November 2017

Nutrition - a key to success in competitive sailing

Nutrition - a key to success in competitive sailing

While a typical person will eat approximatively 2,000 calories a day, a sailor usually needs up to 6,000 calories according to Olivia Busby, EIS Performance Nutritionist working with Team GB Sailing1. And we are talking about the average competitive sailor here, not a Star crew!

Fish, eggs, rice, vegetables. The ideal combination for an athlete during training.

This shows how important nutrition is for athletes and sailors are no exception. According to Busby, "nutritional challenges include fuelling high energy demands on the water as well as maintaining hydration and cognitive function as decision making, coordination and technical skills are key performance factors. Weight management is also an important element as many of the boats have an optimum weight range. Sailors are required to travel across the world to compete and therefore maintaining health and immunity while travelling is vital."

Staying hydrated for peak performance

Hydration is a key factor and even more so in hot environment like The Bahamas. Athletes should absorb as much as 500ml between races to ensure proper recovery and sustain a racing day that can exceed 8 hours on the water. Water can be drunk but sport drinks are recommended for the additional electrolytes such as sodium, phosphate, calcium, magnesium and chlorine they contain. Add an energy bar or two for carbohydrates intake and you're all set for another race.

But as for all physical activity, preparation is critical and a proper diet is a key element of any sailor's training plan. With the important amount of travelling to participate to competitions and the local specialties that might not always be the most recommended food for athletes, making sure that you eat properly is as important as hitting the gym regularly.

Carbohydrates and protein are in, fat is (almost) out

A healthy training diet for sailors should be carbohydrates-heavy as it is the main fuel for muscles during exercise. Wholegrain breads, rice, pasta and cereals are natural providers of carbohydrates along with fruit and vegetables. Protein also play an important role in the sailor's ability to deliver peak performance. Red meat, low-fat dairy products and eggs should thus be consumed along with carbohydrates at every meal.

Fat is obviously in a different category but shouldn't be discarded completely. A healthy diet contains small amount of "good" fat as can be found in avocado, nuts, seeds and olive oil.

Meal plan for the competitive sailor


  • Toast with eggs, fruit juice
  • Grain-based cereal with low-fat milk


  • Fruit
  • Cereal bar
  • Can of creamed rice


  • White meat sandwich, salad, fluids
  • Low-fat yoghurt, fruit

Recovery meal

  • Recovery shake, milk
  • Can of creamed rice


  • Lean meat or poultry with rice and salad
  • Fish, potatoes, pasta
  • Fruit, yoghurt

1 Olympics 2012: Team GB athletes' diets interactive, Jennifer O'Mahony, The Telegraph,