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Nutrition for Tapering
Liz Archibald, MPH, RDN
Clinical Nutritionist/Nutritional Therapist
Time to taper your training and your diet. The trick to a proper “nutritional taper” is avoiding weight gain and sluggishness while still maintaining a proper intake to keep your glycogen stores full for race day. This is not the time to make significant changes to your diet or to “go on a diet”… hopefully you’ve been eating healthy all season long. This is the time for some slight adjustments, but IMPORTANT ones to help maximize your upcoming success! Just as everyone’s swimming taper is slightly different, everyone’s nutritional plan is also different, but here are some general guidelines. You’ve worked hard all season so stay focused, enjoy the taper, and get ready for some amazing swims!!!
Here is a list of 6 Dos and Don’ts.
- Maintain 60% of your calories from carbohydrates and 3 days before the meet up this to 65% to top off your glycogen stores (which means a little less fat and protein). At the beginning of the taper protein intake is important as you are still providing your body with the amino acids needed to facilitate muscle recovery but after a few days on your taper extra protein is not needed and could even be stored as fat if it is providing extra calories.
- To maintain calorie balance cut down first on “empty calories” (processed foods, sugary foods) and portion sizes, then a little on fat and then protein.
- Frequent small meals throughout the day
- HYDRATION!!!!! Stay well hydrated during the entire taper (especially2- 3 days before) with WATER!!! This will optimize carbohydrate stores and ensure peek performance. Best way to check on hydration status is to make sure you urine is pale yellow to almost clear.
- Optimize your metabolism and calorie intake by making sure you eat within an hour of workouts. The absorption of carbohydrates into the muscles is highest at this time and try to keep the ratio of carbs to protein 3:1-5:1. For those without lactose issues grab that organic chocolate milk.
- Up the fruits and veggies. Just as all carbs are not created equally all sugars are not created equally.
- DO NOT make any significant changes to the types of foods you eat. This could cause gas, bloating, and sluggishness. Stick to the foods your body knows.
- DO NOT “go on a diet” or decrease your calorie intake below 2000cal. You need the proper energy intake to restore your body. This is not about losing weight.
- AVOID sugary foods and empty calories- this includes processed foods and even sports drinks. Remember not all carbohydrates are created equally.
- AVOID salty foods. Causes bloating and dehydration.
- AVOID over-eating or feeling “stuffed”
- This one is not food related but worth mentioning…DON’T abuse your rest. You earned this rest period so don’t stay out/up extra late. Keep a similar rhythm.
Liz Archibald received her BA in Psychology from Duke University and her Master of Public Health from the Department of Nutrition at UNC- Chapel Hill. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, CT Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Diabetes Association, and Academy for Eating Disorders. She has 15 years experience and specializes in eating disorders; sports nutrition; weight loss for children, adolescents, and adults; nutritional issues in Type 1 and 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and food allergies/intolerances. She uses psychotherapeutic counseling techniques in conjunction with her knowledge of the biochemistry of the body and nutritional epidemiology to help clients understand not only what to eat, but why and how. She will be opening her practice in Ridgefield soon.
In addition Liz is a RAC parent and former swimmer. She teaches cycling classes in town and was just certified in a Spinning program for kids.