Polo is not just mentally challenging; it’s also physically demanding! This is why we always provide our horses with the best nutrition and ride them to keep them in perfect shape. It’s the same with riders because they know that success largely depends on self-discipline.
Apart from staying fit for the saddle, it is also essential for riders to focus on fueling their bodies. Food, whether you like it or not, affects a rider’s performance more than anything. Lacking the fuel they need to perform and the nutrients their body needs to recover makes them prone to injuries. No matter how fit they look on the outside, what’s inside matters more.
Consulting with a nutritionist would be a great first step. Despite the variety of diets available on the internet, it is best to know your body’s specific needs. But how do you eat like a polo player? Here are the tips we gathered from several polo players POLO LADY asked around the world.
Eat a balanced diet
A polo player’s goal is to eat a balanced diet that gives them lasting energy and lean protein. Choose various foods from the core areas: carbohydrates, protein, and (good) fats. Add some vegetables and fruits to the mix, too! When in doubt, pick whole, fresh, and unprocessed foods because these will help your body absorb nutrients efficiently.
Avoid processed foods, alcohol, and caffeine
Aside from being unhealthy, processed foods, alcohol, and caffeine cause bloating. If you want to be the MVP, avoid these two drinks because it robs you of energy and disrupts quick decision-making.
Bring a water bottle with you wherever you go. It doesn’t just help you save the planet but also helps you stay hydrated. Staying hydrated helps you control hunger and think better. Drink more than the recommended amount, especially when you’re riding under the sun.
To get a glimpse of a polo player’s diet, POLO LADY also interviewed polo player Rebecca Walters and Chukka Wellness founder India Parker-Smith.
What do you like to eat before, during, and after a polo game or training?
Rebecca: For before, I always eat light as I struggle to play on a full stomach. If I eat anything less than two hours before a game, it’s usually a banana. In a game, bananas are always there—at least one per game! After polo, I eat easily digestible foods but a good mix of everything. It could be eggs with avocado and toast or rice and salmon with greens—something balanced that’s going to replenish everything I’ve used. However, I just perform my best when I’m so well-hydrated!
India: [The food] depends on how your body reacts to eating big or small meals. I try to include protein, slow-releasing carbs (sweet potato or brown rice), lots of veggies, and water! During the game, a bite of banana and isotonic drink. After the game, the rest of the banana, protein bar, and isotonic water.
What do you like about these foods?
Rebecca: I hate feeling too full like I can’t move, but I always want to feed my body the best things. I like balance, so I never restrict myself. Avocado, oily fish, nut butter, and nuts are all excellent fat sources. I love carbs and never restrict myself, but I also have a good internal carb gauge. I know when to stop and when to eat them. I do love my greens, and I can never get enough of salads! Proteins in fish and meat are great, but I’ve mindfully cut down on overeating red meat, especially after lots of asados.
India: What’s good about these foods is they have slow-release carbs for energy, protein to help rebuild and repair the muscles, and isotonic drinks replenish any sodium lost through sweat. Water keeps you hydrated and the body and mind working efficiently.
Why is choosing the right food important for you?
Rebecca: Choice is the operative word here! Different things work for different people. As I asked more of my body, I became more and more aware of what it needed. I started listening to it and made my dietary choices and journey so much easier. You feel noticeably more or less full of energy when you feed yourself in the right way… for you.
India: It’s important to choose foods that your body can digest easily. Avoid things that make you bloat or feel lethargic because it puts even more pressure on your body during the game. You need your body to send energy to the working muscles and not the digestive system. You need foods that will energize you for games and help you with quick decision-making. Eating for recovery is also essential! Eat lots of vegetables and fruits for nutrients and lean protein for muscle repair and healthy fats.
To summarize it up, to eat like a polo player means focusing on eating well. They choose to eat healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, healthy carbs, and lean protein. You don’t have to change everything in a snap; you can start slowly and just do it consistently. One day you will just wake up surprised that your game has already improved drastically.
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Pámela Piedad is a journalist, author, designer, and the Editor-in-Chief of POLO LADY Magazine.