A lightweight rower's diet

Updated July 13, 2018

In lightweight rowing, both male and female rowers must maintain minimal standard body weight. Men must weigh less than 160 lb while women must clock in below 130 lb; competitors are often weighed one to two hours before a race. These stringent weight requirements mean that lightweight rowers must balance vital high-energy and low-fat components in their diets.

General dietary needs

Because rowing competitions can last up to seven minutes and span distances up to 1.24 miles, lightweight rowers must focus on fueling their aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. In addition to competition, a lightweight rower's diet fuels training, often including one or two daily rowing sessions, three to four gym sessions per week and, sometimes, even cross training. Due to these intensive requirements, a high-energy, high-nutrient intake is essential. Lightweight rowers focus on compact, energy-dense and nutrient-dense foods to keep weight volume in check while providing energy. Protein sources must be as lean as possible.


Many foods in the grain group provide the carbohydrate energy needed for training and performance. Cereal, muesli bars, low-fat fruit muffins, fruit loaf, whole-grain bread and wheat English muffins fit the bill. For additional low-fat energy, rowers accent these grains with jam, honey or — for a protein boost — low-fat peanut butter. On the dairy end, lightweight rowers turn to low-fat and high-protein yogurts and flavored yogurts. Lightweight rowers can keep fat in check by eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, looking for low-fat labels on snacks and limiting add-ons, such as sauces and salad dressings.


All rowers must keep hydrated, as the sport leads to high amounts of sweat loss. Lightweight rowers stay hydrated by taking in 1.5 times the amount of liquid lost; the importance of drinking water cannot be stressed enough in this regard. Natural juices bring important vitamins, such as vitamin C-rich citrus juices or vitamin A-rich carrot juice, to the lightweight rower's diet while skim milk and low-fat flavored milk provide essential muscle-building proteins. Sports drinks provide additional energy-friendly electrolyte and carbohydrates and should be taken in during competition and long training sessions, especially on hot days.

Pre-event diet

During training, lightweight rowers eat five to six small meals daily and avoid eating any large meals. Directly before the event, a lightweight rower's diet focuses on carbohydrates and hydration. Pre-competition meals should be low fat and high fibre, taken in two to four hours before competition. Breakfast cereals with skim milk, fruit salads, low-fat yogurts, vegetable salads and lean meats, such as skinless chicken or fish, work well. Liquid meal replacements help lightweight rowers get enough energy while keeping the pounds off.

Event diet

Lightweight rowing events, or regattas, take place over a time period of two days to a week. To keep weight down, lightweight rowers turn to easily digested fruits, specialized glucose lollipops and liquids, like fruit juice and sport drinks, in addition to plenty of water. For the one-to-two-hour down times between races, lightweight rowers turn to rice, low-fat cereal bars, low-fat sports bars, bananas, dried fruit and meal replacement drinks. Heartier recovery meals should provide lean proteins, carbs and fluids and should be taken in directly after the race.

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About the Author

Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.