Planning proper nutrition for swimmers can be a complicated process but it is a necessary step if one wants to achieve peak performance levels. Indeed, Dr. Joel Stager, swim coach and professor of kinesiology at Indiana University says that “[e]ating right…may be ultimately as important as swimming up and down the pool.”
Swimming is an endurance sport that relies on proper dietary habits to provide its fuel, but these nutritional needs are constantly in flux. In order to achieve optimal nutrition for their sport, a swimmer must know what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat for any given training period.
Basic Nutritional Needs of Swimmers
As for all athletes, nutrition for swimmers involves a proper mixture of protein, carbohydrates, and fats in their diets. Protein is essential for muscle development and repair, carbohydrates provide energy for high intensity exercise, and fats provide energy for extended endurance exercises. In the proper combinations, these three provide the energy and muscular needs of swimmers. To that end, experts recommend that 60 percent of a swimmer’s calories should be carbohydrates, 15 percent should be protein, and the remaining 25 percent should be fat.
But these numbers can vary significantly depending upon the specific training needs of a particular training period.
Nutritional Needs During Training
A swimmer’s nutritional needs are greatly increased during the competitive season when swimmers are in training. According to the American Dietetic Association, while in training nutrition for swimmers should include:
– A daily food intake of 3,000 to 6,000 calories
– The majority of these calories should be derived from carbohydrates (2.3 to 3.6 grams of carbohydrates for each pound of body weight per day).
– Protein intake should approximate 0.55 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight per day. (A quality rice and green pea protein powder is an excellent adjunct to aid in meeting these requirements).
– Fat intake should comprise a minimum of 0.45 grams per pound of body weight per day. (Ensure that the majority of fat consumption is of the monounsaturated or polyunsaturated variety, as is found in canola oil and nuts).
– Proper hydration in the form of sports drinks or water – 2 cups 2 hours before practice and 5 to 10 ounces every 15 or 20 minutes during the practice.