To be at your best in the pool you must start to consider what you eat and drink. Eating the correct meal and snack choices every day will significantly improve your performance during training and competition. You will be able to train harder for longer and recover quicker. In addition, and more importantly you will race faster at swim meets and perform for longer at Water Polo competitions. Having a good nutritional diet will also help you stay healthier throughout the year.
Carbohydrates are the essential fuel for high performance athletes
As an athlete, carbohydrate is your body’s preferred fuel, especially for high intensity sport such as swimming & Water Polo. Eating carbohydrate foods at regular intervals throughout the day will top up your muscle fuel and allow you to push yourself harder in training sessions. All of your meals and snacks should be based around carbohydrates. However, remember that not all carbohydrates are created equal. The quality of your carbs counts! Good quality carbohydrates will energise you for longer, promote good health and help you perform at your best.
Examples of good Carbs include whole grain breads, whole grain breakfast cereals, oats, pasta, brown rice, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, sweetcorn, chick peas, quinoa, beans, lentils and fresh fruits.
Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth.
Our bodies also need a regular intake of protein for constant muscle repair and growth. It is not necessary to consume high amounts of protein because any excess protein will not turn into more muscle but will be burned as fuel or stored as fat. Each of your meals should include a sufficient serving of lean protein, the size and thickness of the palm of your hand or one-quarter of your plate is perfect.
Examples of easy protein sources for snacks are milk, cheese, yogurt, boiled eggs and nuts.
Your pre-training/competition meal or snack depends on how much time you have before it begins, what foods you tolerate and your personal preference. Your meal or snack should always contain mainly carbohydrate to top up your muscle fuel which will allow you to push yourself harder and get the most out of your session.
The more time you have before training, the more protein you can include in your snack. Some good pre-training meals and snacks include:
2 hours before training: Toast and boiled eggs, or a sandwich with ham, turkey or chicken, or a baked potato with cheese and beans, or a pasta bowl with lean meat and veggies.
1 hour before training: whole-grain cereal and milk, or granola and low-fat yogurt, or toast with a small amount of nut butter and jam or a homemade smoothie made with fruit and yogurt.
30 mins before race/match as you don’t have much time to digest your food, choose a light carbohydrate snack such as a banana, or a granola bar, a bagel, or fruit loaf.
Always include a drink with your pre-training snack so that you start practice hydrated.
A good pre-training snack will not only increase your energy levels but will increase your concentration and desire to work hard.
Post Training/Competition Nutrition
Eating as soon as possible after leaving the pool (especially during the first 30 minutes) is the key to starting your body’s recovery process. Missing this prime recovery window will reduce your ability to optimally refuel and repair your muscles. This is especially important if you have two training sessions in one day.
Aim to eat a quick snack within 30-minutes of finishing training. The snack should contain mostly carbohydrate (approx. 40-80g) with some protein (approx. 10-20g). The snack should be low in fat to speed up digestion which refuels your muscles quickly. You should also include some fluid with your snack. Low-fat flavoured milks (like chocolate milk) and smoothies made with low-fat milk or yogurt are great, convenient options. They tick all the boxes for your carbohydrate, protein and hydration needs!