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Three Ways to Fight Fatigue

Any young athlete can become fatigued, especially when he trains in a grueling sport such as rowing. Fatigue is physical tiredness accompanied by difficulty concentrating, anxiety, a gradual decrease in stamina, difficulty sleeping, and sensitivity to light, according to researcher, Dr. Karin Olson.

A routine training schedule, school, a social life and getting up early in the morning is a demanding schedule for any rower. One of the mistakes people make when fatigued is to drink caffeine, which tricks the body into thinking it has more energy. Instead, make sure to address the added life stressors, and use these three ways to fight fatigue:

Sleep: Children and teens need more sleep than adults. Children aged 7 to 10 years need about 10-11 hours of sleep and teens need 8-9 hours each day. During sleep, human growth hormone (HGH) is released, allowing normal growth to occur.

Children and teen athletes may benefit from more sleep than non-athletes. In several studies conducted by Cheri Mah, a Stanford researcher, college athletes (swimmers, football, basketball and tennis players) who were able to sleep ten hours performed better, logging faster times and quicker reaction times.

While researchers don’t understand the sleep and performance relationship completely, improvements appear to be related to the release of HGH during sleep, which stimulates muscle repair and growth, bone formation, and overall recovery from exercise.

Take-Away: Be sure to get the recommended hours of sleep for your age, and consider extra time in bed, either at night or a nap, to optimize your rowing performance.

Nutrition: Good nutrition is essential to any sport, but the energy demands of rowing make food selection and the amounts eaten important. Pay attention to the content of meals and snacks, selecting wholesome food most of the time (90%), and sugary desserts and fatty foods occasionally (10%), as follows:


  • Lean protein sources (lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and eggs)
  • Low fat dairy/non-dairy sources (low fat or skim milk, soymilk, low fat yogurt and cheeses)
  • Fruit (fresh, frozen, dried and 100% juices)
  • Vegetables (fresh, frozen, and low sodium canned)
  • Whole grains (cold and hot cereals, pasta, bread/bagels/rolls, and crackers)


  • Fun Foods (candy, cookies, ice cream, chips, soda and French fries)

Food timing is also important. Schedule your eating, targeting meals and snacks every 3-4 hours. Skipping or delaying meals can translate to a shortage of calories, overall nutrition and dips in performance.

Take-away: Young rowers are unique in that they are still growing—which is a calorie demand in its own right. Together with rowing, energy and nutrient needs are a prime concern for proper growth, minimizing fatigue and optimizing performance. Make nutrition part of the schedule, giving it top billing on the priority list!

Hydration: Rowers can easily get behind on fluids and this can negatively influence their energy level and performance. To stay ahead of dehydration, drink before, during, and after training sessions and competition using these guidelines:

  • Before: 6 milliliters per pound body weight per hour (ex: 100# rower needs 600 ml per hour, or 20 ounces)
  • During: Take the opportunity to drink, according to thirst. One gulp is about an ounce of fluid.
  • After: 2 milliliters per pound body weight per hour (ex: 100# rower needs 200 ml per hour, or ~7 ounces)

Staying hydrated means anticipating fluid requirements and being prepared! Calculate pre-training and post-training fluid needs. Drink enough at school and before practices, and be sure to pack enough fluids to cover training and recovery.

Written by Jill Castle, MS, RDN | Nov 28, 2014

Jill Castle, MS, RDN is a childhood nutrition expert and co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School ( She blogs, and is working on her next book, entitled Eat Like a Champion: Performance Nutrition for Your Young Athlete (July 2015).

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