Swimming Nutrition Guide

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Train as you race!

Whether you decide to tackle a 750m or 10km swim, there are certain elements you need to give serious thought to; your training and your nutrition. Don’t let those hard-earned pool sessions go to waste with poor nutritional strategies. Your nutrition will be the make or break when it comes to not just surviving the meters but actually enjoying the event when race day comes and being able to train without fatigue. We’ve put together the key nutritional considerations to help you fuel your training days and chosen event itself.


FUELLING YOUR TRAINING

Key Consideration: Train as you race!

Testing nutrition strategies before race day is essential for the following reasons:

  • Morning fuel: Your breakfast will be one of the most important meals you consume and will ensure you are fully fuelled when you first hit the water, so make sure you are comfortable with it and it works for you.
  • On the go feeding: Fuelling during long swims over 5k is key, so get confident at consuming gels and fluid whilst swimming.
  • Carbohydrate intake: Since your body can only store enough carbohydrate for up to 90-120 minutes you will need to intake up to 60-90g of carbohydrate per hour during prolonged exercise (over 90 minutes) to maintain carbohydrate supply to your muscles(1). If you’re not used to consuming this much carbohydrate during exercise it is a good idea to test it out to ensure the body is capable.
  • Sweat rate: How much you sweat will dictate how much fluid you need to take-in. Aim to not lose any more than 2-3% of your body mass to maintain hydration and be ready to train the next day(2).

Below is an example nutrition guide to follow around your training:

 Pre TrainingDuring your swimsPost Training
Hydration Ensure you are fully hydrated before each training session. Drink 500 – 1000ml of fluid at least 4 hours prior to your swim. Use GO Electrolyte or GO Hydro to increase fluid retention. Work out how much you are sweating (per hour). Try not to lose more than 2-3% of your body mass through sweating. This usually means drinking 500 ml of GO Electrolyte per hour depending on temperature. For shorter swims, use GO Hydro to focus on replacing electrolytes lost through sweat. Always make sure you have a bottle at the side of the pool. To ensure that we are fully recovered to train again, aim to replace 1.5% of the fluid lost through sweating(3). Always make sure to weigh yourself before and after your swim.
Energy Fuel for the work required throughout your training weeks(4). During short or low intense sessions, reduce carbohydrate intake. However, it’s important to practice your race-day fuelling plan during longer sessions, so that your body adapts to the work. Here, have a carbohydrate-based snack 3-4 hours before such as porridge, breads and yoghurts. A GO Isotonic Energy Gel 30 minutes before can help top up your energy stores For shorter swims focus on electrolyte and fluid intake before the start. For longer swims, aim to take on 60-90g of carbohydrate per hour. This can come from 3 GO Isotonic Energy Gels, which can be taken without the need for fluid. Find out the combination that works for you during training. Make sure you have gels ready by the pool. If you’ve had a tough session, replenish your carbohydrate stores with 1.2 g/kg of carbohydrates, starting within 30 minutes of finishing your swim.
Recovery Ensure that you rest well between swims as this is where adaptations take place. Overtraining is common in endurance swimmers. Aim to get the same amount of sleep each night throughout your training period. N/A Recovery starts within 30 minutes of finishing your swim. Take REGO Rapid Recovery to replace glycogen and electrolyte stores. Finally, ensure that your post training meal contains balanced carbohydrates, protein and vegetables.SiS Overnight Protein may be beneficial for high volume training periods in the build-up to an event.
Caffeine A pre training GO Caffeine Shot can help decrease your perception of fatigue and increase concentration during your swims. Take 30 minutes before your session N/A N/A
 


RACE DAY

Key Consideration 1: Build-up Strategies; the Importance of carbohydrate

Our muscles can store up to 400-500g or around 2000kcal of glycogen to be used as energy. Glycogen is the main fuel you will use during your race and is stored when you eat carbohydrate. To make sure these stores are fully loaded, reducing the onset of fatigue, you can step up your overall carbohydrate intake in the 48 hours before the event, especially if you’re swimming over a longer distance.

To do this, increase your carbohydrate portions at meal times, including foods such as rice, potatoes, pasta and cereals and add carbohydrate snacks in-between, such as cereal bars, fruit, or carbohydrate drinks such as GO Electrolyte. Aim for 8-10g of carbohydrate per kilo of your body mass, per day.

Below is an example plan for a typical 70kg long distance swimmer, providing 3500kcal, loading with 600g carbohydrates - great the day before a race:

 

Breakfast 2 Slices toast; 1 cup of cereal with milk; 1 medium banana; 250ml fruit juice
Snack Plain scone with butter; 500ml GO Energy
Lunch 2x 6 inch wrap (choice of filling); low fat yoghurt and fruit
Snack Smoothie: Banana; yoghurt; honey; granola
Dinner 2x cups whole grain rice with chicken in a tomato sauce; 3x slices garlic bread
Snack Toasted muffin with almond butter; GO Energy Bar (65g)
 

Key Consideration 2: Pre-Race

Breakfast: Have breakfast 2-3 hours before the race. This should be mainly carbohydrate based as our glycogen stores decrease over night. Don’t leave breakfast too late as this could cause stomach cramps early on in the swim. This should involve normal breakfast foods that you’re accustomed to such as toast, cereals and juices.

Hydration: Pre-race hydration is key. Aim to drink 500ml-1000ml of fluid in the build-up to the race, ideally 500ml 2-3 hours at breakfast and 500ml in the build-up to the event. Don’t drink just water, GO Electrolyte or GO Hydro can increase fluid absorption and retention, while topping up sodium stores.

