The nerves, the excitement, the anticipation: several emotions run through a swimmer's head before they eventually take off the block and race to the finish. But what are you using to fuel that body in motion? There are many important things to keep in mind when you're getting ready for a race that you have that morning or that afternoon. We'll go through what you should be eating and taking in to make sure that you're at your peak performance when it comes to race time.
Hours before, or that morning
If you have a race in the afternoon, having a hearty breakfast is essential. This is the food that's going to be giving you your steady energy throughout the day as well as part of your swim meet preparation. Loading up on carbohydrates such as a plain bagel, English muffin or anything similar will be the key to keeping that steady energy going. Along with your carbs, adding in protein is just as important. Add a side of scrambled eggs for instant protein the morning of a meet--both delicious and easy to digest. Lastly, finish your meal off with a side of fruit and sugar-free orange juice. Both of these are a great way to give yourself extra nutrients like potassium and vitamin C. This will be the best fuel for you to last until the afternoon. Having an early morning meet? Make sure that you have a very light meal before you head off to the pool. Even if it's a slice of whole wheat toast and an orange, you're better off making sure that you have the fuel to compete.
Pro tip: Some food that you might want to stay away from is anything that's high in sugar and fat content. This will weigh your body down and you will feel sluggish throughout the time you are swimming in the pool. Another thing you should avoid is drinking any really sugary drinks like soda. While you may get a quick spike in energy you won't have any other benefits from the drink. Your body will spend too much energy trying to process the junk food that you're putting in your body when it should be focused on your athletic activity.
Water will be your best friend during a swim meet. The other most important factor is to stay hydrated. Make sure you have plenty of water before, during and after your meet-- this is vital if you want to succeed in your swimming. Not only that but it's the most important way to make sure that your body has what it needs to get through the water in the pool. Drinking water is just as important as the water that you're swimming in. Other alternatives to water if you prefer more flavor are sports drinks such as Gatorade or PowerAde. These drinks provide energy spikes if you need a quick kick before you hop in the water. Whatever drink you prefer, you'll want to have an ample amount of hydration before you begin your warm up for the session.
During your swim meet
In between, your race or between heats and finals, be sure to have something to munch on during swimming in the pool. Generally you want to keep things light, so an energy bar or a piece of fruit is the best option. Having your body digest heavy foods while swimming can be uncomfortable and cause physical implications like cramps or a stomach ache. When you're in the middle of a race, the last thing you want to be worrying about is your stomach. This can take mentally take its toll on a swimmer. Something else to keep in mind is what your own body can handle. Some people can drink sports drinks and more food than another person, but something like a flavored sports drink might be the exact opposite of what you need. Test things out and see what your body tells you. Although we give you examples of foods that will help you perform your best, how much/how often a swimmer eats is personal and up to someone individually. Some swimmers prefer to race on a full stomach while others like to remain a perfect balance between full and hungry. If you're ever worried about what you should and shouldn't eat, then keep it simple with water and light snacks like pretzels or nuts.
Pro tip: Even after your meet it's important to keep track of what you eat because your body will be in recovery mode. Always stick with carbohydrates like whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta. This will keep giving you steady energy even after you've left the pool. Another thing that's a great post-workout thing to down is to drink some chocolate milk. With double the protein and carbohydrates than regular milk, it'll help give you leaner muscle and shed pounds if you're on the way to a slimmer you.
Food is as much of a priority as a reliable suit is. When you have the right fuel then you'll have the right amount of energy to compete. Another tip that you should keep in mind is eliminating any kind of fast food; that type of food will only bring your energy down and fill your body with empty calories. As long as you keep it healthy and make the right choices, you'll always have the confidence to perform your best, in and out of the water