8 Power Foods for Rowers & Athletes

8 Power Foods for Rowers & Athletes

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Whether you’re training for your very first rowing race or towards the Olympic Games, choosing great nutrition is one of the biggest ways to up your game. It’s not always easy or convenient to have good foods available, or to incorporate them into every meal and snack. I pulled together 8 of the big ones that you really can utilize every day, along with some recipes that work for real life!


Rower Power Food: Berries

Bang for your buck, these are some of the most potent nutritional nuggets out there. Antioxidants and vitamins give berries high ANDI scores: they help protect against and process the damage you do to your muscles and body from hard workouts or a high-stress day at work.

Quick Recipes:

  • Add your favorite berries to plain full-fat or low-fat Greek yogurt.
  • Add to 1/2 cup regular or gluten-free oats (“Oats Move Boats!”), then add almonds and water or milk, and microwave for 2-3 minutes to get a quick breakfast or pre-workout snack that will stay down but keep you fueled for hours.

Rower Power Food: Quinoa

I love this commercial. But…quinoa (KEEN-wah) can actually be really delicious, and for athletes, it’s also 100% superfood. One of the smallest grains in the world, it has a lot of nutrient-dense “shell” compared to how much is inside each grain. Translation? More proteins, fiber, and amino acids (including all 9 essential aminos) than just about any other food.

Quick Recipes:

  • Following package instructions, cook quinoa on the stovetop with water or chicken broth. Add spices (I love garlic, a bit of onion, salt and black pepper). Eat as a side dish or a quick pre- or post-workout snack.
  • Cook quinoa with water and make a few cups extra. If you regularly blend pre- or post-workout shakes, add 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa to your shake for an extra boost of the good stuff.
  • Try the recipe below (YUM!) for quinoa, kale, walnut and sweet potato goodness. Add some cooked chicken breast for an extra protein boost.

>> Recipe here: Quinoa, Kale, Walnut & Sweet Potato Grain Bowl

Rower Power Food: Nuts

Nuts (I’m partial to almonds and walnuts) and nut butter are awesome nutritional tools. Adding a small handful of nuts to a primarily-carb meal or piece of fruit will balance your blood sugar out and avoid hangry-ness for longer. Nuts contain good fats, protein, and a decent dose of many essential vitamins and minerals. A little can go a long way.

Quick Recipes:

  • Buy the individual packages of raw almonds at Trader Joe’s or your local grocery store, or make your own by bagging 1/4 – 1/3 cup portions for a quick on-the-go snack.
  • Try the recipe below for DIY all-natural gluten-free protein bars. If it’s a little plain for your taste, add a touch more honey or stevia, or go crazy and add chocolate chips. These are delicious and packed with nutrients!

>> Recipe here: Paleo Protein Bars

Rower Power Food: Fish

Oily fish like salmon (fresh, frozen or canned) and fresh or frozen tuna are huge nutritional boosters because of their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids as well as lean protein. While canned tuna (I prefer water-packed, low-sodium white tuna) lacks the omega-3 boost, it is a tasty and convenient way to get lean protein cheaply and on the go.

Quick Recipes:

  • Check out your grocery store selection of canned fish and try something new. A healthy lunch on-the-go lunch? Crumbling whole-grain crackers into a bag of tuna. You can also try eating the mix in lettuce wraps, or mix it up and add something sweet or savory, like relish or black beans.
  • Broil a fresh or defrosted salmon filet with a couple of pinches of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon. Leftovers work well for lunch the next day on a spinach salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Rower Power Food: Bananas

Bananas are nature’s perfect on-the-go snack. We went through so many in the Olympic Village cafeteria that the U.S. team staff had to go buy more boxes every day! Water and a banana with some salted almonds after a workout or for breakfast delivers all the food groups, plus a good balance of electrolytes—the natural potassium found in bananas and salt—to encourage hydration the natural way.

Quick Recipes:

  • As is, plus some salted almonds or mixed into plain full-fat or low-fat Greek yogurt. This is balanced nutrition that tastes great!
  • Dehydrated bananas (make yourself, or find them at Trader Joe’s) are a great fruit snack with fewer additives than banana chips.
  • You probably already know that bananas are really easy to add to smoothies, but they are also great to use in baking in general – you can substitute them for many liquid ingredients, such as oil or eggs. Don’t give up good nutrition – eggs are nutritional powerhouses of their own! – but try a favorite recipe with bananas plugged in instead. You may surprise yourself with how good it is!

Rower Power Food: Beans

Beans are a great way to add lean protein, fiber, nutrients and FLAVOR to your diet without adding the saturated fat found in many meats. If you are trying to limit your meat intake while being an athlete, beans are your friend! It’s no secret that many of the tastiest cuisines around – Mexican food, Indian food, Ethiopian food, etc. – incorporate beans and lentils. Just watch the sodium content to make beans into athlete-friendly meals.

Quick Recipes:

  • Fat-free refried or whole canned black beans, low-fat cheese, shredded chicken breast, salsa, and a big pile of spinach or shredded lettuce makes a delicious and healthy Mexican salad.
  • Plunking rehydrated or canned black beans, kidney beans, and pinto beans, a can of stewed tomatoes, some browned lean ground beef and onions, spices, and beef stock into the slow cooker all day yields a delicious superfood chili with leftovers you can freeze in single-serves and bring to work for lunch.

Rower Power Food: Greens

Whether you eat them straight, juice them, wilt them, sauté them, or bake them into chip form, leafy greens (my favorites are spinach and kale) are unbelievably good for you. In fact, they get the highest scores of anything we eat on the ANDI guide! Besides great nutrition, greens also provide a great source of fiber. Shooting for at least two big servings of these a day is a great way to help boost your systems across the board.

Quick Recipes:

  • Switch out your regular sandwich bread for lettuce or kale wraps.
  • Try a green juice blend of kale, carrots, spinach, a green apple, and a little ginger. It’s a lot less sweet than the smoothies you can buy off the shelf, but it’s yummy and has a ton more nutrients!

Rower Power Food: Milk

Milk has recently gotten an undeserved bad rap. Yes, it can be used to make ice cream or Brie cheese, but on its own, full-fat or low-fat milk is an awesome power food. The biggest nutritient boost is in good-quality milk: organic (no pesticides or hormones) and grass-fed. Likewise, plain Greek yogurt (with no added sugar) and low-fat cheese can be great tools for getting enough protein without a lot of crazy extras. And chocolate milk remains one of the best recovery nutrition tools you can buy in your grocery store.

Quick Recipes:

  • Try plain Greek yogurt with berries, a ripe banana, almonds, and/or gluten-free oats.
  • A glass of low-fat milk with a handful of almonds or a banana is a great pre-workout or for when the afternoon drag hits in the office!
  • See below for a recipe for Bircher Muesli, a popular European breakfast that’s the OG overnight oats!

>> Recipe here: Bircher Muesli

Fueling smart lets you keep training hard.

Eat to win!