By R. Miller; Exclusively written for reachforthewall.org
A swimmer’s diet can be very tricky. After all, they require massive amounts of energy to do their sport, but they also need a properly toned body and a healthy weight to go along with it. How much food do swimmers actually need? When is it too much? What other nutrients do their bodies need to be able to perform in optimal conditions? These are things you have to consider.
While we’re currently writing this in quarantine amidst the pandemic, a healthy meal plan can start anytime. Despite most (if not all) swim centers being closed at the moment, you can take this time to start prepping for when you and your family can finally hit the pool again.
That being said, here’s everything you need to know about creating a healthy meal plan to complement swim training.
On average, trainers on Prevention inform how swimming burns around 400 calories in 30 minutes—and that’s if the person has merely been freestyling. The amount of energy we expend when swimming has a lot to do with how we maneuver our bodies against the resistance of the water. As such, for swimmers tasked to do complex techniques during training, they will surely expend more energy.
This is why it’s important to eat a proper meal beforehand, preferably one that’s rich in carbohydrates like wholemeal pasta, sweet potatoes, and rice. Among all these choices, rice is a favored option since it’s easy to prepare. On We Know Rice’s page, you can see how there are so many easy-to-use rice cookers available on the market, from the fast-cooking ones to the multi-function variety that can prepare entire meals in one go. Indeed, rice is the perfect quick meal before training. However, it’s advisable to eat it around two to four hours before swimming to prevent stomach cramps.
If you need the extra energy boost right before training, however, Reach for the Wall contributor Dr. Chris Rosenbloom recommends smoothies, unsalted nuts, and yogurt as some foods that can fuel the body, without putting needless pressure on the digestive system. It’s still best to wait around 30 minutes before diving so as not to feel bloated.
It’s natural to feel hungry after training—so, again, it’s essential to mix in the carbs for post-swimming meals too. An article about recovery meals on She Knows supports this, as it reveals how post-swim meals need to be 80 percent carbs to help restore energy levels. However, be careful not to over-consume the calories so you can maintain a healthy weight. The remaining 20 percent should go to protein.
Protein is responsible for the healthy growth and repair of muscle tissues, so it’s an essential part of any recovery meal. Better if the protein foods are also nutrient-dense, like eggs, cottage cheese, and chicken breast. Just make sure you get the sustenance an hour or less after training, when muscles are more accepting of said nutrients.
Foods to Avoid
Even on non-swimming days, it’s good practice for regular swimmers to avoid eating spicy and high-fiber foods. Spicy foods have the tendency to cause stomach discomfort and indigestion. This nauseous feeling can carry over to the next day, even. So, it really isn’t an ideal part of a swimmer’s diet. On the other hand, high-fiber foods are discouraged especially before training, as it takes the longest to digest. The last thing you want is to feel bloated in the water.
In conclusion, a swimmer’s diet should consist mainly of two things: carbs and protein. Always remember that whenever you’re preparing meals for you, or your child swimmers. Of course, you can still enjoy these other foods every now and then, provided that you eat them in moderation still—and definitely not during training.
For more swimmer’s tips and swimming news, check out our other posts on Reach for the Wall.