NUTRITIONAL GUIDELINES FOR SWIMMERS
Listed below is information that both parents and swimmers may find useful when thinking of diet requirements needed to help promote maximum performance
A balanced diet is…….
Ensuring your diet is rich in complex carbohydrates
Low in fat, salt and sugars
Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables
When you swim you burn 7-9 calories a minute and you lose lots of water, you therefore must recover the lost water by drinking lots.
Avoid false energy….
Swimmers should be aware that eating sweets and chocolate before training and competing should be avoided.
They make you feel energetic but only for a very short time and the longer term effect is that after the sugar rush they make you feel drowsy and dehydrated which will affect performance.
Heat is generated within the muscles and this causes us to sweat (lose water) so this needs to be replaced. Swimmers do not feel they are sweating because they are in water but it is very important to replace the lost fluid to avoid de-hydration.
Always bring a drink to training. A pinch of salt can be added to the drink to replace the lost salt too.
What food should I be eating?
High Energy Breakfasts
Cereal with milk topped with fruit
Toast with jam (no need to completely avoid sugary food as that can also be harmful)
Beans on toast
Egg on toast
High Energy Lunches
Spaghetti on toast
Jacket potatoes with beans, tuna, cottage cheese, cheese
Pitta bread with filling
Ham salad sandwich
High Energy Main Meals
Pasta and sauce
Stir fry chicken and noodles
Meat and vegetables
High Energy Desserts
Fresh fruit salad
5-6 portions of fruit and vegetables
1-2 portions of cereal
1-2 litres of water
2-3 servings of dairy (cheese, yoghurt, milk)
2 servings of protein
Try to ensure you vary your diet as not only will it become boring to eat the same foods but doing this will not provide the full nutritional benefits.
If you haven’t got time to eat a proper meal before training some good ideas for energy are the following
Teacakes, muffins, crumpet or malt loaf
Low fat cereal bars, fig rolls or digestive biscuits
Foods to be avoided
Chocolate bar, sweet biscuits
Fried food and chips
Preparation before a big event
The lead up to a big event is as important as the day of the race. Ensure that you increase your carbohydrate intake to ensure your energy levels are high on the day.
Increase portions slightly
Increase fluid intake
Get plenty of sleep
For energy concentrate on meals which are rich in complex carbohydrates such as rice, pasta, noodles, potatoes, bread, cereals, beans and milk alongside lots of fruit and vegetables. The reason we say complex carbohydrates is that they provide swimmers with a gradual supply of energy over an extended period of time which is in contrast to simple carbohydrates which could be detrimental to swimmers performance as they elevate a swimmers blood sugar level above its optimal value. Complex tend to be low in fat where as simple contain hidden amounts of fat. Complex also contain a good source of fibre whereas simple contain very little. The following foods provide a high level of simple carbohydrates: sugar, ice cream, sweets, fizzy drinks, honey, jam, chocolate, cakes and biscuits.
Proteins are also used to provide a swimmer with energy but more so when carbohydrate stores are depleted. Proteins should make up about 15% of the total calories of a swimmers diet. The following foods provide a high level of protein: meat, milk, eggs, fish and cheese.
Day of competition
Take a packed lunch with you as generally food sold at the venue will be either “junk” food sold in a vending machine or high fat food in the café. After working hard all week to boost your diet don’t let temptation spoil it now!
Ideas for your packed lunch could be taken from the following:
Ham salad sandwich, pasta salad, rice salad, tortilla wraps or couscous
Yoghurt, rice pudding, low fat cereal bars, fresh fruit, dried fruit, rice cakes, jaffa cakes or fig rolls.
Lots of drinks- water, milk or homemade sports drinks (see article on how to make your own)
DEFINITELY AVOID CRISPS, CHOCOLATES, BACON OR CHIP BUTTIES, FIZZY DRINKS ETC – EATING SIMPLE CARBOHYDRATES BEFORE COMPETING COULD AFFECT YOUR PERFORMANCE. THIS IS BECAUSE IT INCREASES YOUR BLOOD SUGAR LEVEL ABOVE ITS OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE AND GIVES A QUICK ENERGY RUSH BUT IN THE LONG TERM WILL SLOW YOU DOWN BY MAKING YOU FEEL TIRED.
Before, During and After the Race
What you drink is VERY important so try to follow these guidelines
4-6 cups of fluid 1-2 hours before the race
1-2 cups of fluid 15-20 minutes before the race
1-2 hours before the race eat some complex carbohydrates
2-3 cups of fluid within 15 minutes of race end
After the event
If possible try to eat your post race main meal within 1-2 hours of finishing your swim. If this is not possible due to travelling make sure you have a drink and snack to start refueling your body as soon as possible.
Try not to be tempted by a fast food outlet on the way home!!
Once home try to eat a substantial meal such as pasta or chicken stir fry
(see above for other ideas).
Try to get a good nights sleep especially if it is a two day event and you need to be at your best again for the next days races.
Isotonic – quickly replaces fluids lost by sweating and supplies a boost of carbohydrate. This drink is the choice for most athletes.
Want to make your own?
Isotonic – 200ml of orange squash(concentrated orange), 1 litre of water and a pinch of salt. Mix all together and keep chilled.
Of course these are only ideas for you to think about as a competitive swimmer, but please try to remember that there are lots of factors involved in the way you perform. All these things put together will contribute to your performance and will undoubtedly help you to be at your best.