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The Perfect Cardiovascular Combination: Swimming + Good Nutrition!

Swimming can be one of the most physically demanding activities that a person can engage in.

Contributor: Luke Corey, BA(H), BScAHN, Registered Dietitian

This full-body workout requires a strong body and an even stronger heart to supply every muscle with the blood, oxygen, and nutrients that are needed to push you faster and farther. 

Your heart is the engine of your cardiovascular system. Every pump pushes an enormous amount of blood throughout your body (about 5 litres total!), supplying your muscles, tissues, and organs with the essential nutrients they require to function. Swimming alone, however, isn’t enough to strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system. When paired with the proper nutrition, you will experience….the perfect cardiovascular combination!  

In order to get a great performance every time you enter the pool, check out our article on Powering Performance in the Pool. This will provide you with some basic tips on how to prepare for, and recover from, training or a competition. 

Your heart, arteries and veins all make up your cardiovascular system. Each of these components must be strong and healthy if you want to be able to perform at a high level in the pool. Swim training does add strength and durability to your cardiovascular system, but the building blocks, or cells, that comprise your heart, arteries, and veins must also be strong and durable. Nutritionally, there are four things you should focus on to strengthen your cardiovascular system:

  1. Go Low-Sodium: Sodium, or salt, is a major contributor to heart disease, heart attacks and stroke, and may lead to a weakened cardiovascular system. We do need a little bit in our diets, but the vast majority of people over-consume this nutrient. No longer is eliminating table salt the only means to reducing sodium intake. Processed foods now account for the majority of the sodium in our diets. You can easily reduce your consumption of this nutrient by choosing fresh, wholesome foods and making your meals and snacks from scratch. This way you know exactly what is in the food you eat. You can also start reading labels and choosing products with less than 10% of your Daily Value (%DV) in sodium per serving.    

  2. Choose Healthy Fats: The cells of our cardiovascular system are comprised mainly of two components, fats and proteins. Choosing healthy sources of dietary fat helps maintain the structural integrity of the cell, while also improving the strength and elasticity. Healthy sources of fat include lean meats such as chicken and turkey, fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and trout, oils such as olive and canola, avocados, nuts and natural nut butters, and egg whites. These foods should be incorporated into your daily routine as part of a well-balanced diet. Limit the amount of saturated fat and eliminate trans fats in your diet, which come mainly from highly processed foods. 

  3. Include Antioxidants: Antioxidants help strengthen the immune system and eliminate any potential threats to our cardiovascular system. Fresh fruits and vegetables are the best sources of antioxidants, such as green tea, kidney beans, ginger root, garlic, cinnamon, and whole grain bread. Try to include these items as part of a well-balanced diet. 

  4. Power with Protein: As with healthy fats, proteins make up the structure of the cells in your cardiovascular system. It is important to replace these proteins by including some healthy food sources in your daily routine. Sources of high-quality dietary protein include chicken and other poultry, lean meats, beans, lentils, tofu, eggs, nuts, seeds, whole wheat and whole grain products, cheese, yogurt, and milk. Try to include a source of protein with each meal, as well as with your snacks between meals. 

With a healthy and strong cardiovascular system comes good circulation. Good circulation means that your muscles, tissues, and organs are receiving the oxygen and nutrients they require to perform at a high level. Keep your system healthy by exercising on a daily basis, eating a well-balanced diet, and drinking plenty of water. 

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