A riders healthy & balanced diet
Most riders spend hours of their time & hundreds of pounds working out the best nutrition & supplements to provide their horses with all the goodness they need through their feed. They invest in nutritionists from feed companies to help them devise the best nutritional strategies for their horses. Go through all the vitamins & minerals needed, if a deficiency is found they then invest in supplements to help increase these levels as well as making sure their horse is at a healthy weight that is suitable for the discipline they are competing in to ensure the horse is safe & well & at his best to perform.
Yet these same riders who spend all this time & money on their horses then have ZERO clue about how to feed themselves well. The typical rider survives off a diet of crips, Mars bars, coke, gin, biscuits, sweets & mainly processed, sugary foods which leads to a generally poor diet that doesn’t give their own body the goodness & nutrients it needs to function optimally & have the best health & energy.
They spend all this time & effort working out exactly what their horse needs to be fed to feel like a king & then totally disregard their own nutrition.
When I speak to most riders the realism is that they have a clear lack of knowledge towards nutrition. There is a obvious feeling of not knowing what they should be doing & a lack of understanding which in turn leads to them eating a pretty poor diet. It amazes me how many people admit they don’t know what they should be doing (which is fair enough, this whole nutrition thing can be a total mindfield at first!) yet they don’t take any time to educate themselves.
If you want to ride at your best, whatever discipline you do it is so crucial that you fuel your body with the goodness it needs & you need to understand how to do this. The body is a machine indeed; some will disagree with that but it is.
Look at an athlete's body; take Usain Bolt for instance if he had eaten crips & biscuits the whole way through his Olympic campaigns he would not have got the results he achieved. He had a team of nutritionists & fuelled his body with goodness to function the machine. His food & diet was carefully managed & constructed to give his body the goodness to perform at its absolute best. If we all applied these same principles, even just a fraction, we'd be in far better health!
It may sound cliche but it is true you are what you eat. Your diet is one of the biggest considerations to energy levels, how your body handles inflammation, illness & of course your weight management. You can either fuel your body well & feel amazing or eat crap & start struggling with your health & wellness.
Obviously for riders life is busy & time is short! I speak to so many riders who say;
"Ahh I don’t have time to cook!"
The reality is we are all busy but it’s about making time for what you prioritse & if you want to train & ride well your diet & nutrition needs to become a priority of yours. Let me ask you this;
If you have children do you just say;
"Nah I don’t have time to cook for them" & just feed them takeaway every night?
Of course not, you would make the time for your children & you certainly wouldn't do this to your horse either. I know that for a fact & you need to start to do the same for yourself.
Good nutrition & eating well doesn't have to take forever either, it’s just a case of having a basic understanding of how to eat well & then spending a little bit of time to prepare & organise to help yourself!
If your horse is fed well his coat will shine, he'll look well & he’ll be full of energy same as you. If you eat well not only will your energy levels be great but your skin will be healthy, hair shiny & you’ll feel great in yourself. If you found your horse was lacking in energy or felt too sharp the first port of call to change would most probably be his diet so when you think of the time spent on his diet your own approach should be the same! For instance, if you're lacking energy rather than considering supplements first look at your general quality of diet.
Obviously, the lack of understanding does make it harder to know how to construct your diet but as I said if you make nutrition a priority & start making some time to learn how to eat well you can change this.
We as riders can educate ourselves but laziness can come in here & I do see this often. If you want to feel amazing & ride to your best then you need to start investing the same amount of effort into your own wellbeing & diet as you do your horses. You're only going to understand how to eat well if you teach yourself just like when you learnt to count at school! In the long run, if you invest some time & effort in your diet now you’re only going to feel better, ride better & get better results.
Equally having the energy & vitality to be able to run around & ride all day, then come home after work to look after the kids & still have the energy to play & make time for them is a huge focus for me with the clients I coach. The ability to have this energy at the end of the day comes down to diet & if you find that you hit home time & you have no energy left to spend that quality time in the evenings with your kids then you need to re-evaluate what you’re putting in your mouth & start to educate yourself on how your diet is affecting your energy & what to do to improve it.
So how would you go about constructing a healthy diet that would increase your energy levels, keep you feeling full & get you riding to your best?
Focus on building your meals using the 3 main macronutrients; protein/carbohydrates/fats
Drink 2-4 litres of water a day & keep yourself hydrated. This will help your body to function at it’s best but also to manage hunger.
Practice mindful eating; rather than eating on the sofa with your plate on your lap watching Emmerdale sit at the table & pay attention to your meal. If you can be present when you eat you’ll be far more aware of when you’re full & had enough rather than just eating or picking for the sake of it
Focus on 80% of your diet coming from unprocessed whole foods. These are foods that are more or less in their natural forms not in packaging with loads of added ingredients or additives
Make your meals & dishes as colourful as possible! Remember all your minerals & vitamins, which are our version of supplements are in your fruit & veg so you need to get them in with your meals! Aim for your plate to have plenty of colour.
Have a source of protein with each meal; this will help you to hit your daily protein content but also keep you feeling full & satisfied post meals & give your muscles the recovery they need
Include 20% of the foods you like or more “treat type” foods in your diet. Restricting certain foods or macronutrients (e.g carbs) is unsustainable in the long run & encourages a binge & restrict cycle creating a very negative relationship with food. Allow yourself to have the flexibility of including the foods you like within your diet but try to keep processed foods & sugars to a minimum. This will help to keep glucose levels balanced & avoid that energy crash!
Include complex carbohydrates in your diet especially pre competition days -remember they are your bodies energy source & fuel! Carbs break down into glucose which is our main energy source & we need carbs
If your goal is to lose weight follow all the above but make sure you are in a calorie deficit. You need to be expending more calories through activity than you consume through food if you want to lose weight
Try to reduce alcohol. Alcohol is high in calories, slows down our reactions & is a depressant. Drinking alcohol regularly can affect our mindset but also leave you feeling sluggish, tired & not good. Drinking tends to lead to worse food choices too so try to keep alcohol in moderation.
Aim to finish eating 2-3 hours before bed if possible. Meal timings have no effect on your weight but they do have an effect on your digestive system. If your body is still digesting food at bedtime your sleep quality will be disrupted which in turn will leave you feeling tired & hungry the next day & therefore may not help you to not over consume food
Use a tracking device such as My Fitness Pal to start to educate yourself on the macronutrient & calorie content of certain foods. You will probably surprise yourself!
It takes time to change habits & learn how to construct a good diet that supports your activity, fitness & riding whilst keeping you energised & maintaining your weight. But hopefully this has helped you to have an understanding of what you want to be focusing on to start to improve your quality of diet & treat your own nutrition as you do your horse! Good luck & I hope this has helped to give you some direction.