In the Winter 2017 issue of Splash, I was intrigued by Olivier Poirier-Leroy’s article titled, “Staying Consistent.” It made me think of ways that swimmers should heed Poirier-Leroy’s advice and apply it to eating behaviors. So, with a thank you to Olivier, let’s review how the advice applies to fueling and hydration.
When it comes to food, consistent process means eating to fuel training and competition every day. Your training will not be helped if you are under- or over-fueled. Too little food results in sluggish performance and early fatigue; too much food can divert blood from working muscles to the gut for digestion. Plan to eat mini-meals or snacks before a long practice and replenish muscle fuel and fluids after practice. A slice of turkey on a mini-bagel, a Clementine tangerine, and water may be just the thing to get you through a grueling pool and land training session. A carton of low-fat chocolate milk after practice can provide key amino acids for muscle repair, carbohydrates for muscle glycogen synthesis, and fluids. Consistent fueling will also keep hunger at bay so you won’t be starving when you get home from practice.
Do you think of nutrition as something that your parents nag you about? Or, do you take responsibility and seek healthful foods and beverages throughout the day? Healthy food doesn’t have to mean yucky! Even at your favorite quick service restaurants, healthy options abound. It is up to you to think about food as something that can elevate your swimming, and taste good at the same time. Parents and coaches can guide a swimmer to healthy foods, but only you can eat the foods to get the benefits.
Sleep, stress, and social support all contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Eating a variety of foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins, contribute nutrients that feed your brain, as well as your muscles. Try eating 3 meals and 3 snacks every day during your hardest training periods and take note of how you feel. My bet is you will feel better, stronger, and more energized than when you are eating less food. And, while dietitians always take a “food first” approach, there are times when bars or chews or shakes can add needed calories. Look for wholesome ingredients in these foods: whole grain carbohydrates, naturally occurring sugars from fruit or milk, and healthy fats from nuts or unsaturated oils.
Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian, certified specialist in sports nutrition, and professor emerita of nutrition at Georgia State University. She welcomes questions from swimmers, parents and coaches. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
; follow her on Twitter @chrisrosenbloom