Good Food Choices for Your Swimmers
One common question parents ask is “what should I feed my child(ren) before and during a swim meet?”
If possible, it’s best to feed them their main meal well before they compete – like the night before or early the morning of the meet. The main meal should consist of protein and complex carbohydrates including pasta, rice, cereal, toast, eggs, pancakes, waffles, even a peanut butter sandwich. It really doesn’t matter as long as it is a meal that hits the main food groups, is low in sugar, is easy for them to digest, and is familiar to them.
Get that main meal done the night before or within 2-3 hours prior to swimming, then "keep the fuel tank topped off" with easy to digest, lighter foods - fruit (apples, oranges, bananas, raisins, grapes, pears, etc.), low sugar power/energy bars, sport drinks (Gatorade/Powerade), pretzels, muffins, a simple sandwich (peanut butter and banana, banana and honey, jam, etc.), bagels, English muffins, peanut butter crackers or trail mix.
Stay away from candy bars, or other kinds of candy, and heavier foods. These aren’t appropriate this close to competition.
Once your child’s competition is under way, his/her body still needs fluids and nutrients to sustain physical effort and fight fatigue. Although many coaches and swimmers don’t realize it, dehydration can be a problem in swimming, especially if the air and water temperatures are warm. Remember, sweating is the body’s main mechanism for cooling itself; even though his practice and competition takes place in the water, he can still lose a great deal of body water in the form of sweat. Additionally, water is also needed to aid digestion and energy production. Dehydration robs the body of the primary means to cool itself and generate energy. Have water, Smart Water and/or low-sugar Gatorade or Powerade on hand and encourage your swimmer to drink small amounts often. It sounds gross, but when in doubt, check their urine. If it’s pale, straw color, then they are hydrated. If it’s the color of apple juice, then they need fluids.
Nutrition plays a large part in a swimmers’ success. Help give them all the tools they need to succeed!