Hydration and fuel – keeping yourself going – by Jack Bridge
Swimming burns a lot of energy, around 500 calories per hour depending on your body composition and how intensely you are working, with slightly less for breaststroke than butterfly. Regardless of exactly how much energy you’re using up, it’s clear that in order to keep going at your best performance, you’ll need to fuel up. Swimmers get hungry, and need to eat to both refuel their bodies and get ready for their next training session. Here’s my advice.
Drink regularly. Water is fine, but if you’re training hard you might need to take on some extra sugar. You can buy isotonic sports drinks in most shops, but to save yourself money, you can make your own. You will need 200ml ordinary fruit squash, 800ml water, and a pinch of salt. Mix them all together in and let them cool in the fridge – easy! Chocolate milk is also great – it tastes good and milk contains the natural sugar lactose that stimulates insulin, which helps feed the amino acids into your muscle. A perfect post swim snack.
The right mix
Before swimming try to eat a snack or meal high in complex carbohydrates alongside some easily digestible protein. One of my favourite snacks is peanut butter toast, or for breakfast I’m a big fan of poached eggs on toast. Cheese and crackers is a great snack, and dinner might be chicken and pasta. What’s important is that you get protein, which is full of amino acids to repair your muscles and carbohydrates to restore your glycogen levels.
Little and often
Eat every two to four hours to keep your blood sugar levels steady and fuel your body. This is even more important if you’re not used to exercising, as sudden exertion can send your blood sugar levels out of kilter. Carry snacks with you so you’re always prepared – nuts and seeds, cereal bars and bananas are all great, portable options.
Fruit and vegetables
Don’t forget your vitamins! It’s always important to have at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Have some fruit on your cereal, snack on an apple, add salad or vegetables to your lunch and dinner, or munch on carrot sticks and hummus for a snack. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, but make sure you do! The other great thing is that fruit contains fructose, a simple carbohydrate that converts to energy almost immediately.