Fuelling teenage rowers


An article I wrote for Fitness Journal around Maadi Cup time two years ago, called Fuelling Teenage Rowers is still enjoying some wide circulation in the rowing communities. (You can find the article at fitnessjournal.co.nz/fuelling-teenage-rowers).

That article discussed the importance of fuelling the teenage athlete with nutrient-dense foods (and the science behind it), the essential nutrients needed, some basic snack ideas, basic food group swaps, weight management, race-day fuelling and easy to digest snacks in between race breaks of variable lengths.

I strongly suggest you go online and read this article as it will help you better understand the information I have provided below – and how I have used this as a part two of the earlier version.

Due to the popularity of the 2015 article and in response to parents who email me saying their teenager ‘is always hungry and tired’, I have decided to provide some recipes and snack ideas. These are aimed at the teenage athlete for day-to-day nutrition around trainings; as the day-to-day nutrition is the most important focus when it comes to getting nutrients right for energy, recovery and performance.

Please note: The recipe amounts will be generic, based on the average girl/boy athlete. In this instance, I recommend that you encourage your teenager to listen to their body and if they are still hungry and need more food, then boost the amount, or if they are starting to get full, then save the leftovers for later if they get hungry or for lunch the next day.

As everyone has an individual body and different requirement, a general guide such as this is a good resource to get the ball rolling and to play around with.

Suggestions for a teenager’s nutrition on a training day


  Early morning trainings can be a nightmare to try and squeeze in a decent meal beforehand. However, because you have had at least 7-8 hours sleep and fasting, then it’s not ideal to skip a meal before you train.

Liquid food is the best way to get nutrients in without putting stress and load on the digestive system. See the smoothie idea below to help you with this barrier. (I recommend a highspeed blender like a Nutribullet).

Energizer smoothie

Serves: 1

2 handfuls of spinach leaves (B vitamins)
1 large banana (carbohydrate source and high in potassium – fabulous for muscle function)
50-100 ml Macros organic unsweetened almond milk
50-100 ml Cocofuel natural coconut water (extra hydration and potassium)
¼ of a raw beetroot peeled (high in antioxidants, high in natural nitrates which works like a natural pre-workout, creating greater circulation of blood, iron and oxygen around the body).
Handful of fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cm of fresh ginger (warms up the body, also good for circulation)

Get all ingredients ready the night before in one of the Nutribullet cups.
Blend in the morning and drink first thing or on the way to training.

Breakfast needs to be high protein and have good amount of recovery carbohydrates for after training.
The recipe below is super quick and easy to prepare the night before, or make fresh in the morning if you have enough time.

Homemade lentil baked beans

Serves: 1 male or 2 females
Will last in the fridge for two days but can freeze extra portions.

400g can of Watties lentils (in spring water) or Ceres Brown lentils (rinsed and drained)                      
400g can of tinned crushed tomatoes
4 tsp of oregano or dried/fresh basil
2 cloves of garlic chopped or 2 tsp of Greggs crushed garlic            
1 cup of sliced button mushrooms
1/2  red onion chopped
2 tsp of dried ground turmeric    

First, wash drain and rinse the can of lentils, then add to a pot.
Add the red onion, mushrooms and garlic with ½ a tsp of olive oil, caramelise a little.
Now add the canned tomatoes, turmeric and herbs cook for about 2 minutes on a medium to high heat until hot; stir frequently.

Serve the lentil recipe with one of these options below:

1. With 2 (female) or 4 (male) scrambled eggs (use trim milk and mix in 1/2tsp of ground turmeric (turmeric is good for the liver and is a power antioxidant /anti-inflammatory).
2.  2 (female) – 4 (male) poached eggs, 2 (female) – 4 (male) tbsp of avocado and 1 cup of spinach.
3. If going straight to school from training, have the baked bean mixture pre-done add 2 (female) – 4 (male) boiled eggs (also done night before) and handful of spinach in the morning.

