Race nutrition depends on whether you’re a solo swimmer, duo or team swimmer. One thing consistent across all disciplines is the importance of a well fuelled and hydrated body before the event. Then it is about implementing a tried and tested feeding programme that works for you.
From carbohydrate loading to race day nutrition.
1. Carbohydrate loading
Consumption of a high carbohydrate diet 48 – 72 hours preceding the race enables muscles to store more glycogen (energy). Whether you load or not depends on the amount of swimming you’re doing. If you’re undertaking a solo swim, then carbohydrate loading is a must. It becomes less important the more you share the swimming with team mates.
Example loading day:
2 cups plain breakfast cereal with low-fat milk
1 piece fresh fruit
2 slices toast with jam
1 glass fruit juice
1 muesli bar
1 piece fresh fruit
2 rolls, 1 with meat and salad, 1 with banana & honey
1 200ml low-fat yoghurt
1 fruit smoothie with 1 cup low-fat milk & 1 scoop low-fat ice-cream
2 cups egg noodles stir fried with vegetables and 1 – 2 tablespoons blackbean sauce
2. Pre-event meal
Benefits include restoring glycogen (energy) stores after overnight fast, hydration and psychological. Examples include:
3. Nothing but water for the first 60 minutes
You already have adequate energy stores to fuel continuous swimming for approximately 60 minutes. Drink water to thirst.
4. After the first 60 minutes
Rule of thumb is to consume between 40 - 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. This mainly applies to solo swimmers. Not so important for teams as you will be able to snack during your breaks. It’s also recommended to space feeds (2 or 3 per hour). If you consume more than 60 grams per hour you may experience diarrhoea which could derail your race.
Examples of 60 grams of carbohydrate:
1 litre sports drink
600 ml cola drink (flat)
2 glucose chews
2 sports gels
2 large bananas
95 g jelly beans
Weigh yourself before and after your longer training sessions to see how much fluid you have lost. Then calculate your sweat rate. For example, you weigh 80 kg before a 12 km training session. You drink 1 litre of water during the session. Your weight directly after training is 78 kgs. How much fluid have you lost?
80 kg (pre-training) + 1 litre (water consumed) – 78 kg (post-training) = 3 litres of fluid loss. If the training session took you 5 hours, the sweat rate = 600 mls per hour. Aim to replenish at this rate.
Caffeine (1-3 mg per kg body weight) consumed 1 hour before the race and/or towards the end (15 km mark). Caffeine has been found to raise your pain threshold and keep you more alert through periods of fatigue.
This is how much caffeine is in a 250 ml cup of the following:
Nitrates like Beet It (300 mg nitrate) or Go Beet (260 mg nitrate) are best taken up to 2 hours before the race. Nitrate is converted into Nitric Oxide (NO) after ingestion, increasing blood flow and therefore oxygen to working muscles. It is thought that NO may help to decrease the energy cost of exercise, enabling you to swim harder for the same perceived effort.
For info on recovery or anything else, please email email@example.com.
Finally, make sure you experiment with any of the above advice during training to avoid unwanted surprises during the race. Good luck!