Tag: healthy

The Big Deal About a Swimmer’s Nutrition

Photo Courtesy: Twitter, @RyanLochte

By Bailey Duran, Swimming World College Intern.

Swimming requires massive amounts of energy, whether it’s an elite-level practice or an age group practice. Because of this high energy expenditure, swimmers need to take the right steps to replenish the nutrients lost.

According to wellness coordinator Brigette Peterson‘s research in sports nutrition, competitive swimmers can burn up to 5,000 calories in four hours, depending on the intensity of the workout. Thus, swimmers can burn approximately 40 percent of their daily energy during this time. Because of this incredible energy expenditure, proper nutrition is essential to rebuilding and recovering.

Peterson says, “Nutrition is cornerstone of every athlete’s performance, but especially a swimmer’s.”

Detrimental Nutrition Mindsets

scale-weight-eating-disorders

Photo Courtesy: Katie D. Flickr

Two common detrimental mindsets that swimmers have regarding meals fall on opposite ends of the spectrum.

The first is, “I swim hard every day so I can eat whatever I want. I’m working it off when I swim.” While it may be true that you are burning a lot of calories, you aren’t refueling with the necessary nutrients that will keep you healthy and swimming fast. Not to mention that eating loads of sugar and other processed foods will hinder your swimming and make you feel sluggish and slow.

The other mindset is: “I worked super hard in practice, so I don’t want to ruin it by eating too much. I won’t eat or will eat much less than what I probably should.” You can’t expect your body to be able to put maximum effort into a practice or a race if it doesn’t have enough fuel to do so.

It doesn’t matter how much or how hard you swim or train, you will not reach your potential without proper nutrition.

What Should Swimmers Eat?

girls-eating-get-together

Photo Courtesy: Joey Soraghan

You may be asking, “Well then, what should I eat?”

According to natural health and fitness expert Brue Baker, swimmers who are training intensely for more than two hours daily should eat four to seven light meals a day. Eating large meals or too much in one sitting will leave the swimmer feeling lethargic and will inhibit your performance (The Importance of a Swimmer’s Nutrition). It should also consist of foods that are easy to digest.

Carbohydrates should make up one half of a swimmer’s diet as it is the fuel swimmers need to get through that tough practice or meet. Carbs are stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver and is the fuel that our body uses throughout our day – especially during a workout. After the workout, that energy source will be running low and will need to be replaced. Some good sources of carbs are rice, cereal, pasta, potatoes, beans, peas, and lentils.

The other half of a swimmer’s meal should consist of protein, healthy fats (olive oil, nuts, avocados, and seeds), vegetables, fruit, whole grains, vitamins, and minerals.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 0.5 to 0.7 grams of carbohydrates should be consumed for every pound of body weight. For someone who is 150 pounds, this adds up to about 75 grams. This should be coupled with 20 to 40 grams of protein.

Protein repairs and rebuilds the muscles after the stresses of training in addition to warding off soreness. The building blocks of proteins are amino acids, which are the main components of muscular growth and repair. Diana Goodwin of Aquamobile tells us that protein also supports and boosts the immune system as well as quenches those annoying hunger pangs that plague swimmers during practice. Some sources of protein are lean meats, fish, eggs, and low-fat dairy.

Swimmers should also drink water often to stay hydrated, sipping on their water bottles throughout the day to replenish sweat loss (yes, it is possible to sweat in the water). Many athletes don’t think about replacing electrolytes and other minerals lost in sweat, most notably sodium and potassium. While most athletes consume enough sodium in a normal diet, you can sprinkle some salt and glucose to your beverage for absorption and replenishment.

Peterson says, “A properly fueled body will result in better performance during practice and competition. Nutrition is everything.”

5 Health benefits Of Swimming In Winter

Overweight, lethargic, bad skin, thin hair. These are not adjectives often associated with those crazy freezing water enthusiasts. Try: athletic, youthful and toned with good complexions and lots of energy. So, what’s their secret? What are the real beneficial health outcomes of regular exposure to cold water and are they available to normal people without masochistic tendencies?

 

1. Boosts your immune system

For your body, a sudden and drastic change in temperature constitutes an attack – as anyone who’s ever fallen overboard in British waters will concur. And, whilst “attacking” your own body may not sound like a good thing, there is no harm in keeping it on its toes. In fact, quite the opposite.

Scientists from the Czech Republic immersed witting subjects in cold water for one hour, three times a week and monitored their physiology. They found significant increases in white blood cell counts and several other factors relating to the immune system. This was attributed to the cold water being a mild stressor which activates the immune system and gives it some practice.

2. For an all-natural high

Winter swimmers talk a lot about the ‘high’ they get from cold water – a feeling of wellbeing that’s so encompassing that it becomes quite addictive (who doesn’t want to feel truly good, at least once a day?) The cause? Endorphins.

Endorphins are the body’s natural pain killers and, in the case of a cold dip, it uses them to take the sting away from your skin. So, to get high on your own supply, all you need to do is jump in a river.

And if you think that sounds dangerously close to the pleasure/pain barrier then you’re probably right. The two other primary causes for endorphin release are pain and orgasm.

The cold will also stimulate your parasympathetic system, which is responsible for rest and repair, and this can trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are a vital part of keeping us happy and low levels of them are linked with depression. Couple this effect with the endorphin rush as you take the plunge and it should make for a warm glow and a wide smile when you re-emerge.

3. Gets your blood pumping

Being hot brings blood to surface. Being cold sends it to your organs. Both extremes work your heart like a pump. That’s why the whole sit in the sauna, roll in the snow, sit in the sauna thing makes people glow. But why is increased blood flow good for you?

Well, it helps flush your circulation for starters, pushing blood through all your capillaries, veins and arteries. It will exfoliate your skin and flush impurities from it, thus helping your complexion (firm-bodied women of all ages around pool sides say it stops cellulite). Evidence also demonstrates that your body adapts to the cold with repeated exposure and this may improve your circulation, particularly to your extremities – no bad thing in the winter months.

You could get these benefits by switching between the hot and cold taps in your shower (or the sauna, snow, sauna thing) but that doesn’t sound nearly as fun as quick dip in your local pond followed by wrapping up warm afterwards.

 

4. Improves your sex life

The suggestion of a cold shower might bring forth images of hot-headed young men trying to quell wanton urges but research paints a different picture.

In a study with a similar format to the one described above, participants took daily cold baths and were monitored for changes. In addition to some similar results to their Czech counterparts, these researchers also found increased production of testosterone and oestrogen in men and women respectively.

In addition to enhancing libido in both sexes, these hormones also play an important role in fertility. In fact, one technique recommended for men looking to fatherhood is to bathe their testicles in cold water every day.  Whatever your procreative desires, a dip of a different sort certainly could add an edge to your sex life.

5. Burns calories

We all know that swimming is great exercise but there are some extra benefits from doing it in the North Sea that you just won’t get from a warm wade in the Med.

Swimming in cold water will make your body work twice as hard to keep you warm and burn more calories in the process. For this sort of exercise, fat is your body’s primary source of energy and the increased work rate will increase your metabolism in the long run.