5 Nutrition Tricks for Top Notch Swimming Performance
With all of the fad diets, training tips and random suggestions from gym salespeople, it's hard to know what nutrition tips work best for swimmers. Here are a few that will help you get back into tip top shape for your next meet.
1. Always hydrate yourself
Water is your best bet when it comes to hydration and hitting your performance goals. Not only can water be used to hydrate throughout the day, it can be whipped up with your favorite protein powder for an on-the-go snack. It’s worth stating that you should be reading labels on vitamin-infused waters, flavored waters and energy drinks. Many of these contain added sugars or even some ingredients that could be on the banned list for student-athletes. For an athlete engaged in intense exercise, the high doses of sugar in energy drinks can impair absorption of fluids and result in dehydration. A 450 ml can of an energy drink may contain up to 13 teaspoons of sugar and caffeine equivalent to 4, or more, colas. Thus, consuming an energy drink close to an event could disqualify an athlete. Therefore, it is best to stick with old-fashioned water for hydration. If sweating has been profuse, electrolytes can be replaced by drinking pure mineral water, which contains a proper ratio of electrolytes, and by eating a healthy diet.
2. Avoid sodas
Of course it seems obvious that a swimmer shouldn’t down a Coke Cola right before practice, but it’s worth saying it again. Sodas contain many harmful ingredients that sabotage all of the intense training, weight building and healthy nutrition that athletes focus on the rest of the season. Even as little as one or two sodas per day is undeniably connected to a myriad health risks because of the sugar - most obviously diabetes and bone fractures. But there are hidden dangers in soda from excessive caffeine, which athletes should be aware of too. Caffeine promotes neurological and adrenal disorders, as well as increased stomach acid levels, which is a no-no for an already nervous athlete on game day. Finally, when dehydrated athletes drink sugar-laden sodas, the high sugar content requires that blood be sent to the stomach to digest it. This fluid shift can lower the blood volume in other parts of the body making swimmers more susceptible to cramps and heat-related illnesses.
3. Have the right protein + carb mix after practice
Just because you’re done with your training for the day doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want. It is very important that you continue eating right to help your body recover from the day’s intense physical activity and daily stresses, and prepare it for the next one. A protein-rich meal repairs muscle, supports the immune system and curbs hunger. Combine protein with complex carbs to build up that energy reserve, and you have a healthy meal that will accelerate this recovery. Nutrient-rich protein shakes or tuna sandwiches on whole wheat bread are great for after-practice nutrition.
4. Simple snacks during training
Snacks don’t have to sabotage your swimming if you eat the right ones. Depending on how long you have between training and/or racing, you’ll want to give your body a little extra fuel to give yourself a competitive edge. If you’ve got a quick 30-minute break, try something light like a simple carb snack or fresh fruit. Stay away from heavier snacks which take too long to digest. For breaks between 1-2 hours, you can get a good combo of carbs and protein with snacks like whole wheat pasta and veggies. Be sure to stay away from high-fiber snacks that can upset your stomach in the next round.
5. Before bed: high nutrition + low calories
Sleep on this: Eating before bed will not only help you build muscle, it will also improve recovery between training sessions, competitions and practices. Knowing what to eat before you hit the sack and go to sleep is critical. Eat food that contains slow-digesting protein, like lean turkey breast or casein supplements that feed the muscles throughout the night. These proteins are also high in leucine, the amino acid responsible for stimulating the protein mTOR, which activates muscle protein synthesis. And don’t forget about carbs; just make sure they are low calorie and low fat. The Ultima Performance shake has this combo of protein and carbs to help accelerate muscle growth and repair, edging you on to your next training session with strength.