A healthy diet is one that provides the energy needed from the correct proportions of nutrients. The four basic nutrients are carbohydrate, fat, protein and water, with carbohydrate and fat being the main sources of energy.
During exercise the body uses energy. In longer periods of work such as a steady swim, run or cycle, fat is the main source of energy as it is reducing into the body gradually. As exercise becomes more intense, the more you have to rely on carbohydrate to provide the necessary level of energy. In higher intensity sprint work carbohydrate will provide almost all the required energy because it can be converted quickly to satisfy the high demands the body is making.
Training sessions contain a large proportion of medium and high intensity work and swimmers require much more carbohydrate than the average person. In fact a swimmer should try to ensure that 60% - 70% of the diet contain carbohydrates. Carbohydrates come in two forms, simple (sugars) and complex (starches) and a mixture of them both.
Foods containing starch carbohydrate include rice, noodles, potatoes, pasta, bread, breakfast cereals, beans and bananas. Sugary carbohydrates are found in sugar, fruits, jam, honey chocolate, sweets, yogurt and soft drinks.
Rice, breakfast cereals, pasta, noodles, potatoes, pizza bases, crisp breads, oatcakes, sweet corn, popcorn, beans, peas, lentils, sugar, jams, fruits, cakes, yogurt, soft drinks, jelly.
Cereals, toast, muffins, crumpets, fruit, yogurt, beans on toast. Add bananas, fruit and dried fruit, to toast and bread.
Sandwiches (thick bread), thick vegetable soup, rice, pasta, salad, beans, eggs on toast, thick base pizza, jacket potato.
Cereals, toast, muffins, sandwiches (with jam or banana), muffins, malt loaf, tea cakes, scones, fruit, muesli, confectionery bars, cereal bars, yogurt, jelly cubes, milk shake (semi skimmed milk and add chopped fruit)
It is important to remember that the body can only store small amounts of carbohydrate, so it is necessary to replace this on a regular basis. Swimmers should try to have 50 grams of carbohydrate as a food or drink, within an hour after a training session.
Examples of foods containing about 50 grams of carbohydrates:
What you eat before and during a competition can have a large impact on your performance. It is important to ensure that your last meal is finished two hours before the start of the competition. Eat something high in carbohydrate and low in fat. Pasta or rice is a good choice provided that the sauce or butter or fat level is small. Do not over eat.
Once you have completed your warm ups you will need to replenish the carbohydrates that you have lost. Drinking diluted juices, squash or sports drinks can do this. Cold water is important as it is the fastest way to re-hydrate. Do not eat unless you have at least one hour before you next race.
Between races take on additional carbohydrates in liquid form, but again do not eat unless you have an hour before your next race. If you do have time to eat choose a light snack such as a banana, jelly cubes or a muesli bar.
After your competing is finished you must replenish all of the carbohydrates that you have lost, quickly. Choose snacks that are high in carbohydrates followed by a meal later. Even if the competition finishes late at night it is still important to eat. If you do not then you will not be at your peak the next day. It is possible to waste a whole years training and swim badly, because you have not eaten enough to recharge your batteries.
This information will help you to plan a healthy and performance enhancing diet that can be used in training and in competition.
Most importantly, remember to drink between races and during training