Last month, we gave some background information about the pigeon body, how it works and the balance you need in training. We mentioned that you should keep a good balance in training explosiveness and endurance, to make sure your pigeons are strong, fast and they can last the entire race.
We promised we would disclose my (Gerard) successful nutrition strategy. Well, here it is! First a ‘few’ comments, the nutrition schedule is at the bottom.
Nutrition for pigeons
Pigeons are grain eaters. They have a remarkably high metabolism. The food they eat is the fuel they need to produce heat and energy. Providing the right feed is very important, but combining the right feed with the right training is even more important. I like to give my pigeons the famous Rik-mix. Rik-mix is especially supporting during the nesting period. But since it contains various proteins and high-fat seeds, it’s great for the racing season either.
However, it’s not enough. The Rik-mix is the basis of our diet. We add several supplements in a particular order. The entire schedule we use is four weeks long. We’ll get into that later.
Although the Rik-mix has all the necessary components to maintain strength and health, it doesn’t give that extra needed to win. Professional athletes keep to a strict diet, but they also add various supplements, like vitamins or minerals like iron, magnesium, etc, depending on what they need. We do the same with our pigeons. We provide them with vitamins and minerals, but also with disinfectants to keep them safe and healthy during training and racing.
There is a specific composition of the supplements we use and a specific order in which we use them. The schedule is at the bottom, so keep reading.
Carefull with antibiotics!!
Applying antibiotics weakens a pigeon. That’s why we use natural supplements that boost the pigeons immune system. Some of our customers, like the Hage family, manage to keep their pigeons antibiotic free for years already, which greatly improves the flying results. This is just one example of using the Travipharma products correctly.
Using antibiotics do not just affect the pigeon’s immune system, but also other body functions. Pigeons will usually eat and drink less. The digestive absorption works less, which means the pigeon receives less fuel and proteins. Also, the blood function of absorbing, storing and distributing oxygen lowers. You get the idea, antibiotics drastically abuse your pigeons and therefore your results.
As with humans that want to achieve a physical goal, nutrition isn’t the only important component. After nutrition and before training comes rest. You’ll first and foremost need a good loft that sees to the needs of your pigeons.
There are always those sceptics that don’t really believe a good loft makes much difference. But trust me, it does. Often, when a person asks a life coach how to sleep better, the lifecoach usually doesn’t start with prescribing all sorts of supplements. The first question he asks is what your room looks like. Whether it’s really dark at night. If it’s quiet. Whether your bedroom is your place of rest and zen, or if you also work there.
Those are all factors when it comes to sleep. These are also important for pigeons. You need a loft that is a true home for your pigeons. It needs to be quiet when they rest, and you have to be able to make it completely dark in there. The pigeons won’t mind, they’re not scared of the dark.
My advice is to darken the loft once the pigeons finish their evening meal. Right after you see they’re done eating, lights out and goodnight. Enable your pigeons to wake around sunrise (by building the loft in the right angle to catch the first sunlight). They like that rhythm. This is the healthiest rhythm for humans too! We have so much in common with our majestic pigeons!
Why the sleep? During our sleep, our muscles heal. The food we took in has been digested (for the biggest part) and since we do not use the energy for moving, thinking or lifting, the energy goes to restoring your mind and body. During sleep is where you heal. Your pigeons also need to heal, we’ll get to why in a moment.
This rhythm works best during the resting period of the year. Once you start training, you’ll want to change this rhythm a little.
Training your pigeons
Now we come to the fun part: training your pigeons. Let’s first look at what happens during training. What you want to achieve is hypertrophy. This is the most popular word among bodybuilders. Hypertrophy is the process of making cells bigger, which for our pigeons would result in muscle gain. We don’t want our pigeons to be bodybuilders though, so why hypertrophy?
Living organisms have the physical ability to adapt to circumstances. If you lift heavy for four days a week, your body will notice that lifting heavy is something you do frequently. Your body will adjust to make it easier. If you run long distances, your body does the exact same thing. In case of lifting, the Type IIb muscles are build. In case of running, the Type IIa muscles are build. Hypertrophy is how that happens. Note that hypertrophy is not just for muscles, but for every cell in your body. Long distance runners grow their lungs and heart too via this process.
To train your pigeons, you want an optimal hypertrophy. This is achieved by the right training, combined with the right nutrition and the right amount of rest. We’ve already covered nutrition and rest, so what about training?
During training, something happens within your body. Some call it breaking down or damaging your muscles, so they can improve during repair. That is why enough rest is important. Sleep is the primary moment for muscle repair and thus for improvement. We’re not sure if ‘damage’ is the right word though. Let’s call it stimulating the muscle to improve.
During training, there is a weak spot, which is called your limit. This can differ from time to time. I can explain this best by using the example of a runner.
There are several factors that are the absolute limit of a runner. During the run, the runner might run out of breath (oxygen), which might result in dizziness or a pain in the liver. The runner might also get too fatigued to continue, which is felt by the crampy feeling in the leg muscles. The first limit has to do with the efficiency and capacity of the lungs. The second limit has to do with the oxygen distribution/storage within the muscle. The overall endurance of a runner is always limited by one factor: the weakest one. The athlete will need to differentiate by what exactly his weak spot is: his limit.
The athlete can’t just say: ‘My endurance was too little to reach the 30 kilometer mark’. Because that would mean he just needs to increase his ‘endurance’, but what even is endurance? The athlete needs to know why his endurance was limited. Was it his lungs? Because then he needs to focus on breathing techniques. Did you know that blowing up balloons is a good way to train your lungs? If muscle fatigue was why he gave up, he’ll need to focus on something completely different. Maybe his diet doesn’t stimulate the blood function, too high cholesterol maybe? He might want to add raisins to his diet and skip some fats.
Increasing your pigeon’s strength or endurance can be done in many ways. It’s not possible to ask a pigeon why it was slower than the last time he flew. If only it were… You need to be creative and find ways to distinguish what the pigeon’s true weakness is and then find a way to improve it.
I gave you some tips and philosophies about how to improve your pigeon’s results by nutrition, rest and training. The only thing left to do is tell you how I train my pigeons, and to provide you with a nutrition plan for the racing period.
My pigeon training strategy
I train my pigeons differently, depending on the type of racer I want the pigeon to be:
- Sprinter: Train a short (30 minutes), intensive sprint around the loft early in the morning (short after sunrise) or in the early evening (around 18.00h or 19.00h). Do this for a week. The next week, you make the trainingsessions a little longer and you add an extra session. For example: One week, train them only in the morning. The second week twice a day in the morning and evening. During the weeks you train twice a day, you must train for at least 1 hour with a flag to keep them in the sky. Week 3 is the same as week 1, etc;
- Endurance: Wake your pigeons early in the morning. Let them train in the early morning (maybe together with your sprinters). You’ll train their strength this way. Train you marathon pigeons (=endurance) the same way as your sprinters. Later you can let them do a long endurance training. The first period you start in the evenings at around 20:00h and then up to 21:00h till 22:00h, but only when it’s not too dark outside. It’s beneficial for your marathon pigeons to also train fly in the dark. This way, you’ll also train their mental strength. Make sure to let them rest well after.
Gerards’ nutrition schedule
Finally, I’m ready to give you my nutrition schedule. With the information I gave you in these two articles, you should be able to optimize your training methods. Feel free to share this article on social media by sharing the URL to this page.