Earlier this month we talked about how snacks are an important part of the nutrition plan for any swimmer who wants to get the most out their training and perform their best. Just like what you snack on, what you drink is a vital component of your nutrition and will have an impact on your athletic performance.
There are all sorts of liquid sports supplements—between various types of protein shakes and sports drinks—athletes looking to stay hydrated and well-nourished are spoilt for choice. There are some great and healthy options, some of which will suit your training needs better. Aside from the convenience factor, the benefit of getting your nutrition in liquid form is that your body will be able to absorb the nutrients more quickly, so they’re great to have right after training. Read on to learn more about what could work best for you.
Nutritional and Protein Shakes
Supplements have come a long way in terms of how the public perceives them. Previously they were thought of as a popular alternative for anyone who struggled with a loss of appetite or simply didn’t have enough time to carefully prepare meals. However, the benefits, especially for athletes, are far more clear and widespread.
Some foods simply don’t have the same nutritional content as they used to. In fact a study done by Donald Davis and published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition (2004) showed the nutritional data for 43 different fruits and vegetables in 1950 and 1999. The study found "reliable declines" in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C present over the last half-century. This means swimmers are having to eat more of the same food to get the same nutritional value, and even then they may be adding calories and taking away dollars from their budget, and all without getting everything they need. That's why vitamin supplements are often used by athletes, especially competitive swimmers.
Supplements are a great option for any athlete who wants to be sure they are getting the nutrients they need, especially for those who are pressed for time or are on a budget. The trick here is finding the brand that works for you and not to judge a supplement by its cover, but by its nutritional label. Beware of brands with a high sugar content, and pay attention to the type of ingredients used. You want to be sure that the drink has the right nutrition to help you repair and refuel for training, and that it’s not just well-branded sugar.
Also as an athlete you need to make sure that what you are taking is regularly tested to ensure it's free of banned and illegal substances, like the P2Life’s Nutriboost Shake is.
Fruit smoothies are great options, as they’re fruit-based, convenient and have a large variety of possible flavor combinations. You can make smoothies quickly in a blender at home, order them fresh from a local cafe or find them pre-packaged in the refrigerated section of grocery stores. The danger with buying smoothies that are pre-packaged is that they often have added sugar and preservatives. If you’re buying your smoothies check the label to find out about how it was processed and how much sugar, and what types of preservatives have been added.
Sports drinks are a popular alternative and are branded as being an excellent source to help stay hydrated. There are dozens of brands that bring you different flavors, which makes the task of choosing one difficult. Sports drinks are full of a mix of sodium and electrolytes, which helps replenish your body after you've lost these vital nutrients by sweating. Typically for longer training sessions you want to focus on getting a mix of simple and complex carbohydrates to ensure you're getting a constant supply of energy.
Complex sugars in sports drinks usually come in the form of maltodextrin and dextrose, while the simple sugars are ingredients like fructose. When it comes to picking your sports drink, you may want to ask yourself what are you using it for. If your training sessions are over an hour you'll want to pick a sports drink with a mix of complex and simple sugars. However, studies have shown that for shorter training sessions, under an hour, water may be the better choice.
Keep Drinking Water
With the immense amount athletes sweat during training (around 0.8-1.4 liters of sweat per hour during high intensity workouts), and with it the water and electrolytes they lose, it's important to stay hydrated. Being dehydrated has a significant negative impact on your performance. Plain old water is a great choice to stay hydrated. Flavored water can certainly spice things up but many of the vitamin infused waters have the wrong kind of added sugar or very high amounts of sodium which could be a negative especially in an American diet, which is often high in sodium.
As far as nutritional drinks go, there are a great deal of choices, and athletes can mix and match these to add variety to their training and nutritional plan.