powering performance

Powering Your Performance in the Pool!

Winning races and achieving a personal best in the pool doesn’t come from talent alone; it takes plenty of effort and dedication, both in and out of the pool.

(Sports Nutrition for Competitive Swimmers)

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

Winning races and achieving a personal best in the pool doesn’t come from talent alone; it takes plenty of effort and dedication, both in and out of the pool. Swimmers must prepare themselves mentally and physically in order to achieve optimal performances on a consistent basis. Hours of training in the gym and pool are a must, and so is proper nutrition. The difference between 1st and 2nd (or winning and losing) could come down to how you prepare nutritionally before the race!

Here are some basic tips on preparation and recovery practices for Powering Your Performance in the Pool!

Being a top-level swimmer takes years of practice and hard work. The ability to consistently perform at a high-level, however, takes more than just practice. It involves establishing a healthy routine outside of the pool. Nutritionally speaking, this means preparing for and recovering from training and competition on a consistent basis and in the appropriate manner. Just having a high-carb meal the day before a big competition will not yield the consistent results you are looking for. You need to follow a solid routine of healthy eating practices, each and every day.

To do this, you must first determine how appropriate and effective your current habits are. The best way to do this is to write down your current eating routine, both for a training/competition day, and for an off day. Let this food and journal help you track this. If the two days look dramatically different, you have an issue. Believe it or not, your body appreciates consistency. Changing up your routine from day to day will ultimately inhibit your outcomes. The only major differences between an off day and a training/competition day should be the quantity of food & fluid you consume and the timing of your meals. Everything else should remain the same.

Let’s look at what both an off day and a training/competition day should look like (example):

Off Day

  • A well-balanced* breakfast within one hour of waking up (Click here for options) 
  • A high-quality morning snack two to three hours later (usually includes fruits & vegetables)
  • A well-balanced* lunch two to three hours after your morning snack (Click here for options)
  • A high-quality afternoon snack two to three hours after lunch (usually includes fruits & vegetables)
  • A well-balanced* supper two to three hours after your afternoon snack (Click here for options)
  • A high-quality evening snack two to three hours after supper (usually includes fruits & vegetables)
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day (2 – 3 litres)

TRAINING/COMPETITION DAY (3 to 4 hours of physical activity)

  • A high-quality morning snack two to three hours later (usually includes fruits & vegetables)
  • A high-quality snack two to three hours later. Make a larger snack if training or competing within 2 – 3 hours. Include fruits, vegetables and grains
  • A smaller snack within an hour of training or competing (to avoid hunger issues).Include easy-to-digest foods such as juice, crackers, bread with peanut butter, fruit, etc. 
  • Training or competition begins! Consume water and/or a sports drink during training or competition (or a small snack, if there are longer rest periods)
  • Training or competition ends! A high-quality recovery snack within 30 minutes of finishing training or competition (high-carb, such as a granola bar, chocolate milk, bagel with peanut butter, and lots of water)
  • A well-balanced meal (including high-quality, lean protein) within two hours of finishing training or competition (Click here for options)
  • A high-quality snack two to three hours later (usually includes fruits & vegetables)
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day (3 to 4 litres)

Can you spot the differences between the two days? The concepts are the same – eating frequent, high-quality, well-balanced meals and snacks – but the timing and quantity are slightly modified. 

This is a solid routine that will provide your body with the energy and nutrients it requires for consistent performance. If you are missing some of the pieces to the puzzle, don’t try to overhaul your entire diet all at once. Pick a few areas that you can improve upon and take the time necessary to make them part of your daily routine.

*Well-balanced means including at least 3 of the 4 food groups (including lean protein sources).

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