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General Information for Age, Youth and Performance Levels







What’s so important about nutrition?

A balanced, varied diet will help you to achieve their swimming potential


All swimmers need to ensure that they:

• Have the correct amount of energy for growth and development

• Have the right foods to build and maintain strong bones

• Need to be fit and healthy and not ill as much of the time as possible

• Need to recover as quickly as possible

• Have the ability to get to and maintain an appropriate weight

• Be able to concentrate on training and school/work


In other words food and fluids will affect swimmers on a daily basis and shouldn’t be left to chance


E - Energy – get yours from carbohydrates

A - Attitude – a positive attitude towards food choice is essential

T - Tasty – taste is important, always try to make food tasty

W - Water is essential for life and for swimming

E – Enjoy your food it puts you in a good mood when you enjoy it

L – Little and often is the best way too stay energised

L – Lots of fruits and vegetables benefits your immune system

S – Spend some time planning and organising your snacks and drinks

W – Worrying about food at competitions should be a thing of the past

I – Invest in good quality food not cheap convenient food

M – Make breakfast an essential part of your preparations

W – Water bottles need cleaning regularly

E – Energise to survive the rigours of long hours training

L – Learn to rustle up some quick, tasty meals on your own

L – Lastly enjoy the occasional treat – you deserve it


Why athletes need Fats, Carbohydrates and Proteins


Dietary fat is often blamed for many health problems; however, fat is an essential nutrient for optimal health offering cushion and insulation to internal organs, covers the nerves, moves vitamins A, D E and K throughout the body offering energy for activity. Fat is stored when we consume more than we use. Too much dietary fat can lead to health problems.

Types Of Dietary Fat

Saturated Fats are found primarily in animal sources like meat, egg yolks, yogurt, cheese, butter, milk.

Too much saturated fat has been linked to health problems such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. This fat should be limited to no more than 10% of total daily calorie intake.

Unsaturated Fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are typically found in plant sources and are liquid at room temperature. These fats are beneficial for lowering cholesterol and reducing down the risk of heart attacks and strokes. These fats are found in Olive and canola oil, advocados, fish, almonds, soybeans and flaxseed.

Trans Fat has recently been added to the nutrition labels of most products. Trans fatty acids are created (naturally or man-made) when an unsaturated fat is made into a solid. Trans fats, like saturated fat, should be limited because they increase cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease.

How Fat Provides Energy for Sports

Fat provides the highest concentration of energy of all the nutrients. One gram of fat equals nine calories. This calorie density, along with our seemingly unlimited storage capacity for fat, makes fat our largest reserve of energy. One pound of stored fat provides approximately 3,600 calories of energy. While these calories are less accessible to athletes performing quick, intense efforts like sprinting or weight lifting, fat is essential for longer, slower lower intensity and endurance exercise such as easy cycling and walking.

Fat provides the main fuel source for long duration, low to moderate intensity exercise (endurance sports such as marathons, and ultra marathons). Even during high intensity exercise, fat is needed to help access the stored carbohydrate (glycogen).

Using fat for fuel for exercise, however, is dependent upon these important factors:

  • Fat is slow to digest and be converted into a usable form of energy (it can take up to 6 hours).
  • Converting stored body fat into energy takes time. The body needs to breakdown fat and transport it to the working muscles before it can be used as energy.
  • Converting stored body fat into energy takes a great deal of oxygen, so exercise intensity must decrease for this process to occur.

For these reasons, athletes need to carefully time when they eat fat, how much they eat and the type of fat they eat. In general, it’s not a great idea to eat fat immediately before or during intense exercise.

Carbohydrate – Carbs

Carbohydrate is arguably the most important source of energy for athletes. No matter what sport you play, carbs provide the energy that fuels muscle contractions. Once eaten, carbohydrates breakdown into smaller sugars (glucose, fructose and galactose) that get absorbed and used as energy. Any glucose not needed right away gets stored in the muscles and the liver in the form of glycogen. Once these glycogen stores are filled up, any extra gets stored as fat.

Glycogen is the source of energy most often used for exercise. It is needed for any short, intense bouts of exercise from sprinting to weight lifting because it is immediately accessible. Glycogen also supplies energy during the first few minutes of any sport. During long, slow duration exercise, fat can help fuel activity, but glycogen is still needed to help breakdown the fat into something the muscles can use.

