10 Foods That Unleash the Olympian in Every Swimmer

Swimming is an intense sport, so competitive swimmers need to make sure they fuel their bodies with the proper nutrition, in the right quantity, day-in and day-out. On race days, it’s also important to snack on energy foods between events and stay well-hydrated with water, not relying on energy or sport drinks alone. Dehydration has been proven to slow swimmers down.

What the body needs

There are plenty of good food choices for swimmers before a swim meet or practice. Ultimately, which ones work the best requires a little individual testing and varies from person to person. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, eating too much or consuming foods that are difficult to digest will hurt swim performance on race day or during training.

For starters, every swimmer should eat small and easily digestible snacks in between events, including: apples, bananas, raisins, power bars and pretzels. This builds stored fats in the liver that can quickly be used by the body a power sources during exertion.  Digestion itself uses water; so for the body to process quickly each snack should be accompanied by a cup or two of water.

Preparing your food

How the food is prepared is just as important on what foods you eat. Even healthy foods like fruits and vegetables can have their nutritional value completely destroyed if prepared using unhealthy techniques, like cooking with butter, grease or other foods high in saturated fats.

The night before a meet, it’s important to have a meal rich in protein and carbohydrates, like pasta, rice and beans. The morning of the meet, eat a light breakfast high in carbohydrates, like a whole grain bagel or whole grain toast and fruit two to three hours before the event.

10 power foods every swimmer should eat

The U.S. Olympic swim team features some of the greatest athletes in the world and some of the most decorated Olympians of all time. In order to achieve top performance, most athletes eat a diet high in antioxidants, which help them experience the best strength, endurance and disease resistance.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the following 10 foods have very high antioxidant capacity and offer superior health benefits.

Beans: Pinto, red and kidney beans pack both antioxidants and protein, making them one of the most beneficial super foods to promote both energy and health. Add them to salads or rice dishes to turn them into a meal.

Unsweetened dark chocolate: Whoever said eating healthy couldn’t taste good? When eaten in moderation, one square of dark chocolate offers exceptional antioxidant power.

Red Delicious and Granny Smith Apples:  An apple a day really does keep the doctor away. Eating one apple per day helps your body fight against free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that seek to bond with other molecules to increase their stability. When free radicals bond to body tissues, it can speed up the aging process and cause long-term health complications. They have even been linked to some autoimmune diseases and the development of cancer. Antioxidants help keep free radicals from bonding.

Prunes: Prunes aren’t just for your grandparents bowel movements. They are super foods with the ability to destroy aging. Eat a half a cup a day. Prune recipes

Pomegranate juice: Good tasting and high in antioxidants, there’s plenty of reason to make pomegranate juice a regular drink of choice. Just make sure to dilute it 50:50 with water if it’s 100% pure to avoid getting a sugar rush and crashing.

Artichokes: Most people’s only exposure to artichokes is in spinach artichoke dip, but that’s not why artichokes made the list. When boiled or cooked in healthy recipes, artichokes are highly nutritious. Here are 22 little known artichoke recipes.

Pears: Pears contain an important fiber called pectin, which helps remove any harmful metals in the body through the bowels.

Pecans and walnuts: If you’re not allergic, these foods are high in many different vitamins and acids that promote high energy levels and balanced moods.

Bring on the berries: Cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries are all rich in antioxidants. Throw them in the blender along with some yogurt and ice and you’ve got a delicious smoothie that adds energy back to your tired muscle cells. If you’re not into smoothies, add them to whole grain cereal or granola for breakfast.

Elderberries are another member of the berry family that packs a serious punch. They’ve been proven to help fight off colds and the flu, and have even been used as part of treatment plans for HIV and Epstein Barr patients. If you can’t find them at the grocery store, look for them as a dietary supplement in your local health food store.

Russet and sweet potatoes: Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to feel guilty about eating potatoes. Russet potatoes are antioxidant-rich and are the perfect baked side dish to add to your dinner. Just make sure you don’t go crazy loading it up with butter, cheese and sour cream.  Sweet potatoes are rich with beta carotene, which helps promote endurance.

You are what you eat

That saying is completely true, especially for competitive swimmers who exert themselves through long-distance physical exercise. It’s vital to eat a well balanced and nutritious diet to keep your body at its peak performance.

According to Scott Hedges, former swim coach, Cranbrook Schools in Birmingham, Mich., one of the biggest mistakes many swimmers make is thinking they can eat whatever they want.  He said good nutritional intake is a learned habit.

“Just because you haven’t gained weight doesn’t mean you can load up on fast food,” says Hedges. “Swimmers burn so many calories that it’s important to stay fueled with the right kinds of foods that give the body energy and not take it away.”

Whether you swim sprints or long distances, it’s important to keep nutrition top of mind. It’s the building block of training and achieving your goals in the pool.

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