Nutrition for the young competitive swimmer
The principles of healthy eating are the same for everyone; however, the nutritional needs of athle.tic children can be different from other kids in their peer group: this is because getting food into them needs to fit in around their activity. Good nutrition is needed to support a child’s health, growth and development, as well as sporting performance. Appropriate nutrition will help the younger athlete to sustain better performance for longer, stay mentally alert and recover quicker from training and competition.
Young competitive swimmers need to think about meeting the following requirements:
The active youngster who does not get enough total energy will be tired and won’t enjoy their swimming. The demands of the growing body, in childhood and especially adolescent, means that those swimmers who eat too little risk mild under-nutrition and may be at risk of poor bone growth and delayed maturation. The young swimmer is constantly on the go and needs to eat little and often by ‘topping up’. Snacking between meals on healthy carbohydrate foods should provide bulk of extra energy required by these swimmers.
Eating enough good food and healthy extras can be difficult if they are too busy or tired and this can lead to the swimmer resorting to ‘junk food’, which is often the easy option.
Carbohydrate foods have a positive effect on performance by allowing the swimmer to undertake good quality training and they also help recovery for the next training session or competition. Each meal and snack should be based around carbohydrate rich foods.<
Make sure that the bulk of your diet comes from the right kind of carbs: complex carbohydrate sources should be approximately 50-60% of your total caloric intake. These carbs are predominantly in the form of whole grain breads and cereals, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beans. Other carbs from white pasta, rice, breads and bagels are OK, but less good. They can have an unfavourable effect on blood sugar levels and can hamper your performance.
Young swimmers are not able to regulate their body temperature as well as adults, nor do they tend to drink voluntarily, and often wait until they are thirsty before drinking. By this time they are beginning to dehydrate. Special attention needs to be paid to their fluid replacement. ALL SWIMMERS SHOULD HAVE A DRINKS BOTTLE AT TRAINING – EVERY SESSION.
Suggestions for meals and snacks
Glass of fruit juice
Breakfast cereal – use semi-skimmed milk
Bread / toast / English muffins / pancakes etc…with jam, honey or marmalade
Mix breakfast cereals with wholegrain varieties and fresh or dried fruit to get a good mix of nutrients.
For a packed lunch, try and include some of the following items:
Rolls or sandwiches with a filling based around meat, fish, cheese, eggs, peanut or other vegetarian alternatives
Pitta bread, bagels, pancakes, raisin bread
Fruit – chopped up and placed in a n air tight container
Cold Pizza, pasta salads, rice salads
Low fat dips to eat with raw vegetables
Potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, pizza
Plenty of vegetables – try baked beans or sweet corn if they do not like vegetables
Meat, fish, cheese, eggs or a vegetarian choice which might include nuts or pulses or a vegetarian cheese
Cereal bar, muffins, pancakes, oatcakes, spiced buns, malt loaf, fruit cake, crumpets
Sandwiches which have ‘transportable fillings’ in such as peanut butter, cheese
Bananas, raisins, sultanas, apricots, dates, figs
Bagels with low fat fillings
Ginger bread, digestive or jaffa cakes, fig rolls
Fruit juice, milk, fruit squash, water
NOTE: The above information should be considered a a guideline only. It is no substitute for professional advice.