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Nutrition

Helpful snack ideas to fuel your body while training during the season. Please click on the link below.

 
SKIPPING MEALS IS NOT AN OPTION

 

Swimmer Nutrition

Nutrition plays a significant role in swimmers achieving their potential. Simply stated, the foods we eat provide “fuel” for training and competition, which means nutrition is as important, or more so, than training. All too often, swimmer’s diets contain too few calories or are lacking in certain essential nutrients, which explains why they become chronically fatigued and are susceptible to poor swim performances.

The following information is a brief outline of some areas that swimmers, parents and coaches can start to work on for better nutritional choices and habits.

 Making wise food choices can provide muscles with the proper fuel and allow swimmers to train harder and recover quicker. Remember these points when making food choices:

To achieve peak performance, a well-balanced diet high in carbohydrates is essential during all phases of training.

  • To reduce the risk of dehydration and maintain endurance, drink fluids before, during and after practices and competition.
  • Limit high-fat foods.
  • Limit foods high in refined sugar.

GOOD NUTRITION FOR SWIMMING

Carbohydrate is the most important, and least abundant, nutrient for working muscles. Adequate amounts of carbohydrate are essential for swimming performance. Carbohydrate is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. Carbohydrate’s principle functions are to:

  • Provide primary energy source for working muscles.
  • Ensure energy for the brain and nervous system.
  • Help use fat efficiently.

 Two hours of exercise, or even eight hours of sleep, may deplete liver glycogen levels. Swimmers must consume adequate carbohydrates if they are to perform at their best and minimize the threat of chronic exhaustion associated with the depletion of muscle glycogen.

To ensure a carbohydrate-rich diet, swimmers should try to eat at least 500 grams of carbohydrate per day, or 4-5 grams of carbohydrate/pound of body weight. Swimmers may find this difficult to do during the school day, however high-carbohydrate supplement drinks may help to alleviate those needs. Those products are not meant to replace carbohydrate-rich foods, but to supply extra calories and carbohydrates as needed.

Protein is needed to build and repair body tissues including muscles, ligaments and tendons. Contrary to popular belief, protein is not a primary source of energy, except when athletes are not eating enough food, especially carbohydrates. Research suggests swimmers need about .4-.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight every day. Some guidelines to determine the amount of protein in your diet:

  • 8 grams of protein per cup of 2% milk, or low-fat yogurt.
  • 8 grams of protein per ounce of low-fat cheese.
  • 7 grams of protein per ounce of lean meat (beef, chicken, fish).
  • 2 grams of protein per serving of bread or grains (1 slice of bread, ½ cup of rice, ½ cup of pasta).

Fats should take up no more than 30% of the total daily calories. Although, fat is an energy source, a high-fat diet decreases the intake of carbohydrates, making for a less efficient means of fueling the body. Some key points to know about fats:

  • Fats exit the stomach slowly and can reduce the speed in which nutrients and water enter the body.
  •  Consuming a high-fat diet compromises carbohydrate intake which may lead to chronic fatigue.
  •  Contrary to popular belief, no fat is not a good thing. Fat is needed for the body to function  effectively.

 

Fluids are important at ALL times. Performance may suffer when a swimmer loses as little as 2% of body weight due to dehydration. Thirst is not a good indicator of how much fluid a swimmer needs. To prevent dehydration, swimmers need to drink fluids, both while working out and during the day. To minimize poor performance due to dehydration, swimmers should follow these guidelines:

  •   Drink 1 to 2 cups of fluids (8-16 oz) prior to working out or competing.
  •   Drink 4-10 oz of fluids every 15-20 minutes of training.
  •   Avoid carbonated drinks, which can cause gastrointestinal distress and may decrease the volume of fluids consumed.
  •  Avoid caffeine which can contribute to fluid loss.

NUTRITION DURING MEETS

The types of foods swimmers eat prior to competition influences how well they perform in the water. The best pre-event meal should contain primarily carbohydrates. Carbohydrate-rich foods like pasta, cereals, bagels, fruits and vegetables are easily digested and absorbed. The general rule of thumb is for swimmers to consume .5-2.0 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight one to four hours prior to exercise.

Fatty foods such potato chips, donuts, french fries and pastries, take longer to digest and provide little energy during racing. Also, eating foods high in fat and protein and low in carbohydrate can actually diminish swimming performance. For that reason it is recommended to eat high-carbohydrate foods and drink lots of fluids.

Since swimming meets can last all day, try to use the following as a guide to help performance:

  •  When there is less than 1 hour between events, swimmers should consume high-carbohydrate foods like fruit juices, bananas; crackers, plain toast or sports drinks like Gatorade.
  •  When there are 2-4 hours between events, swimmers should add more high-carbohydrate foods like bagels, hot cereal such as oatmeal, along with the above foods and drinks.
  • When there are 4 hours or more between events, athletes can add small amounts of protein with other foods. Low-fat yogurt or a light spread of peanut butter on a bagel with fruit juice, or   a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with low-fat milk, fruit juice or Gatorade, are all                appropriate.

 

POST COMPETITION

It is important to eat carbohydrates after practice and competition, and the sooner the better. This will help rebuild glycogen stores as quickly as possible in preparation for the next day’s events or practice. Swimmers should consume at least 70 grams of carbohydrate within 30 minutes after exercise, followed by an additional 75-100 grams every 2-4 hours thereafter. (1 bagel with peanut butter = 100 grams).

 It is important to eat a balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.