NOTE: If the above is not enough you may wish to add bread to bulk it up choose a sourdough or even better, a gluten-free sourdough. Sourdough is fermented and fermented foods aid greater digestive flow and don’t clog you up like normal bread can.

You can order the latter from Frankton Organics called Flaveur gluten free seeded sourdough loaf. Just slice the loaf and freeze. Or you could choose to have kumara toast (easy to make by cutting 1cm thick rounds of kumara and toasting them until brown).

Mid morning snacks

If breakfast wasn’t enough then one of these should tide your athlete over until lunch. Note the lower range of the amounts specified are for females and the higher range males.

1–2 bananas
1-2 slices of fresh pineapple (high in bromelain – helps to digest protein and acts as an anti-inflammatory) and 1-2 slices of fresh mango (when available in the supermarket)
A pottle of De Winkels unsweetened yoghurt – in a container, add in 1/2tsp of cinnamon, handful of berries, 2-3tbsp of pumpkin seeds, 1-2 tbsp of chia seeds – all mixed up
2 pieces of sourdough toasted or 2 slices of kumara toast with 1-2 tbsp of Pic’s peanut butter (or alternately use almond butter), add 1-2 tsp of honey (preferably Manuka, but any will do)


Ideally since some of the breakfast and snack options require a little bit of prep the night before, to make lunches easy you could just provide a serving of leftover dinner (see dinner recipes you could try further down the page). Otherwise you could try a couple of these options below.

NOTE:  Bread, rice and pasta are not bad foods, they can just be an irritant to the digestive system if the body is put under pressure or stress (this includes high intensity sports or training) and harder for our body to digest and process. Plus, they are not as nutrient dense as other options i.e. quinoa.

Option 1:

Chicken and mandarin quinoa salad

Serves: 1

100-150g (female) or 150-200g (male) chicken breast, skinless, boneless chopped, pan fried – or use roast chicken from the supermarket  
3/4 cup-1 cup (female) or 1 cup-1.5 cups (male) of cooked quinoa          
1/2 red capsicum chopped    
2 cups baby spinach leaves      
1 cup diced cucumber        
1/4 raw beetroot grated        
1-2 small grated carrot         
1-2 spring onion chopped        
2-4 tbsp avocado        
2 mandarins quartered    
1-2 tbsp of a balsamic vinegar dressing or your own homemade honey mustard dressing: honey, wholegrain mustard mixed together with a squeeze of lemon    

Boil the quinoa- set aside when done. Cook the chopped chicken breasts in a pan with olive oil – set aside when done. Cut up all the vegetables and make the dressing. Put all the ingredients together on a plate, serve and enjoy!

Option 2::

Sourdough sandwich with side salad

Serves: 1

NOTE:  For males or very active females you may have to make two sandwiches or use one of the snack options below to add extra bulk to the lunch, but have a different option for afternoon tea or pre- training (if there is training) snack.

2 pieces of sourdough spread with
 100-150g (female) or 150-200g ( male) chicken breast ( deli shredded chicken, roast chicken or cook a fresh breast the night before) or as much as you can fit on the sandwich             
2-4 tbsp of hummus (either Lisa’s or Just Hummus) handful of rocket or fancy lettuce (dark red and green)

Side salad (prepped night before)
1/2 red capsicum chopped
1 cup baby spinach leaves and 1 cup of any other variety of leaf you like    
1cup diced cucumber           
1/4 raw beetroot grated             
1 tomato sliced and chopped        
1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Mid-afternoon snacks

(Or a snack to satisfy them before a second training if there is one in the evening) Just consume one option.
NOTE:  The lower range of the amounts below are for females and the higher range males.
Nut mixture: 2- 3 Brazil nuts, 14- 20 almonds, 10 – 12 walnuts
2-4 Tbsp of hummus with plain rice crackers (8-16)
1-2 pieces of this protein bar recipes below (note you could also make them into bliss ball type snacks by rolling recipe into balls and refridgerating)

No-bake almond fudge protein bars

(This is the protein bar recipe mentioned in the previous article)

