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Meal Planning for Surfing: What You Should Be Eating for a Great Beach Body

by Octavia Drughi

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You are what you eat. It might sound like a cliché, but the saying is true. There is a strong, indisputable link between nutrition and performance.

Surfers radiate good health. And it’s not just because of their nice tan. They take good care of their bodies, from what they eat to how they exercise. Eating well plays a vital role in surfing, just like in any other sport. It also helps you to feel and look good in everyday life. If you want to have the energy for long surfing sessions and would like to surf the next day too, then your body needs to recover.

No, this article does not reveal some miraculous weight-loss method, nor does it aim at throwing you into the complicated world of macronutrients, food timing, and counting calories. It is simply meant as an introduction to surf nutrition and to show you how and when to fuel with high-quality nutrients.

Whether you are preparing to hit the waves or to excel at your favorite water sport, these meal planning tips will give you an extra boost of energy:


Eat real food


Now, more than ever, surfers are taking their training outside the water. This means that their diet needs to power them through the toughest days, both on the waves and at the gym.

There’s food and there’s… err… junk! This one’s a no-brainer, but I’m going to say it anyway: the latter is definitely not what you’d want to put in your body. That being said, surfing is all about balance, both in the water and out. Don’t cut something completely out of your diet and don’t overindulge either.

In general, the fresher the better: if it’s picked out of a garden, caught from a river or sea, or bought from your local butcher or dairy shop, then it’s real food. Sure, there are some parts of the world where fresh, clean food is easier to come by. If you do not have a farmers’ market in your community, then try to look for organic or local at your grocery store.


Superfoods to include in your daily diet


The popularity of superfoods is gaining a lot of momentum. And no, they’re not just a fad – think of them as natural, delicious medicine. Plus, it’s super easy to include your favorite superfoods in your daily diet and reap their many wonderful health benefits:

  • Maca – known to boost energy, endurance and libido, you can add Maca powder to your smoothies, juices, and oatmeal. With a sweet, nutty flavor, you can easily sprinkle it over your favorite dishes.
  • Turmeric – contains curcumin, which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. You can add ground turmeric to your smoothies and freshly squeezed juices or you can simply sprinkle it on your food when you cook.
  • Coconut oil – high in natural saturated fats and healthy fatty acids, it improves energy and endurance. You can add coconut oil to your smoothies to start your day with a bang. You can also use it when you cook.
  • Hemp seeds – a valuable source of protein and amino acids that the body needs in order to recover from intensive training, hemp seeds can easily be added to salads, soups, and even homemade pesto.
  • Chia seeds – packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and calcium, Chia seeds are a great addition to your salads, smoothies and oatmeal.
  • Quinoa seeds – these tiny seeds provide all nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce by themselves. Plus, they’re packed with protein – eight grams per one-cup serving to be precise!
  • Acai berries – with anti-aging and weight-loss properties, Acai berries are considered the healthiest berries out there. Make your own Acai juice, the ones sold in stores usually contain added sugar.
  • Avocado – a rich source of healthy fats, avocados keep you feeling full and help you absorb other nutrients as well.
  • Sweet potatoes – half of a large baked sweet potato contains more than 450 percent of your daily dose of vitamin A.
  • Potatoes – the good old baked potato contains more potassium than a banana!
  • Peanut butter – aside from proteins and carbs, peanut butter contains L-arginine, an amino acid that helps keep your blood vessels healthy and improves muscle performance.
  • Cocoa powder – cocoa powder contains flavonoids, which help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to the brain and heart. There are fewer than 15 calories per tablespoon, so you can add it to your smoothies and oatmeal without any guilt. Choose raw or non-alkalized cocoa powder to make sure all its antioxidants are still there.
  • Nutritional yeast – do not confuse this with brewer yeast or active dry yeast. Nutritional yeast is deactivated yeast with no leavening power. It is a fantastic source of protein and fiber, and also one of the only vegan-friendly sources of vitamin B12. Thanks to its Parmesan-like taste and texture, it can be sprinkled over pasta and can be used in vegan pesto recipes.


Carbs, proteins & fats


Before heading out to surf, and before any intensive workout for that matter, your main source of energy should consist of carbs. In a healthy diet, carbs should make up 50 to 60 percent of your daily calorie intake. Examples of carbs you can include in all your meals:

  • Whole grain bread
  • Cereals
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Milk

Proteins help develop, maintain and repair hard-working muscles. Around 12 to 20 percent of your calorie intake should come from proteins, which are particularly important after a workout. Here are some examples of protein-rich foods:

  • Lean meat
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Nuts
  • Beans

Protein powder is a great source of easily digestible and fast-release energy that you can add to your diet.

Between 15 to 30 percent of your calories should come from healthy fats. Any less than 15 percent that can have a negative impact on your performance. Here are some examples of high-fat foods you can add to your meals:

  • Avocado
  • Fish
  • Cheese & yogurt 
  • Seeds & nuts
  • Cold-pressed oils


When you eat is just as important as what you eat


If you do not eat before exercising, your blood sugar levels will drop and you will feel tired and lightheaded. If you have too much food in your stomach, then you have to make sure you digest it before hitting the waves. So, what and when do you eat to make sure you perform your best?