Snacking: A pre-race snack is perfect to ensure we don't eat everything at once for breakfast, which could cause stomach discomfort. An GO Isotonic Energy Gel can help give you that start by by loading with an extra 22g of easily digestible carbohydrate to replenish glycogen stores and physically prepare you for the race ahead. It might not be a good idea to have solid food just before you hit the water, so give it plenty of time.

Key Consideration 3: During the Race

For shorter swims less than 90 minutes under 5km, focus on hydration and electrolyte intake pre-race. If you have trained using a caffeine product such as the GO Caffeine Shot, this should be taken just before the race to kick in and last you short length of the race.

For longer swims over 5km, focus on hydration and carbohydrate intake. Our bodies can absorb around 60-90g of carbohydrate per hour so know how long you’ll be in the water and pack enough nutrition to see you through to the end. Here, caffeine should be taken towards the end of your race to give you increased mental stimulation.

The tables below provide an example nutrition plan during the race. Most importantly, don’t try this nutrition plan on race day for first time.

Shorter Races (<90 Mins)

Event Day (<90min)During Race
Hydration
  • Taking on fluid is not always possible during shorter, open water races. If in the pool, aim to take in 500 ml of fluid per hour depending on sweat rate and temperature/humidity
  • Hydrate using an electrolyte drink: GO Hydro provides a precise 30mmol/L of Sodium, which will help retain the fluid
  • For an extra lift at the start of the race, consume an GO Caffeine Shot which may increase concentration and endurance performance
Energy
  • GO Electrolyte can be consumed throughout shorter races by keeping a bottle at the side of the pool. This contains carbohydrates for energy, but will also help absorb the electrolytes into the system
 

Longer Races (>90 min)

Event Day (>90min)During Race
Hydration
  • Due to difficulties of fluid intake during swimming, focus on energy. However, if the race permits aim for 500 ml of fluid per hour depending on sweat rate. This depends if feed stations are available.
  • Hydrate using an electrolyte drink: GO Hydro provides a precise 30mmol/L of Sodium, which will help retain the fluid
Energy
  • Aim to take on 60-90g carbohydrate per hour. This is usually achieved through energy gels and carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks
  • Along with appropriate hydration and fluid intake, this could come from: 3x GO Isotonic Energy gels or 1x 500ml GO Electrolyte & 2x GO Isotonic energy gels
  • SiS GO Isotonic gels are preferred by endurance swimmers as they easily consumed during the race and are absorbed quickly to provide fast energy without the need for fluid
  • In the last hour of the race consume an GO Hydro + Caffeine (75mg) which may increase concentration and endurance performance
 


POST-TRAINING / RACING: RECOVERY

After training or competition, the body will be in a state of depletion; to reduce fatigue, the risk of injury and promote physiological adaptations it is important to recover well by refuelling and getting enough rest. Consider these three key points for the ultimate post-swim recovery:

  • Refuel: The capacity of your muscles to absorb and store nutrients is increased 30-60 minutes post-exercise, so it is important to replace carbohydrates and provide protein and electrolytes within this time. This can be done with “real food” such as carbohydrate (e.g. rice, pasta, breads etc) and protein options (e.g. greek yoghurt, chicken, fish etc), however this is not always possible or palatable immediately after training or a race. REGO Rapid Recovery provides the body with 23g of carbohydrate, 20g of protein and 1 gram of salt, which is what the body needs to begin the adaptation and recovery process after training and competition.
  • Food: Take on a full carbohydrate based meal within 1 hour of finishing a tough training swim or race. This should also include a source of protein and plenty of vegetables.
  • Always plan ahead: Pre-planning your meals or snacks after training ensures that you can take advantage of the 30-60 minute recovery window. If you have to drive back from a race or are heading to the pool straight after work, ensure you have the appropriate meals with you. Have REGO Rapid Recovery pre-mixed in your kitbag for when you finish training and competition.
  • Don’t forget protein before sleep: Sleep is one of the most important aspects of recovery. During sleep, it is also important to have the muscles to have a supply of protein (i.e. amino acids) to help the muscle recovery. Consuming 40 g of Overnight Protein prior to sleep can help to deliver a sustained supply of amino acids during the overnight period. Mixing with milk (as opposed to water) can also deliver more carbohydrates to help with recovery of glycogen stores.



References

    1. Jeukendrup, A. (2014). A step towards personalized sports nutrition: carbohydrate intake during exercise. Sports Medicine44(1), 25-33.
    2. Casa, D. J., DeMartini, J. K., Bergeron, M. F., Csillan, D., Eichner, E. R., Lopez, R. M. & Yeargin, S. W. (2015). National Athletic Trainers' Association position statement: exertional heat illnesses. Journal of Athletic Training50(9), 986-1000.
    3. Baker, L. B., & Jeukendrup, A. E. (2014). Optimal composition of fluid‐replacement beverages. Comprehensive Physiology, 4, 575-630
    4. Impey, S. G., Hammond, K. M., Shepherd, S. O., Sharples, A. P., Stewart, C., Limb, M., ... & Close, G. L. (2016). Fuel for the work required: a practical approach to amalgamating train‐low paradigms for endurance athletes. Physiological reports4(10), e12803.
    5. Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). Position of the academy of nutrition and dietetics, dietitians of canada, and the american college of sports medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics116(3), 501-528.