Swimming Nutrition & Sports Supplements for Swimmers
However, what many of us fail to realise is that swimming is one of the most physically intense sports to take part in, especially at a competitive level.
At a club, county and international level swimming often involves long duration training sessions once or twice a day, and possibly more depending on the performance levels you are seeking to achieve.
If you’re serious about optimising you swimming performances however, you will know that it takes much more than simply hours and hours of training, it is also vital that you eat correctly fine-tuning your nutritional intake, train correctly, take the time to recover and prepare mentally.
Elite swimmers know only too well the impact that a good quality diet and a healthy state of mind can have on their performances.
Success in the swimming pool not only depends on your overall power, endurance, stroke technique, a high degree of coordination and the ability to repair and recover effectively, it also relies on the swimmer taking care of their body from a nutritional perspective too
There are however many more factors that need to be addressed in order to get the full benefits of the sport.
Firstly, it is vital that you understand the physiological demands that swimming can have on you, especially if you take part in competitive swimming events.
Competitive success in swimming mainly boils down to superb stroke technique as well as the ability to produce and maintain power, and the efficient coordination during stressful times.
It is also important that you make your swimming style look effortless too, as too much concentration and tension in the body can ultimately affect your efficiency, rhythm and tire you out prematurely.
All these factors will be easier to achieve and maintain, especially under times of stress, if you have a lean physique in the first place.
The two best ways to achieve this target are to train effectively as well as understand and then follow the correct nutritional and dietary guidelines.
Regardless of what sport you partake in, good nutrition and performance go hand and hand, and as long as you meet your body’s energy needs as well as understand what sports supplements work best for your body, you are well on your way to achieving great things.
Energy requirements of swimmers
Before any sport or training can be undertaken however, it is important to understand your own body’s requirements when it comes to energy demand.
Generally, male swimmers report to have high energy needs relative to body mass (4,000 to 5,000 kcal daily), although different phases of the competitive calendar mean that this could vary from time to time in order to meet the physical demands that the body is going through.
Female swimmers who partake in around 14 to 18 hours of training per week are generally known to consume between 2,000 and 2,600 kcal daily; however, differing circumstances as well as varying body profiles will mean that this can alter.
It is also relatively difficult to estimate the actual needs of female swimmers, as many, especially those during adolescence, will find it hard with changes in body shape and may underreport energy intakes.
In terms of providing what your body needs, it is vitally important that energy requirements are taken seriously as many training programmes see elite swimmers train between 1 to 3 times daily.
This type of hectic training programme places a lot of pressure on the human body with many of the pool sessions involving aerobic warm-ups and cool downs, as well as swim drills that improve speed, endurance and technique.
As well as pool work however, land based training is also a vital piece of a swimmer’s training programme and often helps their flexibility and stretching capabilities.
Running and cycling also play a vital role in the swimmer’s training programme.
General training nutrition
Balancing training demands with meals that provide energy however can often be difficult as the two can often clash.
For instance, early morning training is great for the body but nutritional advice states that it is best if you digest food 2 to 3 hours before a training session – this is impractical however, so many swimmers are advised to eat carbohydrate snacks that can be easily prepared as well as quickly digested.
Some examples of suitable foods and drinks that are ideal for early morning training sessions include; fresh fruit smoothies, bananas, fresh fruit, porridge with added honey, breakfast cereals with low-fat milk, pancakes (with maple syrup) and sports bars.
All the foods that you consume before your training session should be low in fat, and relatively low in fibre to prevent discomfort throughout the exercise session.
Post training nutrition
As well as making sure you have the right fuel before training commences however, it is just as important to have a good post session recovery snack, as this will help you to replenish – making sure you have something on hand as soon as you finish training will also ensure you keep your body ticking over.
Always remember that post session nutrition is as important as that taken pre-session.
Some ideal post recovery snacks include; yoghurts, a plain skinless chicken or tuna sandwich, milkshakes, dried fruit like raisins and sultanas and a scone to name but a few.
After many hours of intense training however, the recovery process is just as important as the actual exercise session itself.
There are no two ways about it; swimmers need to recover properly after training or competition, especially if they want to keep their body fighting fit and in the best possible shape.
There are three golden rules to a swimmers successful rehabilitation; and we refer to them as the three R’s:
Bodily carbohydrate stores (glycogen) must be quickly restored to allow quality training to be maintained – the optimum time to restore an athletes muscle glycogen stores is during the first hour after pool or land based training and this is when a swimmer needs to consume carbohydrates as soon as possible.
If you do not replenish glycogen stores adequately however, recovery may well be affected leading to unwanted fatigue and poor training performances may then follow.
Hydration for swimmers
Whilst both early morning training and post recovery snacks are important however, another vital component in ensuring your body is well looked after is good hydration.
Dehydration is something you must avoid as it can contribute massively to athlete fatigue and in many instances it can be extremely detrimental to your overall performance.
Many athletes believe that if they don’t have enough fluid it will just leave them feeling a little thirsty, however, the consequences dehydration have far more serious physiological implications.
Not only will your physical performance suffer, mental ability such as decision making will also be affected.
With average sweat losses estimated at around 365ml/h and 415ml/h for female and male swimmers respectively, it is also paramount that water is kept flowing through the body.
Dehydration can be avoided by drinking fluids throughout the day and making sure you always have a bottle of fluid with you at all times.
Specially formulated sports drinks should also be considered as they will hydrate more effectively, replace salt lost in sweat and top-up flagging energy levels.
Another indicator of your hydration status is the colour of your urine.
Checking the colour of urine will give a good indication of how hydrated a swimmer is.
If it is pale, odourless and there is plenty of it, it is a sign of good hydration.
Bringing it all together
Success in the swimming pool not only depends on your overall power, endurance, stroke technique, a high degree of coordination and the ability to repair and recover effectively, it also relies on the swimmer taking care of their body from a nutritional perspective too.
In order to be productive as well as continually improve and optimise their performances, swimmers need to be very aware of the requirements for food and fuel when training, recovering or taking part in competitions – once the importance of preparation and body wellbeing have been fully understood, the quality of your swimming, times and competitive performances will ultimately get better and better as your body becomes fighting fit and raring to go.
If there’s one thing to remember – look after your body and your body will look after you.
Want to get involved in swimming?
If you’re not currently involved in swimming as a recreational activity or as a competitive sport and are keen to learn more about taking part then read on. Here we’ve brought together a number of useful links to swimming and water sports organisations that may be able to help you.
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