Last week I wrote about the apparent lack of interest in sports nutrition in the swimming world (here). It surprised me that I received far more than the usual number of comments (in person, on various discussion forums, email, etc.) about this post. Most were agreeing with the situation, while a couple were providing me with nutrition information links I had not previously found (and which we admitted were not all that useful). But I also received some sensible requests asking me to share some of our team’s nutritional information.
So in the spirit of sharing, here’s some swimming-based sports nutrition information that I consider useful. These all come from our team’s sports nutritionist, Kevin Iwasa-Madge of iMadgen Nutrition. Kevin has a lot of other great articles, but the following are perhaps the most relevant to swimming:
- Nutrient Fueling for Athletes (here)
- Post Practice Nutrition (here)
- High Protein Diet for Athletes (here)
- Prioritizing Nutritional Components (here)
- Creatine for Swimmers – SwimmingScience.Net article authored by Kevin (here)
In addition, iMadgen Nutrition has an ebook (here) for swimmers containing a ton of useful information, including various recipes to make it easier to get more protein into the diet during the day.
As a team, it’s fantastic to have this information at our fingertips, but I have to admit that even for us, the uptake on nutrition advice is slow. In the spirit of taking this seriously, this year the team paid for one-on-one assessments with Kevin for all of our competitive swimmers, because we just weren’t confident that swimmers / parents would agree to pay for this themselves if given the choice. And even with it being free, we still have quite a few families who have not yet booked an assessment. On the bright side, we presently have about 1/3 of our Junior / Senior swimmers now showing up to practices with a whey protein / dextrose drink, and that number is slowly growing.
There is one part of the one-on-one assessment that is particularly helpful. The athlete describes their meals throughout a typical day, and the amount of protein is estimated. As an example, we may find out that they have 5 g of protein at about 7 am, another 15 g at noon, and 30 g at 7 pm. Kevin feeds this information into a muscle synthesis graphing program he developed, and its spits out this.
As you can see, the athlete is catabolic for most of the day including the afternoon practice and post-practice periods, with a net muscle synthesis score of -0.47. This is not an ideal situation at all. Kevin then discusses with the athlete various strategies of getting more protein at key times in the day. Let’s assume in this case we can get another 15 g at 10 am, 10 g at 2 pm, a further 10 g in a protein/dextrose drink during practice, and 20 g in a post-practice drink. Here’s the new muscle synthesis graph.
Now we see that the athlete is anabolic for much more of the day, including the key times of during and after practice. The net muscle synthesis score is now a much better +0.01, and this leads to better adaptation to training and faster recovery.
With the national swim organizations not taking a role, there’s not a lot of good, readily available sports nutrition information out there. But there are a lot of good sports nutritionists who can help. With sports nutrition possibly representing the next big untapped area of potential swimming improvement, it’s worth your time to find one. And then be prepared to work really hard to convince people to implement their recommendations.