Nutritional Information

Nutrition Information for Swimmers

All athletes seeking success in sport should be aware of the importance of nutrition to perform in both training and competition. A well balanced, nutritious diet is essential for maximum performance in any sporting activity. The ideal training diet should be high in carbohydrate (60% to total daily food intake), low in fat (<25%) and contain moderate amounts of protein (15%). No one food diet contains all the nutrients we need, so in order to obtain a balanced diet it is necessary to eat a variety of food from the five main food groups, listed below: –

  • Group 1 – Cereals, pasta, rice, bread, potatoes.
  • Group 2 – Fruit.
  • Group 3 – Vegetables.
  • Group 4 – Meat, fish, poultry, beans, pulses, nuts, eggs.
  • Group¬†5 – Dairy products

To achieve the correct balance of nutrients, imagine that you are building a pyramid from these food groups. Group 1, the cereal and starches, forms the base of the pyramid and so you need to eat most of your daily food from this group. Pasta, rice, potatoes, bread and cereals should form the centre of each meal. Not only are these foods high in carbohydrate, but are also a good source of vitamins, minerals and fibre, especially the whole grain varieties. Groups 2 and 3, fruit and vegetables form the next layer of the pyramid. A wide variety of fresh fruit, vegetables and their juices should be consumed daily. Bananas, apples and dried fruit make great portable snacks to take to a training session and are a valuable source of carbohydrate energy for exercise. Groups 4 and 5, meat, other protein foods and dairy products, should be eaten in smaller amounts. Choose lean cuts of meat and use low fat dairy product such as semi-skimmed milk and reduced fat spreads. Vegetarians will need to combine other protein rich foods in the right amounts to ensure that they are getting enough high quality protein in their diet

Nutrition Before, During and After Exercise

What you eat before, during and after exercise will affect how well you perform both in training and competition and how quickly you recover in time for the next training session. Carbohydrate stored as glycogen in your liver and muscles is the main fuel for energy during exercise. If you start your training session with low glycogen stores you will find the exercise harder, you will tire more quickly and your performance will suffer. Therefore it is best to top up your energy levels before a training session. It is a good idea to consume a carbohydrate snack or drink an hour before training, particularly if you are facing a long hard session. For early morning starts, many swimmers find carbohydrate drink a more convenient choice than solid food.

Before Training The following are suitable pre-training snacks as they are quickly and easily digested: Bananas, sandwiches or bagel with jam or honey, small bowl of cereal with low fat milk, raisins, crackers, crisp bread, oat cakes, rice cakes, fig bars, small piece of malt loaf, carbohydrate drink.

During Training It is important to regularly sip small quantities of water or a suitable sports drink to prevent dehydration. A small pinch of salt in your water bottle will help replace salt lost whilst perspiring and help to avoid cramp. Do not eat solids during training.

After Training The refuelling process should start as soon as possible so that the glycogen stores will be replenished in time for the next training session. Glycogen is manufactured much faster in the two hours after exercise and so it is important to consume a high carbohydrate snack or drink as soon as you feel able to. For those who train early in the morning and often skip breakfast because you are late for school, why not take your breakfast with you? A roll with jam, muffins or bagels, a small carton of fruit juice, or even some cereals taste just as good without milk, eaten straight from the packet.

Competition Nutrition

In the week leading up to a competition you want to make sure that your energy stores (glycogen) are full. This will ensure you of the energy needed to perform at your best.¬† In the week leading up to a competition you want to make sure that your energy stores (glycogen) are full. This will ensure you of the energy needed to perform at your best. Before Competition Research has shown that eating a high carbohydrate meal 3 to 4 hours before competing improves performance by maintaining blood glucose levels in the later stages of competition and so delaying fatigue. If you have an early morning competition you will need to make sure you eat a good high carbohydrate meal the night before and have a light breakfast, for example a bowl of cereal with low fat milk, about 2 hours before competing. During Competition If you are competing in numerous events and heats over a day it will be very important to replenish used energy during this time. Consume carbohydrate snacks and drinks between events and heats, this will top up your energy levels and also prevent fatigue in the later stages of competition. Also, ensure that you keep well hydrated throughout the day by consuming plenty of fluids. Some suitable carbohydrate snacks are: –

  • Bananas
  • Filled rolls or sandwiches
  • Dried fruit (raisins, apricots)
  • Crackers or crisp bread with jam or honey
  • Oatcakes
  • Rice cakes, fig bars, malt loaf
  • Pasta
  • Energy bars, cereal bars
  • Carbohydrate drinks or diluted fruit juice After Competition

After you have finished competing, do not neglect your nutrition or fluid needs even if you are too tired to think about eating or just want to rush off and celebrate. Follow the same guidelines as you would after training. Replace all fluid losses by consuming plenty of water and have a small carbohydrate snack to replenish some of the used energy. Then you can treat yourself, but do not go overboard, especially if you will be training again the next day.

Good Luck.