USA Swimming offers lots of odd, out-dated, and ill-informed nutritional advice to young swimmers. This series of posts are offered as a corrective.
Moving on to “Tips for Consistent Nutrition” – By Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, RDN, CSSD (Tuesday, March 21, 2017)
The author makes the important point that competitive swimmers need to focus on ‘eating to fuel training and competition every day.’ Absolutely.
And then the author steers into a ditch.
“Your training will not be helped if you are under- or over-fueled.”
We know what ‘under-fueled’ means. But what is ‘over-fueled’? Is the author saying not to add fat tissue (fat = fuel) or is the author giving hilariously obvious advice like ‘don’t walk up to the blocks with a stomach full of fettuccine alfredo?’
…too much food can divert blood from working muscles to the gut for digestion.
The latter. Got it.
Plan to eat mini-meals or snacks before a long practice and replenish muscle fuel and fluids after practice. A slice of turkey on a mini-bagel, a Clementine tangerine, and water may be just the thing to get you through a grueling pool and land training session.
That is useful advice.
A carton of low-fat chocolate milk after practice can provide key amino acids for muscle repair, carbohydrates for muscle glycogen synthesis, and fluids.
Here we go. Ok, why “low-fat?” Higher fat milk has more energy to help the athlete perform. These odd little side-comments suggesting there is some reason to avoid fat are really counter-productive.
Consistent Mindset: Do you think of nutrition as something that your parents nag you about? Or, do you take responsibility and seek healthful foods and beverages throughout the day?
Not bad, tells swimmers to take charge of eating more.
Healthy food doesn’t have to mean yucky! Even at your favorite quick service restaurants, healthy options abound.
Ignoring the author’s decision to use the word ‘yucky’, telling swimmers to seek ‘healthy’ options at fast food restaurants is silly. They need to know that quantity comes first, and if fast food is the only thing available then just eat it.
And stop it with the ‘healthy food.’ People are healthy (or not), but calling some foods ‘healthy’ is creepy and counter-productive when your audience is young athletes. Their primary nutritional problem is that it is very hard for them to eat enough food to fuel their training, performance, growth, and normal biological functions. Calling some foods ‘healthy’ implies that other foods are ‘not healthy.’ Young endurance athletes need to eat a lot of every type of food. Fear-mongering about supposedly unhealthy foods is harmful.
It is up to you to think about food as something that can elevate your swimming, and taste good at the same time.
That’s excellent advice.
Parents and coaches can guide a swimmer to healthy foods, but only you can eat the foods to get the benefits.
Wait, why is the author passing the buck to parents? Your job is to give the athletes simple, good advice. Most parents have no clue what the athletes need to eat, and woe to any young athlete who tries to follow the same ‘diet’ as their parents.
Eating a variety of foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins, contribute nutrients that feed your brain, as well as your muscles.
Brains run on glucose. Fruit: no glucose. Most vegetables: no glucose. Whole grains: less glucose per ounce than refined grains. ‘Healthy fats:’ no glucose. ‘Lean proteins:’ no glucose (unless broken down and repurposed – it is at best an inefficient way to get glucose).
But the really bad advice concerns fiber. The first three items on the list are high fiber foods. Fiber is implicated in low energy availability and a host of serious metabolic problems for athletes, especially female endurance athletes. Adolescent swimmers need less fiber, not more. As for ‘lean meats,’ increasing the fat content of your diet, including fat from meat, is associated with greater energy availability, athletic performance, and overall health.
Lean meats and fiber are for middle-aged office workers on diets. Adolescent athletes need dense carbohydrate sources and complete proteins with plenty of fat.
Try eating 3 meals and 3 snacks every day during your hardest training periods and take note of how you feel. My bet is you will feel better, stronger, and more energized than when you are eating less food.
Good advice. Eat more and more often.
…there are times when bars or chews or shakes can add needed calories.
Yes, sometimes you have to go with Gu packets or Gatorade or whatever because that’s just how it is.
Look for wholesome ingredients in these foods: whole grain carbohydrates, naturally occurring sugars from fruit or milk, and healthy fats from nuts or unsaturated oils.
That’s just nonsense. If the goal is to get extra carbohydrate from a bar, avoid whole grain. Too much fiber. It makes you fuller without providing energy. Athletes need more, not less, energy. And forget the myth about ‘swings in blood sugar’. The 2016 ACSM consensus statement finds no evidence that a food’s glycemic index impacts athletic performance.
Also, there is no evidence that fruit sugar (fructose) is a better energy source or somehow more ‘wholesome’ than refined glucose or table sugar (half refined fructose, half refined glucose). So why would an athlete want chews made from fructose? I have no idea, and I doubt the author does either.