Proper nutrition can play a huge role in competitive swimming success. For the average competitive swimmer, food primarily serves as fuel. A good diet allows the competitive swimmer to maintain energy levels and may even aid in building muscle. But unhealthy eating can completely derail any progress made over the course of the swim season.
Often, younger swimmers make the mistake of restricting their diets. These swimmers are typically influenced by the usual cultural pressures to be thin, although they may also believe that extra weight is holding them back from better race times. Unfortunately, in restricting their diets, swimmers are actually sabotaging their performance in and out of the pool.
One of the best ways to ensure optimal performance in competitive swimming is to eat regular meals and snacks all throughout the day. Regular eating brings a myriad of benefits to the competitive swimmer, including the following:
Blood Sugar Maintenance
The natural result of fasting is a large drop in the body's blood sugar. The body's primary goal, then, is to raise blood sugar to a regular level. This leads to cravings for refined foods, which are the least effective in promoting high energy levels. To keep blood sugar in check, it is recommended that the competitive swimmer eat something at least once every three to four hours.
Vitamins and Minerals
A competitive swimmer eating on a regular schedule is more likely to incorporate a variety of foods in his or her diet. For whatever reason, people are willing to eat a whole bunch of the same thing in one sitting, but typically balk at the idea of eating the same food for more than one meal or snack in the same day. The more variety in one's diet, the more likely that person is to get all the vitamins and minerals required for keeping the body healthy and happy.
In today's society, we view metabolism simply as a means of getting rid of calories. But a high metabolism provides plenty of other benefits, one of which is greater energy throughout the day. If you come to swim practice feeling sluggish, you probably aren't going to accomplish much. A quick snack before practice will help to stabilize your metabolism, thus making it easier to complete tiring drills.
S. Gustafson has several years of experience in competitive swimming and water safety instruction.
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