Post-Training Nutrition For Swimmers
Post-Training Nutrition For Swimmers
Take Home Points (for adult and older-adolescent swimmers):
- Consume 20-30g of a high-quality protein
- Consume the amount of carbohydrate that meets your needs (30-90g)
- Rehydrate with 32-64oz. of liquid
Swimmers are notorious for doing a huge volume of training. Because of this, on top of the huge caloric requirement of most swimmers, post-training nutrition should be a massive component of a competitive swimmers routine.
There are generally 3 components to post-training recovery that swimmers need to focus on. They are:
- Protein– Post-training protein intake is probably the most vital and time-sensitive aspect. Muscle Protein Synthesis(MPS) is generally maximized in adults with about 20 – 30g of a high-quality, fast-absorbing protein (e.g. whey protein powder). Younger/smaller athletes may need less protein to max out MPS, but it is still just as important. MPS is essentially your muscles responding to a stimulus, so if you want to get stronger and faster, maximizing MPS is the way to go.
- Carbohydrate– carbohydrate is the body’s main source of fuel. Internal carbohydrate stores are called glycogen, and following training they will be depleted. If you want to have the energy for your next training session, you need to replace lost glycogen with an exogenous carbohydrate (e.g. dextrose). Dextrose is the simplest of carbohydrate (i.e. glucose), being essentially a single unit of glycogen. Now it gets a bit tricky; carbohydrate requirements are not as consistent as protein requirements. Some need huge amounts to satisfy their huge metabolism and work capacity, while others simply gain body fat on large amounts of carbohydrate. My recommendations are to start with 30g of dextrose, and slowly experiment with larger amounts, up to 60g, and even 90g during training. Trust your body, go with what feels the best, and what you are performing the best with on a regular basis.
- Water– I know you have been in a pool full of cold water, but trust me; you’ve been sweating the entire time. If you really want to find out how much you are sweating, you can weigh yourself immediately before and after practice. Then you need to replace the weight you lost in training with 1.5 x the volume of liquid. So for every pound you lose, you should be consuming about 24 oz of liquid. You need to do this because you will not retain all of the liquid you put back into you. BUT, who wants to weigh themselves before and after practice everyday? It’s a pretty safe bet to simply consume your post-training carb/protein mixture in a 32 oz. bottle of water, followed with another 32 oz. of water over the next several hours.
Depending on who you ask, you’ll hear you have anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours following training to take advantage of an “anabolic window”. But in reality the window doesn’t shut as soon as you hit 21 minutes, it’s a gradual switch, so you don’t need to be too anxious about the timing. You should however, bring something with you to practice to consume immediately after you are done training.
Think about it this way, when was the last time you ate something substantial?
Maybe 2 hours before your 2-hour practice? I’m not good at math, but it seems like about 4 hours since the last time you nourished yourself. Don’t make it 6 hours by waiting until after you go home and prepare a meal.
Which brings me to my next point, including post-training nutrition into your routine should not replace an entire meal! It supplements your diet. The focus on immediate intake of protein and carbohydrate is because they have a timing-dependent effect on your recovery. Essentially, all else can wait for a period of time, but not forever. The first meal following training still needs to include all the components of a balanced diet: carbohydrate, protein, fat, fibre, vitamins, minerals, electrolytes etc. This is nutrition 101.
Post-training nutrition is a great supplement to a healthy diet of a competitive swimmer. Keep it in perspective, you wont see any benefit if your protein-shake is replacing your dinner. But if you do it right, know that this little difference everyday can make all the difference in the end.