A Lightweight Rower's Diet

Lightweight rowers must make weight before being allowed to compete.
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Lightweight rowers have to balance eating enough to fuel their performance but not so much that they gain weight. Male lightweight rowers cannot weigh more than 160 pounds, and some divisions have even stricter weight regulations, such as at Harvard, where men must weigh less than 150 pounds. Women lightweight rowers must weigh less than 130 pounds. Some divisions even restrict how much weight a boat can carry.

Making Weight

    When every pound counts, when you eat matters as much as what and how much you eat. “Everyone has their own crazy diet for cutting weight, but really it's simple, lightweight Olympic rower Nick LaCava told Esquire Magazine in 2010. “You have to use more calories than you take in.” His advice is simple in theory but more difficult in practice, especially with the rigorous training lightweight rowers endure leading up to events. He loads up on lean protein and vegetables during his training season, but admits to carrying more weight during the offseason. Andover requires its lightweight rowers to follow a strict diet leading up to competitions, and Harvard does the same.


    Your body needs carbohydrates to function, according to the Mayo Clinic, and the more active you are the more carbs you need to eat -- which means that lightweight rowers must eat a diet rich in foods like cereal, bread and pasta during the training season. Not eating enough, says the Australian Sports Commission, “can reduce energy levels, impair performance and cause lethargy and nausea.” It recommends that lightweight rowers carbo-load in the week leading up to a competition, but eat a small amount of carbs one to four hours before the event begins.


    The Australian Sports Commission recommends lightweight rowers eat 1 gram of protein every day during the offseason and between 1.2 and 1.7 grams of protein during the training season. Protein is essential for building lean muscle and helping a body recover after a strenuous workout. A high-protein, low-carb diet could even help a rower lose weight. But such a diet won’t result in long-term benefits, says Katherine Zeratsky, a Mayo Clinic nutritionist. “If you want to follow a high-protein diet, do so only as a short-term weight-loss aid,” she says, recommending fish, skinless chicken, lean beef, pork and low-fat dairy products.


    Dehydration can cause your body temperature to increase, reduce mental function, decrease your motor control and impair your decision-making skills, says the Australian Sports Commission, so it recommends lightweight rowers drink water or an electrolyte-rich sports drink during a competition. Lightweight rowers should also drink water with every meal and snack, and during and after training sessions. Right before the event, they should drink between 300 and 400 milliliters of fluid. “Lightweight rowers should not consider a lower weight at the end of a workout to be a good sign,” says the commission. “Even though dehydration is an inevitable part of making weight for competition, it is counterproductive and unnecessary in the training setting.”

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