Eating before a big meet is almost as important as the training plan: Swimmers need fuel to help their muscles work hard, but a too-hearty meal will weigh anyone down in the pool. The key is eating the right combination of carbohydrates and protein—and fueling up at the right time.
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Although the old maxim that you should wait an hour post-meal before swimming isn't always accurate, it is important to eat according to the time of your race. Afternoon swim meets demand a heartier and protein-heavy breakfast, to keep you fueled for the meet, while early-morning competitions should be lighter and carb-centric, to provide that essential energy boost in the pool. In general, stick to a combination of carbohydrates and protein for reliable energy.
Oatmeal with Milk
Oatmeal — go instant if it's easier — made with low-fat milk provides the right mix of carbohydrates, protein and fat that will fuel your body at race time, especially for swimmers with an early-morning meet. That's because carbohydrates supply the glucose that muscles transform into energy. Keep in mind that complex carbohydrates, such as the whole grains in oatmeal, break down slowly throughout the day for a more constant source of energy. Simple carbs, such as honey and white sugar, burn away quickly.
Cheese, Nuts and Cold Cuts
Although protein is not quite as important as carbohydrates in terms of energy, it plays an important role pre-race. It keeps your blood sugar level, which helps maintain energy; staves off hunger; and keeps your mood even, which is important for dealing with pre-race jitters. A selection of cheeses, such as string cheese; cold cuts, such as turkey; and nuts, such as almonds, supply that protein without including too much fat.
Hummus and Pita
Eating a large meal right before you hit the starting block would not be good for the team. Instead, reach for a light but balanced snack, such as hummus and pita. Both chickpeas and whole grain pita bread supply a combination of complex carbohydrates and protein that give your body a steady energy boost — from the complex carbs — and long-lasting fuel from the protein.