Here at West of Wild, we’re all about finding the best ways to optimize our performance. Whether we’re in the [home] office or outside in the elements- we want to feel our best and perform at a high level.
Since what you eat during the day has such a huge impact on how you feel and what you can accomplish, we decided to call in an expert. Meet Kristen Seiff (@true_you_health).
Kristen is a health coach and nutritionist who also happens to love surfing as much as we do. She has surfed everywhere, in all sorts of conditions, from the East Coast to North Shore of Hawaii.
We asked Kristen about her simple philosophy towards food, the best way to transition from the office to the surf, the best foods to eat pre- and post-surf, and how to avoid bloat before a workout.
A Simple Approach To Eating Well
What is your philosophy towards nutrition? Does it differ from a traditional approach?
In our lifetimes, we have seen some crazy swings in nutritional advice: eggs are bad, eggs are good, low-fat high-carb is best, high-fat low-carb is the way to go… you get the point.
Through my studies and experience, I’ve found that fabs and extremes tend to fade out. Whenever someone has a miraculous weight loss plan or an intense restriction diet that they advocate, I immediately turn the other direction.
My philosophy towards nutrition is all about simplicity and balance.
For thousands of years, nature has provided us with all of the food we need. Each and every food has a different nutrient profile and supplies a different range of benefits, all of which serve a purpose in our health and well-being. I believe that all these foods should be, in some capacity, included in our diets.
Ratios of food and proper portions are of course important, but the most important thing is eating real food. I teach this to all my clients starting day one. If it looks like it was made in a factory, you probably shouldn’t eat it.
So instead of cutting out entire food groups such as dairy, meat, carbs, or fats, I focus on consuming natural sources of every food group, and limiting processed foods.
How To Transition From Work To Surf
You’re a nutritionist but also an avid surfer. How do you transition from working on your computer each day to getting out the door for a surf? Or do you try to surf before you start work?
I’ll start off by saying that I make sure to schedule in time for myself every single day. If I don’t make it a priority, I become less productive and eventually flat out exhausted. My husband can second this, I’m not someone you want to be around when I can’t be active!
Since making the transition to working from home, I had to learn to build boundaries between work and personal life. It might sound weird, but I found that having separate spaces for different activities has been key. For example, when I sit at my desk, I work and get into my productive mindset, but when I’m in my bedroom, I sleep and enjoy being with my husband. My laptop never goes in there with me.
Having these separate spaces helps me to transition between the different mindsets without overlap. I have trained my brain that when I leave my office, I am no longer working, it’s time to connect and engage in my personal life. That way, when it’s time to surf, I’m fully present and enjoying the surf. Not thinking about what needs to get done at work.
Having those boundaries also extends to time management. At the end of each work day, I go back and look at my to-do list for the day and see what I’ve accomplished, and create a new list for the next day. Then, I time block my upcoming day. This includes everything from calls with clients to my surf session. The time I surf changes based on the [ocean] conditions and my call schedule.
But typically, if the surf is good first thing in the morning, I will schedule it in then. I also set a time limit to be back home and working. If I know I want to go for my lunch break or at the end of the day, I set a time limit for tasks that I have set during my day. Since it’s all scheduled, I can be fully engaged in whatever I’m doing and not worrying about other things.
The Best Foods To Eat Before Surfing
What are your favorite foods to eat before and after a surf?
That’s a great question!
Before surfing, I like to eat pretty light so that it doesn’t feel like a brick is sitting in my stomach. I’ll usually have a combination of carbs and protein such as:
- an egg on whole grain toast;
- a banana with peanut butter, or;
- some plain greek yogurt with granola and fruit.
The carbs give a bit of extra energy, and the protein helps you feel satiated for a bit longer so you don’t have to quit for hunger pangs.
After surfing, my answer changes a bit with the season.
After being in the salty ocean when it’s hot out, especially somewhere tropical like Hawaii, fruit is so good! It brings your sugar levels back up and rehydrates you at the same time! The people at the local acai bowl shop on the North Shore used to know my name and order since I went in there so often (shout out to Banzai Bowls!!)
If it’s been a long and challenging session, I’ll have a more complete meal that contains protein, veggies and some carbs -like a burrito bowl or a stir fry. The protein helps your muscles rebuild and recover, the veggies replenish nutrients and help reduce inflammation, and the carbs restore your body’s glycogen so you can keep your energy up for the day and maybe even get a second session in!
When it’s been a cold surf, my favorite meal is soup. To be specific, my mom’s chicken soup. There’s nothing quite as good when you’re chilled to the bone!
I grew up winter surfing in New York and we used to surf during blizzards. So you can imagine how beyond amazing a hot meal was afterwards!
How To Avoid Bloat Before A Surf
Summer is made for getting outside and being active, but if you’re feeling bloated or having digestion issues, it can be hard to get out the door. Are there any foods or food combinations to specifically avoid before engaging in athletic activities?
Everyone’s body is a little different and will respond to foods differently. It takes some experimentation to learn what specifically causes your gut to bloat. Generally, though, processed foods are going to cause a negative reaction. This includes processed and salty meats, fried foods, commercially baked goods, etc.
When such foods are processed, we see things like trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils), added sugars, sodium, and other chemicals pumped into them to enhance flavor, shelf life, visual appearance, etc. Our bodies were not built to digest these foods, and our gut has a hard time processing them. This will cause gut discomfort and bloat, as well as sluggishness and brain fog.
Regarding performance, I recommend staying away from fatty foods, even healthy fatty foods, right before engaging in any vigorous activities. Fats tend to sit heavier in your stomach and can slow you down in any activity or workout. Add some fats back in later in the day.
The Best Workouts For Surfing
As a fellow surfer from Hawaii, I can definitely say that surfing is the best way to get in shape for surfing. But if you can’t make it to the beach everyday, what type of dry land workout do you recommend to prepare for the surf? (I.e. yoga, weight training, etc.).
Surfing is a sport that requires endurance, speed and flexibility, as well as being one with your body, and so you want to focus on workouts that enhance those aspects of your fitness.
For endurance, steady state cardio such as running and biking are phenomenal choices.
For strength and speed, you want bursts of energy and quick recovery, making HIIT and weight training great options. Focusing on the pulling muscles is also extremely beneficial for improving your paddling (pull ups, rows, etc.)
*Heavy weight training without cardio can slow you down, so make sure to get your heart rate up!
For flexibility, yoga (especially hot yoga) is an excellent choice.
That being said, one thing that many people don’t emphasize all that often is the importance of being fully present in your body when you surf. When you’re riding a wave, truly riding a wave, your mind is nowhere but that moment. Many people never experience this feeling, they don’t know what it’s like to be fully immersed. To improve your surfing, you need to be able to get to this mindset efficiently.
I believe that there are few activities that really bring you to that place and that really compliment each other the way that surfing, yoga, and Brazilian jiu jitsu do. Each of these activities bring you to a place where you are fully present; mind and body become one. They each require fluidity, flexibility and strength.
Yoga tests the mind, seeing how still you can teach it to be; jiu jitsu is a quick moving dance or a game of chess using your body -reading your opponent’s movements and responding appropriately; surfing is a combination of the two, keeping your mind still and steady, while swiftly responding to the ocean’s energy.
Advance Your Wellness Knowledge with Kristen Seiff
If you found this information helpful and want to talk to Kristen, you can email her at [email protected] You can also find her on instagram: (@true_you_health) or on Linkedin: Kristen Darby Seiff.