Before and during an Olympic competition, swimmers must eat foods that provide the energy to compete at a high level. Swimmers' bodies use everything that they eat for energy, although certain foods provide this energy more readily than others. Olympic-level swimming features lengthy training sessions and numerous races over a short period, making energy storage a vital part of success.
Eating carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat milk increases the glucose levels in a swimmer's body. The body relies mainly on glucose for energy, especially during periods of intense physical activity. Glucose provides energy for the nervous system and controls your body's use of fat and protein as energy sources. Your body uses the glucose from carbohydrates first for energy, making carbs the most important part of an Olympic swimmer's diet.
Olympic swimmers know the importance of hydration, as water helps the body with digestion and circulation. Water also carries nutrients to your body's cells, while helping you to maintain a mineral balance. Since swimmers often do not feel the symptoms of dehydration while in the water, drinking water throughout every practice and between events remains important.
Eating protein for muscle recovery and cell regeneration holds importance during the Olympics. Consume complete proteins such as fish, beef and poultry, as they contain all of the essential amino acids that your body requires.
Swimmers try to keep their fat intake low, as this allows more room for glycogen in the body. While you can use fat for energy, even lean athletes already have more than enough body fat to last them through an endurance event. Your body also needs carbohydrates to begin the fat-burning process, making the fat on your body useless unless you have glycogen stored as well. Since most swimming events last for a matter of seconds or minutes, swimmers leave as much room for carbohydrates as possible, since they provide energy for short, high-intensity events.
Vitamins and Minerals
The vitamins and minerals that you store help maintain your health and promote growth in your body. If you do not get the right vitamins into your body, it becomes difficult to release energy and build your body's tissues. Because a swimmer's diet focuses on eating for energy, athletes must take supplements to ensure that they consume all of the necessary vitamins. The body also needs minerals such as calcium, sulfur, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and magnesium, although you find most of them in meats and vegetables consumed during training.
- "Handbook of Sports Medicine and Science: Swimming"; David Costill, et al.; 1992
- "Training Nutrition: The Diet and Nutrition Guide for Peak Performance"; Ed Burke, Ph.D., et al.; 1995