SWIMMING SCIENCE BULLETIN
NSW ACADEMY OF SPORT NUTRITION GUIDELINES: PREPARATION AND RECOVERY FOR COMPETITION
NSW Academy of Sport
[Reprinted with the kind permission of the author from the New South Wales Swimmer, 13(4), 24-25, 1996.]
THE WEEK LEADING UP TO THE EVENT
- Ensure a high-carbohydrate eating plan.
- Include more rice and pasta: they have more carbohydrate than potato.
- Include nutritious carbohydrate-based between-meal snacks (see list below).
- As your training will be tapered pre-event, you won't need to eat more!
- Eating the right balance of increased carbohydrate and less fat is the key.
THE PRE-EVENT MEAL
- Eat this meal about 2-3 hours before competition (approximately 2-3 hours before warm-up).
- This meal should top-up your blood sugar levels after the night's rest.
- The meal does not have to be large, but should fill you up for the next few hours.
- High-carbohydrate foods are the best options: e.g., bread, cereals, fruit, pasta, rice, etc.
- Ensure that the meal is low fat, this speeds up digestion.
- Eat breakfast before you get to the pool, this leaves time for the carbo fuel to get in!
- Have a drink to optimize hydration: try sports drink, juice, or a liquid meal.
- Avoid the caffeine in cola drinks, coffee, chocolate, and tea - it is dehydrating.
- If you feel too nervous to eat, try a liquid meal (see later in this article).
- Practice with your pre-event meal prior to nationals to fine tune this eating strategy.
AFTER THE WARM-UP - RECOVER FOR THE HEATS
- After the warm-up, replace fluids immediately (leave your drink bottle at pool side).
- Sports drinks are optimal as they replace fluids and carbohydrate simultaneously.
- If there is less than 1 hour between races, just keep to fluid replacement.
- If there is more than 1 hour between the warm-up and your first heat, try to eat a little.
- See the "top-up between event" ideas later in this article.
- The best approach is to eat a little and often during the day.
- Seize the opportunity to eat a little "top-up" when you can.
- Eating and drinking a little and often will help to keep you "firing" all day.
- Eating too much at once can make you feel heavy and lethargic.
- Little top-ups are best - they also prevent you getting really hungry.
DRINKING AND EATING BETWEEN EVENTS
- Try to eat in longer breaks (longer than 1 hour between races).
- In shorter breaks, use a sports drink or water to replace fluids.
- The indoor pool environment is humid and dehydrating.
- Adequate fluids are essential all day to keep your blood and energy pumping.
- If there is a longer break (a few hours) through the day, use it to eat a bit more.
- Take your own high performance foods and drinks with you (don't rely on the canteen).
- A cold pack and thermos helps to keep foods and drinks fresh and pleasant.
- Record your food and fluid intake to keep count of when you last ate and drank.
- To monitor hydration check that your urine output is regular and "looks clear."
- Monitoring body-weight change over the day is another way to check hydration.
RECOVERY AFTER A HARD DAY'S COMPETITION
- Have something to drink and eat immediately after your last swim.
- Avoid the "fast food" chains on the way home - their high fat foods will delay recovery.
- Have some high-carbo food prepared so you can eat as soon as you arrive home.
- If possible take a thermos with a meal inside so you can eat even earlier.
- Check your body weight to ensure you are rehydrated.
TOP-UP SNACKS BETWEEN EVENTS (breaks of 1-2 hours)
- Snack fruits (small cans of fruit) or canned baby fruits.
- Fruit that is peeled and cut up (easier to eat this way).
- Plain bread rolls (white bread may be less heavy) - try pita bread!
- Fruit buns (e.g., hot cross buns) or raisin bread.
- Plain or fruit scones.
- Home-made low-fat fruit muffins.
- Pikelets (packet variety okay).
- Rice cakes (you can top them with honey, jam, or banana).
- Boiled or milky or creamed rice (use reduced-fat milk).
- Rice pudding or bread pudding (use reduced-fat milk).
- Instant noodles (varieties that do not contain oil or the flavor sachet).
- Jam or honey sandwiches.
- Plain boiled pasta with a little tomato sauce.
- Low-fat breakfast or plain muesli bar.
- Fruit fingers (see baby food selection at supermarket).
- Plain crackers (not high-fat types).
- "Petit Miam" yogurts.
- Small amount of reduced-fat yogurts.
- Carbo gels (ask at sport stores).
- Power bars (try gyms or sport stores).
[Note: Choose smaller amounts if you only have just over 1 hour. In longer breaks you can afford to eat a little more. Items in bold might be better for middle length breaks as they are smaller and perhaps easier to digest.]
IF YOU PREFER TO USE LIQUID MEALS TRY . . . . . .
- Sustagen Sport (made with water or skim milk).
- Exceed Sports Meal.
- Sports drink (e.g., fluid-replacement kind).
- High-carbo drink (e.g., Lucozade).
- Your own fruit smoothie made with reduced-fat milk.
BEST FLUID REPLACERS OVER THE DAY
- Sports drink (contain carbohydrate to boost energy as well).
IN LONGER BREAKS OR AFTER THE COMPETITION
- Sandwiches with low-fat fillings (avoid butter and too much salad).
- Pasta or rice with tomato pasta sauce (a little chicken or very lean meat in sauce is okay).
REMEMBER - Practice with these strategies prior to the championships to fine-tune your eating for competition. Everyone is different and various combinations of the above tailored to your individual needs will work best.
Helen O'Connor (Sports Dietitian)
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