As pools reopen and training begins in earnest, one thing that will likely change is access to food and fluids. Coaches, boosters, and parents will not likely be providing a community cooler for swimmers to grab drinks, and the snack table will be a thing of the past. So, for now, swimmers should plan to pack their own pre- and post-workout foods and beverages.
Here’s a guide to help you plan it and pack it:
Plan It: Before Early Morning Practice
Pack It: Hard boiled egg, instant oatmeal or grits, over-night-oats, applesauce fruit cup, 16-ounces water.
These foods provide some protein, ample carbs, and not much fiber to help you through the morning workout without weighing you down in the pool.
Plan It: After Morning Practice
Pack It: Greek yogurt, low-fat chocolate or white milk, cereal, milk, and berries, energy bar made with whole foods (oats, nuts, fruit), melon cubes, 16-ounces sports drink or recovery drink.
Aim for at least 20 grams of high-quality protein for muscle recovery and carb-rich foods to start the replacement of muscle glycogen for the afternoon practice. Melon (any kind) is a high-water fruit containing carbs, vitamins and minerals, like potassium, important for nerve and muscle function.
For the lactose-intolerant swimmer, check out ultra-filtered milk that provides the nutrients of milk without the milk sugar or lactose. For plant-based athletes, soymilk is closest in nutrient composition to dairy milk. Berries or recovery drinks make with tart cherries, blueberries, or black currants contain plant compounds that act as antioxidants and anti-inflammation agents.
Plan It: Before Afternoon Practice
Pack It: String cheese, saltines, creamy peanut butter and jelly sandwich, hummus and pretzel or pita chips, peach or pear fruit cup, 16-ounces water.
Eating about 2 hours before practice allows time for digestion and the process of nutrient absorption to begin. Choose some protein and carbs, and fluids, especially if you didn’t pay attention to hydration after the morning workout. If you only have 30 minutes or less before practice, stick with easy to digest carbs, like energy shots, gels, or blocs.
Plan It: After Practice
Pack It: Yogurt and fruit smoothie, banana-strawberry kefir, chocolate milk shake (note: real milkshake, not a “shake” that might not contain much protein).
The goal for nutrition after practice is satisfy hunger and get some protein before eating dinner. At dinner, pick nutrient-rich foods like salmon, tuna, or cod, lean beef or pork, chicken or turkey, or tofu. Add carb-rich grains and veggies, such as baked potato (with the skin), sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, beans, peas, and dark-green leafy veggies.
Athletes may have to take responsibility for packing foods and fluids for a while. Coaches can help remind swimmers to pack it and parents can help swimmers plan it, but the final responsibility rests with the athlete.
Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian, sports nutritionists, and nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University. She welcomes questions from swimmers, parents, and coaches at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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