Nutrition and Hydration
Competitive swimming makes huge demands on the body and ensuring your diet is right is key to improving your performance. Food does NOT make a swimmer fast. QUALITY training does, and a vital part of quality training is good nutrition. The main source of energy during training comes from carbohydrates and high carbohydrate meals are essential to provide energy and help recovery. To get continual adaptation and increased performance in any sport it’s the recovery phase which does this.
Our Nutritional needs change depending on whether you are in training or about to enter a competition. Here are some tips:
You should aim to eat little and often to keep your energy reserves full ready for your training. So, as well as your three main
meals a day you should try and eat a mid- morning and mid- afternoon snack. This however, should be something that is high in
carbohydrates and low in fat. For example a banana is an excellent option.
The 30 minute Rule your muscles recover best within the first 30 minutes after exercise. A low fat snack containing 50 to 100 grams
of carbohydrate eaten soon after training will help. Recovery will last 2 hours including to eat and digest, so eat as soon as the deadline
starts which is as soon as you finish training.
Here are some examples of appropriate snack foods and their approximate carbohydrate content:
- An apple, banana or orange: 15-20g
- Muller rice: 20g
- Nutrigrain Elevenses bar: 25-30g
- Fruit Shake or Smoothie: 25-30g per glass
- 1 thick Jam or Honey sandwich (no or minimal butter): 50g
- Malt Loaf (Soreen): 18g per eighth of a loaf
- Fig Rolls: 13g per biscuit
Other excellent snacks: Rice cakes, dried fruit
Food containing a small amount of protein might be appropriate after intensive training. A carbohydrate based snack with some protein
(such as a low fat milkshake, yogurt smoothie, chicken, egg, tuna or ham sandwich, or breakfast cereal with low fat milk) followed
by a balanced meal one or two hours later is ideal.
30 minutes before training, have a snack with fruit juice. Have breakfast after training.
Try to eat an exercise friendly meal 2-3 hours before you go. This means keeping your carbohydrate and protein level high on a 60:40 ratio and don’t pig out on sluggish unsaturated fats.
Here are some good examples:
- Baked potatoes – fill them with beans, sweet corn or chilli, not too much cheese, and remember to eat the skin, it’s the healthiest bit!.
- Pasta meals or bakes – again go light on the cheese, throw in plenty of vegetables. Tuna is also a great energy source.
- Beans on toast – they may be the signature of a student’s staple diet but low-sugar baked beans are actually really good for you. Bags
of protein in the beans and wholemeal toast has your complex carbohydrates. And if beans aren’t your thing, eggs will do a similar job.
- Chilli con carne – beans, lean mince, and brown rice all should set you up perfectly for exercise in a few hours. Fatty, greasy mince, white rice and salty tortilla chips will not.
- Don’t train on an empty stomach, you’ll be running on empty and your performance will be impaired. Eat a small meal or snack between one
and two hours before you start your training.
- Great snacking foods are fruits (fresh is best but dried are still okay), energy foods (cereal bars, energy drinks, protein shakes), yogurt
(low fat if possible) or whole grain foods (whole wheat cereal or wholemeal toast).
Snacking During the Day
- Elite athletes keep their blood sugar level as constant as possible by snacking regularly (and healthily) during the day.
- Only do this if you’re training enough not to add body weight from the increased food/calorie intake.
- Target the same snacks you would as a pre-training boost – complex carbohydrates, fruits or protein shakes.
- If you’re putting in the metres in the pool, your body will need a boost when you finish your training.
- Always try to refuel within 30 minutes of finishing and preferably within 15 minutes – your body immediately needs nutrients to repair
muscles and replace energy.
- Make sure you’re refuelling with the ‘right’ foods though – something low in fat but high in carbohydrates and protein.
Guidelines for event meals
- 2 - 4 hours before the race have a high Carbohydrate, low fat meal such as breakfast cereals, porridge, bread, toast, fruit juice, fruit, rice cakes, plain crackers, boiled rice, potatoes, boiled pasta, dried fruit, oatmeal or plain whole meal biscuits and muffins.
- Avoid sugars (simple carbohydrates) as these release energy quickly but trigger the release of insulin, which can have a negative impact on performance.
- 30 minutes before the race a small snack (examples above) may be eaten.
- If the interval between races is less than 30 minutes, drink fluids.
- If the interval between races is up to 1 hour, have a snack (examples above), with plenty of fluid, up to 30 minutes before the next race.
- If the race interval is in 1 to 2 hours, have a small high carbohydrate, low fat meal.
- If the rest period between races is longer, the swimmer should have a substantial meal no later than 2 hours before the next race.
Important: As water is stored with carbohydrate it is essential that lots of fluid is drunk with meals and snacks.