Guide to The Swimmer's Diet (Carbohydrate Me Please)

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Feb 13, 2012

Guide to The Swimmer's Diet (Carbohydrate Me Please)

Should I eat those smiley gummy bears lurking at me from the cupboard? One more piece of chocolate before I give it back. I'll just even out this corner of the ice cream box and then stick it back to freezer. I know we have all been there :). The temptation is everywhere and the media bombardment with delicious looking advertisements do not offer much help. However, eating something in your regular daily life is totally something else than creating a diet in order to give your body maximum chance to perform at its best. In this post, Marina will give us more insights on what it means to have a swimmer's diet.

Eat more sweet potatoes
This is a guest post by Marina Salsbury who planned on becoming a teacher since high school, but found her way instead into online writing after college. She writes around the web about everything from education to exercise.

Enter Marina:
Swimming is an excellent form of exercise, not only providing huge improvements in cardiovascular fitness but also developing muscle strength. In addition, swimming is easy on the joints, making it ideal for anyone with aches or injuries that other sports like running simply exacerbate. For those who consider themselves to be swimmers, a healthy swimmer's diet is an important part of feeding the muscles, having enough glycogen for workouts each day and adequate protein for recovery. Medical transcription services are beginning to be used in sports-related injuries, and as a result medical experts are becoming more understanding of the rigors of sports injuries. This guide introduces readers to the typical recommended diet for swimmers, as well as how to calculate calories required to perform as peak potential. It will also outline what foods and drinks are necessary leading up to and immediately following an important swim practice or swim meet.

What should your daily diet consist of?

During a typical week, swimmers should focus on their carbohydrate consumption. Carbohydrates are the main sources of energy that will be used during exercise. However, it is important not to think that focusing on carbohydrates means eating processed foods like cookies or chips. Instead, focus on healthier, wholesome foods like rice, whole wheat breads, fruits and sweet potatoes. Avoid high-fat and high-sugar foods that provide only empty calories and no nutrition. Having a small dose of these high-sugar foods will give you a temporary burst of energy, but the energy that comes will only result in a crash later in the day.

Pasta me up baby

Determining how many calories to consume?

In order to determine how many calories you'll need to consume daily, consider wearing a waterproof heart rate monitor during a typical week of swim training. This will help you see exactly how many calories your body burns in a week, which will need to be added to the maintenance calories you already consume. You should be consuming enough calories to provide you with adequate energy for swim workouts, but not so much that you are gaining weight while training.

What to eat BEFORE a swim meet or an open water/triathlon race?

The days and hours leading up to an important swim event are the perfect time for you to load your body with sufficient food to perform your best. Swimmers should ramp up their carbohydrate consumption in the days prior to a major event, but when doing so being careful not to over consume calories. Simply replace some of the typical fats or proteins you eat with high-carbohydrate items instead. Avoid trying any new foods or liquids, and focus on plain, typical foods that the body agrees with. Eat 3 hours prior to the swim meet, topping up your glycogen stores with pure carbohydrates just prior to the event.

What to eat AFTER swim meet or an open water/triathlon race?

After a strenuous swim event, it is important to refuel with food immediately. Some swimmers don't feel hungry right after exercising, but it is important to consume some calories within 30 minutes of the swim meet. There is a small window of opportunity where protein and carbohydrates can do the most good to replenish and restore muscles for a faster recovery, so take advantage of this and drink chocolate milk or eat a protein bar for quick nutrition.

By understanding what to eat during a typical week, it is possible to get more from your swimming and dryland workouts. With the right nutrition before and after your swim races, you give your body best shot on having a great race.

Note from Swimator Blog: I am no nutritionist, and am true believer of eating what you are hungry for, however, I've had my fair share of good and bad eating and swimming experiences, so I do know thing or two about what works and what doesn't when it comes to swimming. One anecdote that I find the most interesting would relate to the carbohydrate rich diet before swimming competition. Long time ago, when I still lived in the Czech Republic, I was in Viareggio, Italy at a Carnevale swim meet. We were there a few days and every day for lunch and dinner we had exactly the same pasta (baked Ziti I believe). As a young kid, I hate it to eat the same thing every day, however, that meet was one of the best ones in my life. I broke all my records and I felt like my swimming was out of this world. You also have to realize we drove down to Italy, so it was like 24hrs in a small car, no great picnic to be competing after :). Magic authentic Italian al dente pasta :).

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Be seen, keep your stuff dry and take a break when needed.