By Natalie Gavi, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
We have a tendency of putting our horses needs before our own. But if we’re asking our horses to be athletes, and care for them as such, we shouldn’t drop the ball on our own nutritional and fitness needs, either.
It’s time for a paradigm shift in the way we approach dieting and working out. Instead of focusing on our weight and counting calories, I challenge you to consider ditching the diet altogether.
I do have to say that there is a place for calorie/macro counting for some people, but it should be done under the guidance of an experienced nutrition professional. And it is not for everyone – restricting your diet can have some serious consequences, like poor performance and increased risk of injury. The overall emphasis should always be on improving strength, balance, and concentration, in and out of the saddle.
Fortunately, all of this can be done through adequate nutrition. How? Focus on nutrients, not calories. Work on increasing your energy levels and aim to build your strength and endurance instead. I’ll leave you with five ways you can start to ditch your diet and use nutrition as a tool to improve your riding.
1). Think of what foods you can add to your diet instead of restricting. For example, instead of limiting carbohydrates, consider adding heart- and gut-healthy whole grains to your meals instead.
2). If you’re hungry, eat! Hunger is your body’s way of telling itself that it needs fuel. You wouldn’t underfeed your horse, and you shouldn’t do that to yourself.
3). Stay hydrated. As simple as this sounds, even being a little dehydrated can impair cognitive and physical performance.
4). Keep snacks on hand for those long days at the barn and horse shows. Some of my favorites include trail mix, whole-food based energy/protein bars, and nut butter with fruit.
5). Eat the damn doughnut and move on. Making a food “off limits” can result in a vicious cycle of feeling deprived. It can generate feelings of intense cravings. And it can lead to the “giving in” mentality, which leads to bringing on that off limits food, ultimately bringing on that sense of guilt.
With all this said, nutrition is a complex topic that is not meant to be one-size-fits-all. To learn the best way to nourish and fuel yourself, it would best to reach out to a registered dietitian nutritionist for guidance.
Natalie Gavi is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Los Angeles, CA. She is passionate about the power that food plays in health and athletic performance. She combined her passion for horses with her career in nutrition and opened her private practice, Gavi Equestrian, providing sports nutrition services to equestrian athletes.