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Nutritional Advice for Competitive Swimmers

Motivation, training and the genes you get from your parents are considered by many athletes and coaches to be the most important factors for successful athletic performance. However without proper nutrition you will not reach your full potential. All top elite athletes gain their success from a number of factors and one of these is nutrition. To get that extra edge a suitable diet is needed – many athletes follow specific dietary programs to make sure their diet is a healthy and one that will enhance their performance.

Please enjoy the following articles:

16 Breakfast Ideas for the Young Swimmer -- By Jill Castle, MS, RDN

To eat, or not to eat, breakfast? This is the question young swimmers may struggle with as they scurry out the door to make morning practice or catch the bus and get to school on time.

For growing kids and teens, starting the day with breakfast has its benefits. Breakfast consumption has been linked to better nutrient intake, mental function and academic performance. Skipping breakfast has it drawbacks. A 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 1999-2006) survey of children aged 9-18 looked at self-reported breakfast eating patterns and the types of... (read more)


The Importance Of Fluid Replacement During Training For Age Group Swimmers -- By Dr. Keith B. Wheeler, Ph.D. and Angeline M. Cameron

Question: Can age group swimmers dehydrate during a 1 1/2-hour swimming workout? Does the temperature of the water alter the situation? How often, how much, and what should a swimmer drink to prevent dehydration?

Answer: Yes, dehydration, or a lowering of body-water levels significantly below normal, can occur in swim workouts of 45 minutes or longer. The body continues to lose water through sweat even when submerged in water. Also, a lot of additional water is lost through increased breathing.

The temperature of the water can affect the amount of water loss, with higher water temperatures causing greater body-water losses. Although research hasn’t been done specifically with varying water temperatures, similar changes in body-water loss occur when air temperatures varies. Water loss in sweat increases approximately 13% for each degree centigrade (7% per degree Fahrenheit) increase above ambient air temperature. Thus, if a swimmer normally loses 2 pounds of weight (body water) during a 1 1/2-hour workout at a given temperature, a 5 degree F increase in water temperature would increase the body-water losses to 3 pounds. In the warmer water, the swimmer would need to drink an additional 16 ounces of fluid to maintain the same hydration level as in the cooler water.

Swimmers should plan to drink 16 ounces of fluid for each pound of weight lost during a workout. Fluid should be drunk over an entire workout, that is, 8 ounces of fluid should be drunk every 15 minutes. Water is a good source of fluid; however, glucose-polymer-electrolyte solutions such as EXCEED (R) Fluid Replacement & Energy Drink have been proven superior to plain water in maintaining body-water balance during many forms of exercise. Drinks containing simple sugar such as colas, thirst quenchers, and fruit juices, should not be drunk during a workout.

Editor's Note: The above article was written during the time that Swim Parent News was sponsored by Ross Laboratories, makers of Exceed. There are many fluid replacement sports drinks on the market at this time.


FUEL YOUR BODY -- By Lisa Liston -- Lynchburg YMCA Swim Team

Nutrition is important ALL THE TIME to keep the tank full for athletic training and performance. Athletes need to EAT TO TRAIN, not train so they can eat. In general, the athlete’s diet should be composed of 60% carbohydrates, 15% protein, and 25% fat. Carbohydrates are necessary as the dominant fuel in moderate and high intensity activities. Carbohydrates provide the energy to keep your engine running through those long practices and intense races! Protein is not an energy source, but it is important because it builds and repairs muscles, produces hormones, supports the immune system, and replaces red blood cells. Fat plays a critical role in the overall functioning of the body; it aids in digestion and energy metabolism, helps maintain body temperature, and plays a part in regulating hormone production.

In order to maintain optimal training and performance energy levels, it is important that athletes eat early and often! Athletes should have a carbohydrate snack before morning workouts -- even if a small amount. (While some don’t like to eat early in the morning, you can train your body to begin accepting food.) You should never go 3 or 4 hours without a snack during the day. It is better for swimmers to eat 6-8 times a day rather than just three meals a day. Athletes MUST have a carbohydrate snack immediately after practice. For proper muscle repair to begin, you have about a 30 minutes window to get some food in after practice. Within 1-2 hours of practice, swimmers should have a full meal. Without adequate fuel, swimmers will become fatigued and are more prone to injury as they are not helping their muscles recover.

Some excellent choices for your post-workout recovery snack might include chocolate milk, power bars, yogurt, bagels with peanut butter, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.   The more you weigh, the larger your snack should be.  For instance if you weigh 120 pounds, 1.5 power bars may be sufficient, but if you weigh 175, then you might need 1 cup of chocolate milk and a bagel with peanut butter.

Not only is getting adequate food important during regular training, it is also critical during meets to maintain peak performance. After racing, swimmers need to replenish fluids and eat a small snack. Sometimes a swimmer won’t have quite enough time to warm down after a race and eating some food to help the recovery process along is just plain smart.  Stuck at a summer league meet with no warm down at all? Keep moving around and eat a few peanut butter crackers before your next race!

Check out USA Swimming’s nutrition tracker on the web to be sure you’re getting enough! As we head outdoors into the 50 meter pool in just a few days, training demands will become greater and swimmers are likely to need more calories to sustain successful training.