responsible for peak performance and a more organised approach to our eating habits will pay dividends, irrespective of discipline.
The biggest thing that most riders will struggle with is time, regardless of their level. Whether you work in an office full-time and frantically rush down to the yard each evening or you never seem to leave the yard, time is something we never seem to have enough of. Coupled with the fact that most yards and lorries will be full of boxes of convenience food, with chocolate, coffee and doughnuts all on tap and you can understand why nutrition is the first thing to slip. Taste value, 100%. Nutrition value, closer to 0%...
But why is it important to think about our own nutrition too? I’m sure most of us deep down know that our post-competition meal of cheesy chips probably isn’t the best choice, but we seem to be getting on ok so why change? Maintaining good nutrition goes far beyond sporting performance, putting more focus on what we put into our bodies on a daily basis will also have a positive impact on overall health. This extends further than most people’s immediate thought of physical health; good nutrition can also positively influence our mood, sleep and mental health. Adequately fueling your body with the right balance of
nutrients can reduce the amount of stress your body is under simply because it has all the right components it needs to do what you want it to do. Most of us have enough external stress in our lives, so giving your body a bit of break but fueling it correctly is the least we can do. However, it is important to try and do this in a way that doesn’t further increase your stress and push the cycle on further…
When it comes to putting this all into practice, it is the ‘all-or-nothing’ approach where most of us tend to lose grasp of our well-intended plans. The proverbial
wagon is trundling off into the distance and instead of trying our best to successfully achieve a running re-mount, we remove all its wheels and bury it at the bottom of the muck heap. So, my first tip to you is take it slow, introduce small changes and give them time to stick before moving onto the next. For example, if your usual breakfast is a coffee (usually cold because you forgot it in the feed room whilst feeding the horse) try and swap this out for a smoothie or shake. The preference would be
something homemade, but if that is not possible shop-bought will also do.
The important things to consider here is trying to balance it by adding a source of all 3 macronutrients alongside the fruits and veggies. One of my favorite morning smoothies is a banana, some frozen spinach (trust me, you don’t taste it!), oats, peanut butter, frozen berries and milk. Ticks all the boxes, takes minutes to make and gets the day started right if nothing else!
And that takes me nicely onto my second tip… when you are, inevitably, back at the local fast-food outlet because yet again you prioritised your horses’ welfare over your own, instead of throwing everything out the window because you couldn’t possibly get something at all healthy, take a second to go back to basics and think about it. The basic components of a good balanced meal are protein, carbs, unsaturated fats, fruit and veg. So actually, something like a BBQ chicken wrap with an orange juice ticks the majority of those boxes whilst still being convenient and a darn sight healthier that your usual go to I am sure (I am looking at you large BigMac meal…).
Ultimately, maintaining good nutrition is important for all of us, whether you part-
share a pony with a friend or competing at the Olympics. In terms of putting this into
practice, consistency wins out over perfection every time so make those small changes, form those good habits and you’ll be amazed how far it gets you!
Think Alice could help you swerve those naughty eating habits? Get hold of her here: Website www.arcnutrition.co.uk | Instagram @arcnutrition_ | Twitter @arcnutrition_ | Facebook @arcnutrition