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January 11, 2019 3 min read

What should you be eating for sailing?

In this article sponsored sailor and sailing coach George Cousins will outline what to eat and drink before during and after sailing to increase performance, energy levels and boost concentration.

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Take Home Points

In the summer months it is very easy to get dehydrated so drink plenty and carry more water on the boat than you think you’ll need.

  • Don’t shun protein. Moderate amounts of protein will boost performance. Also amino acids assist the uptake of carbohydrate (glycogen replenishment) into the body so you will be less sore and tired after a long day on the water
  • Eating foods with sustained release energy will help settle pre race nerves.
  • Carry at least 1 litre of sports drink on your boat.
  • When afloat we are limited in how much food we can carry. Accordingly pack nutrient foods. Energy bars, gels and even dark chocolate are very dense in calories but are compact enough to fit in your lifejacket, or you could buy a small dry bag to hold the items
  • At a championship keep food and water in your dinghy park space so it is readily available.
  • Avoid sugar and junk food. This will unsettle blood sugar levels which may disrupt mood, raise stress levels and impair concentration.

It is well documented in sports science literature that what we eat and drink has a direct effect on performance. In addition sailing as we know requires high levels of concentration. The brain uses 25% of the bodys caloric needs when the body is at rest, so even on light wind days or in boats which are not physical it is important to eat enough.

Before going afloat aim to drink at least one litre of water (2 litres on very hot days and 3-race days). We are often limited in how much water we can carry with us afloat so we want to be fully hydrated before we launch.


For breakfast we want a large nutritions meal that will provide sustained energy release. Obviously we want a meal rich in carbohydrates but some fat and protein is recommended as this will provide a sustained release of energy. Porridge, cereal, egg on toast, fruit with greek yogurt all work well.

Before you launch

Because we are limited in how much food we can carry afloat, on windy days eat a light snack just as you are about to launch. We want something that is easily digestible and will provide the muscles with carbohydrates and protein to the fuel intense exercise. A large banana and protein shake is what I would recommend.

Hydration has a noticeable impact on mental cognition. I would recommend drinking water with added electrolytes which can be bought from any supermarket or sports shop. A good rule of thumb is to carry 500 ml of fluid per race. It can be tempting to give a dry bag with all your food and drink to a rib. However this means you never have your water and food when you need it and the rib could be called off leaving you without anything all day! Instead be self sufficient. I recommend the Zhik buoyancy aid which has a very large pocket big enough for all your food if you can't attach a dry bag to the boat.

As soon as you land if it has been a long windy day, drink 1 litre of fluid or sports drink and try to eat something right away to replenish muscle glycogen stores.

Keep Hydrated

Want some help keeping hydrated? Enter promo code GIFT with your next Sailing Chandlery order and we'll send you one of our water bottles. Available while stocks last.