Nutrition Guide for Synchronized Swimmers
What and when you eat and drink can have a significant impact on your performance during training sessions and competitions. It can also affect the speed of your recovery. The proper nutrition will help you train harder, improve faster and decrease your chance of injury.
Here are some tips on what to eat and drink before, during, and after practice, and at competition time.
Try to eat regular-sized meals at times that are normal for you throughout the day, but at least an hour or two before training. Skipping meals or eating those that are too small or too large will either leave you feeling either hungry or too full and lethargic during practice.
Eat a carbohydrate-rich snack right before practice or training like a piece of fruit, a sports drink or some crackers. This will provide some quick energy that’s easy for your body to digest.
There’s an old wives’ tale claiming you must wait 30 minutes to an hour before you swim or you'll get cramps. This, however, is a myth. Eating before swimming won't cause cramps in your stomach or legs or cause you to drown.
Also, beware of overdoing the protein and fiber. While both are good for you, too much can have a negative effect on performance or cause an upset stomach. For example, the Atkin’s diet, which uses protein as the main source of calories, will not work for athletes. Carbohydrates should make up the majority of an athlete’s diet because they are the most direct source of energy.
Hydrate in increments throughout the day. Trying to get all the water you need for one day in one or two large amounts is like cramming for a test: You won’t retain as much as you would if you take it in over time.
If synchro practice lasts more than a few hours, you’re going to need a snack to keep you swimming strong until you hit the showers. The tricky part is finding foods that don’t upset your stomach and leave you distracted or unable to perform.
Not everyone should have the same eating plan. Experiment with foods to learn what makes you feel the best. Synchro swimming can be especially hard on your stomach, since you will be sloshing, spinning and flipping around as soon as practice starts. It can be a wild ride!
Natural and easily digestible foods like fruit or granola are best for a quick energy boost. But if those are too rough on your stomach, try to get calories from foods designed especially for mid-training snack breaks like sports drinks, sports bars, bites or gels.
If a sports drink isn’t your idea of a snack, that’s ok. Just make sure to include fluids as a part of your refueling plan.
Dehydration starts to negatively affect your performance once you have lost just two percent of your body weight in water. It may happen before you even feel thirsty!
Being surrounded by water in the pool might actually disguise your thirst more. You should drink every once in a while during practice even if you don’t feel like it.
There are a few circumstances where you will need to hydrate even more: when the weather is warmer, your practice is more intense or longer, and believe it or not, the better shape you’re in (your body will actually sweat more if you are in good condition). If the practice session is high intensity, a sports drink will help you hydrate better than plain water.
The warning signs of dehydration may be very subtle. Pay attention to these warning signs so you can identify when dehydration is starting to affect you.
- Feeling easily fatigued
- Loss of appetite
- Darker colored urine
More Advanced Symptoms:
- Extreme fatigue
- Increased heart and breathing rate
- Muscle cramps
After Practice Recovery
The best time to eat a recovery snack is within 15 minutes after you finish training. That’s when your body is most receptive to absorbing all of the vital nutrients required for recovery: carbohydrates to refuel; protein for rebuilding muscles; and sodium and potassium to replenish the electrolytes you lose from sweating (yes, you can sweat in the pool!).
So, your recovery snack should be something that contains all of those important nutritional elements. Some good examples include a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, chocolate milk, yogurt and a banana, or a sports drink in combination with a sports bar.
It doesn’t have to be a huge meal. Even just 100 calories will help start the recovery process. Although eating a snack anytime after training is better than nothing at all, your body’s absorption rate does begin to decreases after that crucial 15 minute window. The sooner you can eat the better!
When You’re Travelling
When you have to travel for a synchro competition, it might be hard to find the same foods you’re used to having access to at home–especially if you’re in a foreign country. There is a good chance that the pool’s snack bar will not have the foods you’re used to eating either, and competitions are not the right times to start an experimental eating plan.
Include travel-friendly foods (things that don’t need refrigeration and won’t spoil) as regular items on your packing list. That way, you can be sure to have what you like and need to eat throughout the competition.
Don’t forget snacks for the airplane, too! Many flights don’t serve meals anymore, so prepare for limited food options for the length of your trip including time at the gate, layovers, and waiting at the baggage claim. Also remember, traveling always takes longer when you’re a in a group.
According to the American Dietetic Association, vitamins are the key for athletes to turn food into energy. If you’re feeling run down, you may be deficient in some of these vital minerals.
Here are the most important vitamins for athletes and the foods that provide them:
- Vitamin B1 - Whole grains
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) - Almonds, milk, yogurt
- Vitamin B6 - Meat, fish, eggs, beans
- Vitamin B12 - Seafood, meat, milk, eggs
- Niacin - Meat, poultry, peanuts
- Folate - Dark leafy greens, citrus, whole grains
- Vitamin C - Citrus, bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, potatoes
- Vitamin D - Fortified milk, cod-liver oil, seafood, eggs
Vitamin D is especially important for female athletes that try to maintain very lean bodies for their sports, like synchro swimmers. Too little of this important vitamin can cause weak bones!
You’ve Got to Eat to Swim
If you make nutrition a part of your training plan, you will become a better synchronized swimmer. The right diet will let you practice harder and recover more quickly.
Also, remember that this guide is a generalized plan for all synchro swimmers, and it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or a nutritionist for an even more personalized plan. Find out what works best for you using a combination of research, professional help, and simply paying attention to how you feel.