Our bodies are like cars, which need fuel to perform their best. And among the people who are in dire need of fuels are athletes, including the folks who barely sweat – the swimmers. The tank sport provides a full-body workout. The vigorous training both in the gym and in the pool impacts the bones, muscles, and overall well-being. With this, it’s crucial to be replenished with the proper nutrition to keep in the game.
Whether you’re a professional swimmer or someone who’s just starting to love the pool, here are 6 important nutrition tips to keep in mind.
1. Pack up on complex carbohydrates
Energy is the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about carbohydrates. Let’s make it clear – carbs are not bad for you; taking them in excess is. In fact, carbohydrates are an aerobic athlete’s best friend for no other nutrient burns as efficiently as the carbohydrate does. The vigor-giving nutrient should be your main source of energy and make up the majority of calories in your diet, especially when you’re training for a meet.
Just keep in mind that not all carbs are created equal. Always opt for complex carbohydrates that are less processed or refined. Complex carbohydrates can be found in whole grains (whole wheat bread, brown rice, oats, and pasta), legumes (lentils, beans, and peas), and fruits and vegetables.
2. Be mindful of your protein
Loading up with protein is a no-brainer when you’re working your muscles. The question is, what are the protein-rich foods should you focus on?
When consuming protein, think “quality over quantity.” Going for a High Biological Value (HBV) protein is one way to go. A food is considered as an HBV protein if it contains all the essential amino acids required to repair muscles after a vigorous workout. Whole eggs, milk, fish, beef, and soybeans are among HBV proteins. You also can’t go wrong with long and lean meats.
Next is the dosage. A small dose before a workout is enough to prime your muscles for recovery. Consuming protein before working out helps in establishing positive nitrogen balance which boosts the uptake of protein into the muscle, prevents the breakdown of tissue, and delays hunger during training.
A proud vegetarian? No problem. Make sure to mix and match your plant proteins like beans and legumes so you can meet all your essential amino acids.
3. Stay away from the sweet stuff
Candy, chocolates, cakes, syrups, fruit juices, and soda – say goodbye to them for now. The culprit here is refined sugar, which is present in various sweet processed foods. They are referred to as “empty calories” for they provide a lot of energy but very few nutrients. The body treats refined sugar as a way of adding body fats when not utilized through exercise.
Are all sweet stuff bad? Not really. There are sweet foods that use “simple sugars,” which are carbohydrates that are rapidly absorbed by the body to produce energy and provide easy-to-burn fuel for the muscles. If you have to eat sweet foods, opt for natural ones containing simple sugars including fruits, vegetables, and milk products. Sports drinks also contain simple sugars that are important during and after a workout but still be wary not to take them in excess.
4. Get your daily dose of Vitamin D
All micronutrients are essential in the realm of tank sports performance but among these, Vitamin D is becoming popular. Vitamin D has a vital role not just in bone health but also in muscle synthesis and contraction. In fact, muscle weakness is noticeable if you lack Vitamin D.
How to get Vitamin D? 15 minutes of sun exposure is one way. I know you’ve been warned: prolonged sun exposure and chlorine are harmful to swimmers’ skin and hair that’s why wearing protective swim outfits and swim caps is needed. But a few minutes of solid exposure wouldn’t hurt. With this, it’s suggested to train outdoors more often instead of swimming indoors all the time.
Aside from sun exposure, you may also opt for food sources including fatty fish like tuna, mackerel, and salmon, cheese, egg yolks, and fortified milk.
5. Don’t forget your H2O
One of the most essential yet most overlooked nutrients is water. It doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete or not – dehydration reduces the body’s capacity to function by 30% so make sure to replenish. Replace each pound of the lost weight after a workout with 16-24 ounces of fluid.
6.Time your meals wisely
There’s a myth that says you shouldn’t eat anything a few minutes or hours before swimming. It doesn’t make sense since your body needs nutrients that you’re going to burn later. Skipping dinner and breakfast do more harm than good.
However, it’s suggested to keep things light. There are certain foods you should avoid for they may sabotage the many hours you spend training at the pool or the gym. Firstly, don’t eat high-fiber foods prior to swimming. Save foods like wheat, pasta, broccoli, beans, and other stomach-filling foods after working out, when you have enough time to digest. Secondly, stay away from spicy and fatty foods as well, for they may cause bloating, indigestion, and gastrointestinal discomfort.