Pre-surf meal


Make sure you eat one to three hours before exercising. Surfing or exercising on a full stomach is never a good idea – you will not digest your meal properly and will end up feeling bloated and sluggish.

Proteins and carbs are all you need before surfing or a workout. Your meals should be low in fat and fiber, as these take longer to digest and can lead to gastrointestinal distress.

If you plan to hit the waves early in the morning, you should have a light breakfast with quick energy release:

  • Low-fat yogurt with banana (potassium in bananas helps fight muscle cramps);
  • A couple of slices of toast topped with peanut butter and all-fruit jam.

If you surf later in the day, have a high-carb breakfast:

  • Bowl of oatmeal with raisins and nuts, a cup of low-fat yogurt and a glass of fresh orange juice.
  • Homemade granola (oats, seeds, nuts) with low-fat Greek yogurt/soy yogurt and banana;
  • Porridge with low-fat milk/fruit juice;
  • Fresh fruit salad with low-fat yogurt/soy yogurt;
  • Fruit smoothie with low-fat milk/soy milk/almond milk;
  • Peanut butter-banana-honey sandwich (it has everything you need: protein, potassium, easy to absorb sugar and carbs from the bread).


Bonus – try this morning smoothie for a quick energy kick:

  • One banana (the potassium in bananas helps fight muscle cramps)
  • One tablespoon peanut butter (for quick-release energy in the form of protein)
  • One cup of low-fat milk/soy milk/almond milk/rice milk or any vegetable milk of your choosing
  • One teaspoon honey (easy to absorb)
  • Two teaspoons dark cocoa powder
  • One handful of your favorite seeds: sunflower, pumpkin, chia
  • Optional: one scoop of vanilla protein powder
  • Blend until smooth.


During the surf session


If you exercise hard, lactic acid builds up in the muscles causing pain and fatigue. Here’s a dead-simple energy booster for you: baking soda.

Bonus   create your own energy drink:

  • Four cups of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • One teaspoon salt
  • Two tablespoons raw honey
  • One tablespoon lemon juice

During a surf or training session, you should drink plenty of water. Sports drinks are also a good idea, as they do keep you hydrated for longer and provide essential nutrients. Also, make sure you keep some snacks with you to refuel during your workout. They will keep you going for longer. You can grab a sports bar/cereal bar or a large banana with honey.


Post-surf meal


Surfing makes you hungry. But that doesn’t mean you should run to the donut shop, even if you know you’ve burned enough calories. What you put in your body after a workout can either help or hinder your recovery.

Regardless of the time of day you surf or train, always make time for a post-workout snack. Have a healthy snack consisting of carbs and protein within 30 minutes after your surfing or training session. These restore your energy levels and trigger the repair process in the muscles.

Refuel on complex carbohydrates like potatoes (boiled or steamed, not fried!), whole-wheat bread, rice or whole-wheat pasta. These should be the basis of your post-workout meal.

Examples of post-surf snacks

  • A cup of low-fat chocolate milk
  • Turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread
  • Whole-grain crackers and low-fat cheese
  • Sports drink
  • Water
  • Fruit juice
  • Sports bar
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Protein shake/recovery drink




Your lunch should mainly consist of carbs.

If you plan to hit the waves soon, your lunch should be light:

  • A cup of pasta with ½ cup cooked veggies, some shrimp/tuna/chickpeas, topped with Parmesan cheese/nutritional yeast.

If you’re done for the day or plan to hit the waves or have a training session later in the afternoon, here are a couple of ideas:

  • Grilled chicken sandwich with whole-wheat bread, lettuce, and tomatoes; a side salad, fresh pineapple and a glass of low-fat milk.
  • Tuna salad with brown rice. Brown rice has a lower GI than regular rice (there is more fiber which means you’ll feel full for longer). Tuna is a great source of protein. The vegetables you use in the salad should come in as many colors as possible to get more nutrients.


Dinner time


Going out surfing early in the morning does not mean you have to skip dinner. On the contrary, if you want to wake up feeling energized and ready for some action, you need to restock the night before.

To refuel your muscles and restore your energy levels for the next day of surfing and paddling, you need a high-protein and carb dinner:

  • Broiled salmon with roasted red potatoes and steamed broccoli with a glass of low-fat milk on the side.
  • Whole-wheat tortilla stuffed with black beans, rice, and low-fat cheese, with a glass of orange juice on the side.


Final words

Eating right today helps you perform your best tomorrow. If you don’t want to wake up feeling like a ton of bricks, then you’d better restock on all the essential nutrients your body needs to recover. Also, make sure you get a good night’s sleep. That’s when your body works on converting all that wonderful healthy food you’ve been eating into energy and uses it to repair your muscles and overworked tissues.


Now that you know what and when to eat, it’s time to reap the benefits! Find a budget surf camp and surf more with less!

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