Time: 10 mins Serving: approx. 12 bars

2 cup ground almonds        
1cup mixture of seeds i.e. chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
2 cups protein powder (natural whey – like Red 8 or Matakana’s dairy, gluten free and egg free option ( called Plant based Super Protein – made from quinoa, chia seed and Sacha Inchi)
½-1 cup almond butter (or peanut butter- Pic’s peanut butter or 100% nuts peanut butter)     
½-1cup runny honey
2 tbsp cacao powder        
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Prepare a 9×5 (approx) slice tin and spray with cooking spray. Set aside. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine chopped/ground almonds, mixture of seeds, cacao powder, protein powder. Mix until well combined and set aside.
In a small pan over medium heat, add almond or peanut butter and honey, stirring until melted and fully combined.
Add vanilla extract. Remove from heat and pour into the dry mixture. Stir until everything is fully combined.
Pour into prepared slice tin. Using a spatula or your hands, spread the mixture evenly in the pan, pressing down firmly.
Place in fridge and allow to cool for 30 minutes before cutting into bars.

NOTE: add in a bit more almond or peanut butter and honey to the mixture if it doesn’t bind together enough, or add some water or milk. Keep some bars in the fridge for up to a week and freeze the rest till needed.


Is the last chance to get the teenager refuelled from a day of training, learning and growing to be as prepared as they can be for the following day to do it all again and more (sometimes).
Remember the amounts I have provided for you to trial with your teenager are rough guidelines, everyone is different so don’t be afraid to play around with amounts.
Here are a couple of easy recipes to try. This can prove tricky if the whole family is eating the same meal, however it is easy enough to divide your teenager’s portion with more of the protein (chicken, beef or fish) and carbohydrates ( kumara or pumpkin).

Option 1:

Butter chicken

Serves: 4 Time: 25 minutes

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, finely diced
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
700-800g skinless, boneless chicken breasts
6-8 cups smashed golden kumara or butternut pumpkin
1.5-2 cups light coconut milk
4 cups chopped kale or silverbeet
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1-1.5 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 cup low-fat plain yoghurt
Salt, to taste
With every serve add:  
1 cup steamed broccoli, and 1 cup steamed cauliflower.

Heat oil in a large pan or wok. Add onions and garlic.
Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are clear but not browned. Stir in ginger, curry powder, cumin and coriander.
Cook for about 1 more minute.
Meanwhile, boil some golden kumara and mash it when cooked.
Add chicken to pan over a moderate heat. Stir in kumara, coconut milk, tomato paste and garam masala.
Stir in yoghurt and silverbeet or kale. Season with salt. Leave for another 15-20 minutes (with longer cooking the yoghurt may separate).
Serve with and steamed vegetables and grains on the side.

Option 2:

Lemon chicken or beef or lamb stir fry

Serves: 4, freezable  
3 carrots            
4 cups  broccoli         
2 cups green beans        
2 medium courgettes    
4 cups spinach leaves or kale (or do a mixture)                
1 red capsicum            
4 cups cauliflower
700-800g skinless, boneless chicken breast fillet or beef or fish
4 tsp olive oil
1 tsp ginger (crushed or freshly grated)
2 tsp garlic (crushed or freshly grated)
Juice of one or two lemons
4 tablespoons soy sauce

Serve with: 1/2 cup-1 cup for female teenage rower or 1 cup – 2 cup for male teenage rower

 While the quinoa is boiling, cut chicken, beef or lamb in strips. Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan and add chicken to brown. Set aside.
Cut up the vegetables and stir fry in a non-stick pan until semi-soft. Add the chicken or beef.
Add lemon juice and soy sauce. Cook for 2 minutes.                                                                                  
Serve with quinoa.

For more personalised help with a teenage rower, Danielle Robertson from Fuel Nutrition (fuelnutrition.co.nz) is offering 10 percent discount off  her consult and plan investment with a special code: FJteenagerower. Contact Danielle via email danielle@fuelnutrition.co.nz or call/txt on 027 8445347.


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