Eat well, ride well - advice for horse-riding for beginners

Horse-riding for beginners isn't strenuous. But eating well will give you the physical energy you need when your instructor asks you to ‘use your legs and stop you getting out of breath when you're learning to rise to the trot. Not to mention that it’s helpful to be at your optimum weight for your height. You don’t want your horse complaining about extra weight bumping around on its back. If you’re light and fit, you won’t hit the ground as heavily if you should happen to take a tumble too. Here are our top six nutrition tips to help you eat well and ride well when horse-riding for beginners. 

Don’t drink your calories

Cut down on the sugar in your coffee and tea. And try to knock out sugary pop like Red Bull and coca-cola. You can get longer-lasting energy from food rather than the quick hit of caffeine. And remember there are lots of calories in wine and beer. Alcohol is made by distilling starch and sugar, so it can contain as many calories as pure fat. Plus the calories it contains are known as ‘empty calories’ as they have no nutritional value. You can lose weight easily by cutting down on alcohol.

Eat more protein

Your body burns more calories when it’s digesting protein compared to carbohydrates so it’s a good way to fuel your body without gaining weight. Protein is also the building block of muscle. A high protein diet will help you build muscle mass and strength. Increasing the protein in your diet from say 15% to 30% will also help to control your appetite. That's because it has a big effect on weight-regulating hormones, making you feel fuller. Eating a higher protein diet is also good to maintain bone health, which is particularly important if you’re female, as women can suffer from osteoporosis as they get older.

Be carb smart

Carbs get a bad rep but they are essential for energy for the body. It’s just about eating the right type of carbohydrates. Go for slow-release carbs that you get from whole foods like oats, wholemeal pasta and couscous, rather than refined carbs like white bread and rice. Also, since carbs act as immediate fuel for your muscles, eat them when you’re busy and not if you are sitting down all afternoon. If you have a riding lesson the following morning, you can ‘pre-load’ with carbohydrates like pasta the evening before and you will be powering your body in an efficient way.

Eat the good fats

Fats, like carbohydrates, have a bad reputation. But the truth is that there are two types of fats, good and bad. The fats that you should be eating are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These are good for your heart, cholesterol and overall health. You can find these good, unsaturated fats in things like oily fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines ), avocados, nuts and seeds. The bad fats are what are called trans fats and saturated fats. Trans fats, especially the artificial ones, are found in commercial cakes and pastries, packaged snacks like crisps and crackers and fried foods like chips and chicken nuggets. Check the packaging on the foods that you buy and be careful when you're cooking. Cook using olive oil rather than sunflower oil.

Join the plant-food revolution

You don’t need to go vegan – in fact cutting out a food group entirely can bring you more problems. Instead, focus on eating as much fruit and veg as you can. Five portions a day is recommended, but if you can eat more, do. Fruit and veg is good for you as it contains fibre, plus vitamins and minerals which help keep your body functioning at its best. Try to’ eat the rainbow’ - ie eat as many different coloured foods as possible. Remember that the darker the fruit or veg, the more vitamins it contains. So superfoods like blueberries are more nutritious than pale beige potatoes. 

Stay hydrated

You are constantly losing water from your body through urine and sweat. If you're exercising, you’ll obviously need to replace the water you lose. Make sure you drink plenty of water as a matter of course. Depending on the climate you live in, that could be 6 to 8 glasses in the UK (around 1.2 litres) or more in America or other hotter countries.

And don’t forget. Eating well means riding well. And horse-riding for beginners burns calories too. Riding for 45-minutes in walk, trot and canter would likely burn around 200 calories. The more intense the ride, the more calories you will burn. So eat well and enjoy your horse-riding.