6 Meet Day Nutrition Strategies Swimmers Should Know

Nutrition

6 Meet Day Nutrition Strategies Swimmers Should Know

Among the most important things an athlete can do is set goals, and with these goals come standards. Proper training, sleep, and nutrition are vital necessities for success in any sport. But balancing these priorities can be challenging when jobs, schooling, and other obstacles come into play. 

Knowing your nutrition needs on a meet day is especially crucial for swimmers, but it can be confusing when you face extended periods of time in between events and sessions. As everyone’s body reacts differently to certain foods, it is essential to find a nutrition plan that works for you, and one that you can realistically commit to long-term. With a focus on meet day, below are six of the best ways you can fuel up for any upcoming competition.

Nutrition

1. The Day Before Competition

Fueling your body for a long day of competition begins with how you prepare the day before. Be sure to eat meals and snacks that are high in complex carbohydrates throughout the day, and stay hydrated as well. According to research cited by an article in Swim England Masters (“What to eat during swim competitions”), you should pay attention to your blood sugar levels to make sure that they are steady. Another effective way to fuel your muscles is to eat smaller amounts often, every two to four hours. You might be tempted to pig out at the pre-meet pasta party, but resist that urge! Eat in moderation or you may find yourself sluggish and uncomfortable on meet day. Don’t risk eating anything that might cause stomach upset, such as super spicy foods or other foods that may not agree with you! Your best bet is to stick with tried and true nutritious favorites, high in complex carbohydrates of course.

2. Meet Day: Breakfast Is Served

It’s a known fact that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it is particularly essential for swimmers, especially with it being the only meal before morning competitions. Even if you’re contending with pre-meet nerves, eating easily digested foods with high carbohydrate levels is the way to go. According to Team USA’s Athlete Eating Guidelines, cereal with milk, bananas, yogurt, fruit, and toast are all solid options that can help get your body on track for a competitive day at the pool. If this is too much for you, however, carbohydrate-rich fluids such as juices and low-fat smoothies can serve as alternatives.

Ledecky, other Team USA hopefuls work through 'crunch time' at ...

Photo Courtesy of Colorado Springs Gazette

3. All-Day Hydration

Staying hydrated throughout the day by regularly drinking both during meals and between meals is a great way to prepare and recover. The easiest way to ensure sufficient hydration on meet day is to carry a water bottle. Drinking small amounts throughout the day is ideal as it will help prevent any potential stomach issues and the ever-inconvenient frequent need to visit the restroom.

4. Snack Time

The period between races is prime snack time. Whether you choose fruit, crackers, cereal bars, fresh veggies, nuts, smoothies, you name it – these snacks will act as continuous fuel to help you perform at your best all day long. According to the same research done by Swim England Masters, eating as soon as possible after a race offers the body the most time to recover for another race. It is crucial, however, to avoid high-fat foods as well as those containing simple sugars. Don’t give in to your junk food cravings, choose the healthy foods you hopefully already incorporate into your regular diet. Again, you should look for complex carbohydrates in your snacks, in addition to incorporating them into your regular diet.

Wary U.S. Olympians Will Bring Food to China - The New York Timesphoto courtesy of nytimes.com

5. Lunch Between Sessions

In the case of a competition consisting of multiple sessions or a full day at the pool, getting a high-quality meal in after the morning session is key. According to performance dietician, Dane Baker, from High Performance Sport New Zealand, eating a lunch consisting of high carbohydrate options along with a protein source is best for later competition. With the addition of protein though, it’s important not to overindulge as this will result in less carbohydrate consumption and longer digestion. Ideally, eat your lunch as soon as you can after the morning session to allow more time for your body to rest up.

U.S. Olympic Training Center Colorado SpringsPhoto Courtesy of United States Olympic Committee

6. Final Preparation: Dinner Time

With evening sessions, dinner can either be consumed two hours prior to competition, after the competition, or both, depending on timing. In the case of evening racing, Baker recommends eating a light meal or snack option two hours prior for optimal performance. Ideally, a meal would consist of a balanced mix of lean protein and carbohydrates, along with vegetables to boost the nutrient content.

Being able to compete at your true best is only possible with adequate nutrition. All-day meets can certainly take a lot out of a swimmer, and making a food plan ahead of time is the key to success from start to finish. Careful nutrition selections throughout the day will fuel your body for optimal performance.

 

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