Some athletes don't consider nutrition as a part of training, but it is one of the most important building blocks in your swim training and can greatly impact your performance. Paying attention to what you eat, and when, will take you from amateur to elite status with some focus on what's on your plate. Dedicate a little time to planning healthy meals and snacks with these three secrets.
1. Proper Mix of Carbs & ProteinFirst of all, yes you need both, but in the proper ratio for your gender and training goals. Let's talk about carbohydrates first, since they tend to get a bad rap out there in the popular media. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American College of Sports Medicine and the Dietitians of Canada all agree that carbohydrates should make up the majority of calories in an athlete's diet, recommending 6 to 10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight for swimmers.1 When eating carbs, stick with complex carbohydrates. Some good sources are lentils, brown rice, oats, and fruit. Protein is just as important for proper swimming nutrition as carbs, but in the right proportion. Strive for about 3-4 servings of carbs for every 1 serving of protein. Get your protein from sources that contain HBV protein. HBV, or "high biological value" protein, contains all of the essential amino acids that we need to improve muscle repair after a workout.2 Whole eggs, fish, beef, and soy beans are great sources for this nutrient that swimmers need to perform at top levels. Whey, casein and soy all have a very high HBV which is one of the reasons we have them in our Nutriboost Shake, which was made for swimmers, by swimmers. The protein in our Nutriboost shake will provide you with a healthy dose of this much-needed nutrient to keep you performance at optimal levels.
Definitely don't train on an empty stomach; you'll be putting your body through undue stress and your performance will suffer. This is where smart snacking comes in, so be prepared and have a few of these in your gym bag to munch on an hour or so before practice. Carry some fruit with you or enjoy your favorite protein powder and mix that with water or chocolate milk for an easy pre-workout snack. We've got some more great ideas for on-the-go snacks here, so get these in before your next workout. And what about after practice or a meet? It's just as important to have something afterwards to help your body recover, repair, and to replenish. This step is especially important for swimmers who train daily or compete in several events over the course of a day(s) during a meet. A good post-workout snack has carbohydrates to replenish muscle glycogen and a small amount of protein to aid in muscle repair.3 Some healthy ones are your favorite nut butter on whole grain toast, or a whole wheat pita with tuna salad. For more ideas on snacking and when to eat them, take a look at our blog post on the importance of Timing Your Snacks.
3. Nutritious Meal Before Bedtime
This is probably the most overlooked and most important time regarding recovery and nutrition. Let's think about it on a logical level. The whole reason why we need to sleep is to allow our bodies to recover for the next day. So given that known fact, doesn't it make sense to give your body all the nutrients it needs so that it can recover and prepare for the next day? This is especially true for growing athletes who not only need to repair and prepare for the next day but who also need extra nutrients to grow. So typically what you are looking for is a nutritious meal, ideally with all the vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and carbs the body needs to recover and grow. You also want something that is low on the calorie side because we don't want any excess calories to be stored as fat (as you likely got enough from the meals you had during the day). Our Nutriboost Shake is the perfect bedtime meal since it provides your body with a lot of nutrition, the right proteins, and with very little calories. It was also the choice for over 40% of the USA Men's Olympic Swim Team during the London Olympics. So consider bedtime one of the most important times of the day nutritionally and allow your body to perform at its best.
So take a little time to invest in your nutrition plan. Your body will feel better, and your swim performance will definitely improve!
1. "Position of the American dietetic association, dietitians of Canada & the American college of sports medicine". Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2009.
2. "Nutrition for Swimming", International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolish, 2014.
3. "Top 5 Recovery Snacks For Swimmers", www.USASwimming.org, 2013.