Swimmers, Improve Your Cooking Game!


Swimmers, Improve Your Cooking Game!

By Danny Whirlow, Swimming World College Intern. 

It’s understandable that a swimmer may loathe the idea of cooking for him or herself after practice. Or at all for that matter. With muscles aching, skin flaking and smelling of chlorine, who wouldn’t want to just relax on the couch? All the while, someone else prepares that delicious post-practice feast. The swimmer will make no effort to understand the intricacies of the meal that’ll nourish their mind and body.

Or perhaps that swimmer will cook their own meal. However, to preserve nap time, a simple meal is thrown together. Toast with peanut butter and a side of berries. Sunny-side-up eggs with pre-packaged baby carrots. This swimmer has made it a thousand times before, and it tastes good, but it is hardly stimulating.

Linguine with Fried Eggs and Garlic Recipe | Taste of Home

There is certainly merit to both of these strategies. A swimmer can delegate cooking responsibilities to remain focused on more pressing tasks, or take the path of least resistance to acquire the appropriate nutrients for a good recovery. Sometimes they can even go together! But while much has been said on nutrition itself, little has been said on how the act of cooking can benefit swimmers.

Writing for Big Think, Matt Davis says that when we pass cooking off to others “we lose a fundamental skill, control over our nutrition, and an exercise that promotes out physical and mental health.” Thus, cooking as a swimmer becomes another part of training, essential to maintaining the well-oiled machine that is a swimmer. But how exactly does cooking benefit the swimmer?

1. Idle Time Need Not Go to Waste

Those couch cushions certainly are soft and that blanket’s quite cozy, but letting lethargy reign supreme can be detrimental to a swimmer’s psyche. Instead of sitting sedentary, cooking can be swapped in to maintain mental awareness. In 2018, the National Library of Medicine conducted a systematic review on cooking’s effect on mental health, finding several positive psychological results. Citing that study, Davis writes:

“Study participants who engaged in baking sessions developed better self-esteem as a result of their improved concentration, coordination, and confidence. The participants also reported that one of the most satisfying aspects of the baking process was being able to produce a product that they could give away to others. The other studies in the review showed similar results; cooking raised self-esteem.”

7 Reasons Why Cooking Is the Ultimate Stress Reliever

2. Cooking Promotes Quality & Variety in Food Choice

Pasta, eggs, and toast are ubiquitous for their simplicity, but may lack the pizzazz of a well-thought-out meal. What’s more, extra thrifty swimmers may prepare these meals in their most rudimentary forms, skipping on bolder flavors. When cooking, swimmers gain a chance to choose their own ingredients. This opportunity allows for greater agency in the selection of quality nutrients.  According to Dr. Denise Karyln Hee, quality foods are full of antioxidants, high in fiber, and do not have many added chemicals. These traits allow for “a cleaner source of fuel for your workouts,” and help maintain muscle mass.

Swimmers who cook also discover the wide variety of food and ingredients at their disposal. Hot pepper flakes. Collard greens. Chocolate! Cooking subsequently becomes an exercise in creativity as the swimmer tries to perfect their recovery meals for nutritional value AND taste. Instead of merely going through the motions, eating becomes an enjoyable and ever-changing experience.

3. Serve Up Some Team-Time!

In the words of the late chef, author, and world-traveler Anthony Bourdain,“You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together.” Eating is often a communal act, and meal preparation doesn’t need to be any different. Cooking swimmers can utilize their kitchen skills to promote team-bonding in a more casual environment away from any chlorine. Relaxed conversations at the table can help develop budding friendships, solidifying bonds that will remain strong in and out of the water. Furthermore, such considerate cooking can foster a sense of altruism amongst teammates, who’ll go on to look out for each other when training is at its roughest, when competitions don’t yield desired results, or when life just seems to be a never-ending beatdown.

Is It Really Dangerous to Swim After Eating? | Britannica

What do you like to cook after practice? Share your favorite recipes below!

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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