Hopes and Fears
Eating for sport can be likened to putting petrol in your car. If you want to get the best performance out of your car, you need to put the right fuel in so it can function to it’s potential.
Similarly, athletes, must put the best food (petrol) in their bodies in order to preform to the best of their ability. Carbohydrates are the most effective sources of energy.
Fat and Protein can also be used to supply energy, but they are harder for the body to convert to a useable form. For instance, it takes 20-30 minutes of exercise before fat can be broken down and metabolised into a useful source of energy. Therefore, it is only helpful as a fuel supply for long distance swimmers. Fatty foods eaten before competition will also prevent digestion, and can cause upset tummies, particularly when you add in the nerves of competition. Fatty foods take much longer to digest and will take vital blood supplies away from the muscles that need it for racing. Children need fat in their diet, but as a general rule of thumb, avoid fatty foods on the day of competition.
The training diet
Carbohydrates are absorbed fastest if consumed within 15-20 minutes of exercise. This will load up energy supplies quicker for the next bout of activity and help overcome the fatigue of a heavy session. For snacks before and after training, please refer to the section on Snacks at Competitions further on in this article. Most meals can follow the guidelines listed below, but also for training ensure there is plenty of protein which helps repair torn, damaged and fatigued muscles.
The day before competing.
Most of the energy used on the day of competition will be supplied from the meals the day before. If a swimmer is to swim on a number of successive days, they are best to eat at least a small snack within 20 minutes of completing their last race each day to top up their energy levels for the following day.
As mentioned previously, carbohydrates are the most easily available source of energy and unrefined carbohydrates are even better. The night before competition try to provide a meal which contains any of the following:
- Rice and;
- Vegetables (particularly potato, corn, peas and beans)
A little bit of care should also be considered with the toppings you use. For instance a Spaghetti Bolognese topping is much better than heavy cream based sauces.
The same care can be given with deserts. Anything with fruit or jelly, yoghurts and even icecream are fine.
The day of competition
It is very easy to neglect to drink enough fluids when competing, so make sure you drink plenty of water. Water, contrary to popular belief is still the best drink for athletes. Sports drinks are not the answer and are very high in sugar. They are notorious for causing tooth decay in athletes. If your child does not like water, add some cordial, or give fruit juices.
Avoid all fizzy drinks and drinks with caffeine. They cause dehydration - a state swimmer’s should avoid at all costs.
Breakfast: On this day fast foods which are usually high in fat, any fried foods or other high fat foods (such as many dairy products) should be limited or avoided altogether for the reasons already mentioned. Cereal, toast, pancakes, waffles are all good sources of carbohydrates, but care should be taken what goes on them. Honey; jam, small scrapes of butter or margarine are fine. Low fat milk can be used on cereal. Any fruit or juices are also very good. Bananas are good up to 2 hours before a race, but are slower to digest because of their starch content.
Lunch: Any rice, pasta or sandwich is good before racing as long as it is at least an hour before the first race. Again, just be careful what you add in. Lean meat and salads are good to use.
Pre race snacks
During the competition, it is better to eat small amounts often and to keep fluid intake high. Some swimmers will not like to have anything in their tummies that might cause a bloated feeling. Keep snacks light and healthy. The following represent a good range of snacks that you can send in your children’s lunch boxes:
- Any fruit (grapes are really nice and light and easily digested)
- Tinned fruit
- Tinned fruit baby food
- Muesli bars
- Sultanas and other dried fruit
- Roll ups
- Fruit cake
- Juices (the purer the better)
Foods to be avoided
Sugary foods with empty calories should be avoided at all costs during a swim meet. Lollies, glucose tablets, chocolates, fizzy drinks and anything generally labeled as ‘junk’ food, will have the opposite effect on energy levels as blood sugar levels initially rise, but then plummet far below what they were originally, sending the swimmer into a downward energy spiral.
To summarise, the following foods should be minimised or avoided:
- Sugary foods
- Fizzy drinks
- Fatty foods
Once the swim meet is over, of course kids can indulge in their favourite sweets.
(Source: h2oswimming.com.au)(7 months ago)