As a special feature this week, Olivia of MiniFitness shares her expertise in nutrition with us. Olivia is an equestrian, weight lifter, and marathon runner with degrees in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology.
Nutrition plays a fundamental role in equestrian performance. But without the driving motivational force of a show season, there may be temptation to cast your healthy eating habits aside (no thanks to Netflix). Just because many of us currently unable to ride, it doesn’t mean that our focus on performance should equally go on lockdown.
Don’t wait until the chaos of show season to better your equestrian performance. Instead, take advantage of the time in isolation to reinforce healthy eating habits, and bring your riding to new heights. Stay on top of your game with these top quarantine picks for equestrian athletes.
Olivia competing in the Low A/O Jumpers. Photo by Ring Side Media.
Salmon – Packed with Immune Boostin’ Vitamin D
This fish packs a punch! It’s loaded with healthy omega-3s, protein, and tons of nutrients. But, what REALLY makes this food stand out for riders is its high vitamin D content. As riders, we spend most of our day outside. As a result, vitamin D levels were never an area of concern. However, with the global pandemic forcing most people to stay home, riders are now at risk of not meeting their daily requirement.
Photo by Cattalin/Pixabay/CC.
As equestrians, vitamin D is important for calcium absorption, bone repair, muscle recovery, immunity, and decreasing inflammation (1). Since time off for riders is seemingly as rare as a shooting-star sighting, it’s important to use the lockdown to maximize recovery. That way, your body will be ready for a speedy jump-off, graceful hunter ride, or flawless equitation round once shows start. If you’re not a fish eater, though, or if you simply can’t get access to salmon while in quarantine, that’s okay! You can still get your daily dose of vitamin D through fortified cereals, orange juice, tofu, egg yolks, and dairy products. Just be sure to include a healthy fat source to help the vitamin D absorb.
For those who are new to the plant-based eating world, tempeh is a fermented product derived from soybeans. It’s high fiber and protein content do wonders for your digestive health, satiety, and overall feeling of fullness. What really earns this food a blue ribbon is its leucine content. Leucine is a sports nutrition superhero that has exploded in popularity due to its role in muscle protein synthesis (2). If you are among those still riding (or currently crushing at home workouts), leucine is essential to help you build muscle.
Photo by Mochamad Arief/Pixabay/CC.
As we know, riding comes consistent training, competing…and the occasional oopsie that leaves you contorted on the ground. Needless to say, equestrian sports are extremely taxing on the body. Unlike other sports, riders never get adequate recovery time, which often leaves us with chronic muscle soreness. So, it’s absolutely critical for riders to fuel the body with the building blocks needed to repair our muscles. For equestrians, having a quicker recovery time means greater range of motion, muscular endurance, and overall performance. In other words, you will be “sore-no-more.”
While leucine is usually most commonly found in dairy and meat products, it’s also high in plant-based proteins, such as tempeh. About a cup of tempeh provides the body with optimal amounts of leucine needed to promote muscle growth. Pump up your next Meatless Monday with tempeh! Personally, I love to bake it in the oven and use it in a homemade stir-fry!
Garlic – Ward off the common cold (and possibly people)
What better way to enforce social distancing than with garlic breath. This small yet pungent herb is packed with immunity fighting powers and microbiome boosting prebiotics. Since the gut dictates 80% of the body’s immune system, keeping it healthy is an absolute must (3).
Photo by Conger Design/Pixabay/CC.
Unlike other sports, riders can’t simply hang up their equipment in the closet if they catch a cold, flu, or virus. Stalls still need to be mucked. Horses still need to be fed. And, let’s not forget that they still need to exercise. As a horse owner, being sick can result in a major increase in costs for care. As a professional, it can cause a loss of revenue and affect your livelihood. That’s where the magical powers of garlic kick in. Besides its prebiotic content, it’s also anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-parasitic… basically anti-everything. But, unless people want to eat ½ cup of fresh garlic per day, opt for garlic powders and extracts. Stay healthy during quarantine, and keep your immune system soaring through the (eventual) upcoming show circuit.
Equestrian sports are like no other. As a result, it’s important to raise awareness about the need for specific nutrition for equestrian athletes. During quarantine, learn new ways to incorporate these must-have foods, and get ready to dominate at your (hopefully) upcoming shows.
Stay safe, riders.
Olivia is a Columbia University graduate with a master’s in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. She currently competes in the Low Amateur Owner Jumpers with her horse, Crystal Clear. She also enjoys weight lifting, running marathons and skiing. Throughout her academic career, Olivia has published several sports nutrition articles in scientific journals, such as Nutrients. After being in the competitive equestrian community for over a decade, she understands the common nutritional and physiological issues among riders. Olivia applies her academic expertise to enhance both health and athletic performance of fellow equestrian athletes through MiniFitness. For more information, click here. Biography Photo by Xavier Levenfiche.
- Volpe, S. Vitamin D and Exercisre Performance. Retrieved form: https://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/FullText/2014/05000/Vitamin_D_and_Exercise_Performance.9.aspx
- Halas, M. The Plant-based Boost: Nutrition Solutions for Athletes and Fitness Enthusiasts. Retrieved from https://books.google.ca/books?id=xx8hxwEACAAJ
- Ried, K. Garlic Lowers Blood Pressure in Hypertensive Individuals, Regulates Serum Cholesterol and Stimulates Immunity: An Updated Meta-Analysis and Review. Retrieved from: https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/146/2/389S/4584698