Carbohydrate Fueling

Julian Morales
Carbohydrate Fueling Before, During and After A Workout
A vast majority of studies based on supplements have been focused on the potential benefits of using carbohydrates to help athletes perform better. This is due to the fact that failure to keep glycogen, or sugar, levels regulated within the muscles and liver can cause exercise to become more difficult, or to a complete stop. The need to replenish these glycogen storages right after a workout is just as important as it is to feed the storages before and during exercise. According to William McArdle, frank and Victor Katch (Authors of “Sports and Exercise Nutrition, 4th Edition), here are some ways to use carbs to your advantage before, during and after your workout:
Your “precompetition” meal should include foods that are readily digestible and contribute to the requirements of the exercise you are about to do. If you’re going to stretch for half an hour, you’re not going to need nearly as many carbs or as many liquids as if you were going to do one of Coach Ken’s 2-Hour, IM focused practices. Foods that are high in carbohydrates, but low in lipid, proteins and are consumed ~3 hours before are perfect for before a swim practice. For example, a Cliff bar is 52 grams of Carbs, 2 grams of lipids or fat, and 5 grams of protein.
Intense aerobic exercise that lasts 1 hour can deplete the liver’s glycogen levels by 55%, where if it lasts 2 or more hours, it basically depletes the glycogen storages in the liver and within the muscles that were used for that practice. Carbohydrate containing drinks, like Gatorade and Powerade, can be a huge help because it helps maintain the blood sugar concentration during a swim practice. The sugar in these drinks can become a “reserve” when those glycogen levels start to go down within the liver and the muscles. 
While learning about this my senior year in college, I bought myself Gatorade mix and maltodextrin from Amazon. I would put the two in a water bottle, shake it up and sip on it during practice. I noticed that I never really hit a “wall” during practice, especially during our 3,000+ yard threshold sets that we did every Monday afternoon. It was still unbelievably difficult, but my body responded better when I had those carbs with me on deck.
Like It was mentioned before, aerobic exercise takes A LOT out of you and it is important to replace those glycogen storages. Because most swimmers are doing 1.5-2 hour long practices 5-7 times a week in the heart of the season, it becomes even more important to replace what is lost when it comes to those energy storages to be able to string together days/weeks/months of good training. For replenishment, it is important to start eating foods with a high glycemic index immediately after a practice. Foods with a high glycemic index include:
  • Dates
  • Pretzels
  • Watermelon 
  • Wheat Bread
My go to replenishment “snack” that I had after practice was always a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich on wheat bread that I ate while I showered/changed after practice. I would finish it within ~10 minutes of being done with practice. This would be enough to hold me up until I got home and made dinner.
Exemplary performance goes beyond the pool deck; being the best athlete you can be requires attention to what you’re doing before, during and after all practices and meets.