The primary fuel source for most swimmers during training is carbohydrate. During high intensity swimming, such as racing and completing tough sets, this carbohydrate comes from circulating blood sugar and glycogen, the storage form of carbohydrate. Over time, as glycogen is used, it must be replaced to avoid depletion. Should glycogen stores become low or depleted, circulating blood sugar shares the burden of supporting the demands of tough workouts and races with the body’s last resort high-intensity fuel source, protein.Since this protein usually comes in the form of muscle protein, it is easy to see how long-term failure to replenish glycogen can lead to tissue breakdown. Combined with the tissue breakdown that is a normal result of hard exercise(and an important part of the adaptation stimulus during training), it is also easy to see why poor nutritional recovery usually rears its ugly face in two forms:
1. Daily Training Indicators (chronic/long-term)
• complaints of “lead legs” and/or “can’t keep up”
• elevated resting heart rate
• elevated heart rate on typical sets, and/or
2. Meet indicators (acute/ immediate; usually on the
back end of a meet)
• lower post-race peak lactate
• diminished lactate recovery
• feelings of fatigue
• elevated resting heart rate
• longer post-race heart rate recovery
Effective nutritional recovery maintains energy and limits tissue breakdown, especially during periods of high volume /high intensity training, and both carbohydrate and protein are essential to the plan. One of the key factors to keep in mind is that the “window of opportunity” for maximizing glycogen repletion starts to close as soon as exercise stops and lasts for about two hours. Therefore, the most effective ways to make the most of your recovery time and maximize the training adaptation are:
• Start the replenishment process during practice if
workout is longer than an hour.
• Eat a substantial carbohydrate snack with some
protein immediately after practice or within 20-30
min of finishing a workout.
• During hard training, add another post-workout
snack 45 minutes to 1 hour later.
• Eat a main meal within 2 hours of finishing workout.
• During meets, eat a high-carb/moderate-protein
snack immediately after your prelims race and
immediately after your finals race, then again after
• Substantial means 1.2-1.5 g of carbohydrate and
.25-.4 g or protein per kg of body weight (*kg=lbs/2.2)
• Include all sources of carbohydrate, such as colorful
fruits and juices, milks, yogurts, breads, cereals, etc.
• Include various sources of protein, such as meat,
peanut butter, milks, yogurt, cereals, legumes, etc.
• Include liquids to replenish lost fluids.
During its time off, the body will adapt, but only if provided with the right fuels at the right times. For many swimmers,ensuring good nutrition is like a full-time eating job! Not only is the goal to replenish glycogen, but also to ensure a highlevel of circulating protein, vitamins and minerals to combat tissue breakdown during subsequent swims and recoveryperiods and maintain hydration to optimize metabolic efficiency (a fancy way of saying that water allows the bodyto access the nutrients it needs when it needs them).