Adequate carbohydrate intake also helps prevent protein from being used as energy. If the body doesn’t have enough carbohydrate, protein is broken down to make glucose for energy. Because the primary role of protein is as the building blocks for muscles, bone, skin, hair, and other tissues, relying on protein for energy (by failing to take in adequate carbohydrate) can limit your ability to build and maintain tissues. Additionally, this stresses the kidneys because they have to work harder to eliminate the byproducts of this protein breakdown.

Carbohydrate has other specific functions in the body including fueling the central nervous system and brain.

Storing Carbohydrate
One gram of carbohydrate provides four calories of energy. Athletes often talk about carbohydrate loading and carbohydrate depletion which refers to the amount of carbohydrate energy we can store in our muscles. This is generally around 2,000 carbohydrate calories, but we can change this number through depletion and loading. During depletion (from diet, exercise or a combination) we use up the stored carbohydrate.

If we don’t replenish these stores, we can run out of fuel for immediate exercise. Athletes often refer to this as”hitting the wall.” In the same way, eating large amounts of carbohydrates can increase these stores. This is often referred to as carbohydrate loading or carbo-loading.

How Carbohydrate Fuels Exercise
Carbohydrate stored as glycogen is an easily accessible source of energy for exercise. How long this energy supply lasts depends on the length and intensity of exercise and can range anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes or more. To avoid running out of energy during exercise, start with full glycogen stores, replenish them during exercise and refill them after exercise to be ready for the next workout.

Types of Carbohydrate
Carbohydrates are also divided into simple and complex forms. Simple sugars (carbs) are absorbed and converted to energy very quickly and provide a rapid source of energy. Fruit and energy drinks are a good source of simple carbohydrates.

Complex carbohydrates take a bit longer to be digested and absorbed into the body. They also take longer to breakdown and therefore provide energy at a slower rate than simple sugars. Examples of complex carbohydrates are breads, rice and pasta. Starch and fiber are also considered complex carbohydrates but fiber can not be digested or used for energy. Starch is probably the most important energy source in an athlete’s diet because it is broken down and stored as glycogen. Foods high in starch include whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, and grains.


Proteins are often called the building blocks of the body. Protein consists of combinations of structures called amino acids that combine in various ways to make muscles, bone, tendons, skin, hair, and other tissues. They serve other functions as well including nutrient transportation and enzyme production. In fact, over 10,000 different proteins are in the body.

Adequate, regular protein intake is essential because it isn’t easily stored by the body. Various foods supply protein in varying amounts with complete proteins (those containing 8 essential amino acids) coming mostly from animal products such as meat, fish, and eggs and incomplete protein (lacking one or more essential amino acid) coming from sources like vegetables, fruit and nuts. Vegetarian athletes may have trouble getting adequate protein if they aren’t aware of how to combine foods.

Protein Needs for Athletes

Athletes need protein primarily to repair and rebuild muscle that is broken down during exercise and to help optimizes carbohydrate storage in the form of glycogen. Protein isn’t an ideal source of fuel for exercise, but can be used when the diet lacks adequate carbohydrate. This is detrimental, though, because if used for fuel, there isn’t enough available to repair and rebuild body tissues, including muscle.

Recommended Daly Protein Intake

  • The average adult needs 0.8 grams per kilogram (2.2lbs) of body weight per day.
  • Strength training athletes need about 1.4 to 1.8 grams per kilogram (2.2lbs) of body weight per day
  • Endurance athletes need about 1.2 to 1.4 grams per kilogram (2.2lbs) of body weight per day

How Much Protein is That?
Not much, as it turns out. Here is a list of some high protein foods.

Food, Amount, Protein

Fish, 3 oz, 21 grams
Chicken, 3 oz, 21 grams
Turkey, 3 oz, 21 grams
Meat, 3 oz, 21 grams
Milk, 8 oz, 8 grams
Tofu, 3 oz, 15 grams
Yogurt, 8 oz, 8 grams
Cheese, 3 oz, 21 grams
Peanut butter, 2 tbsp, 8 grams
Eggs, 2 large, 13 grams

Strength athletes believe more protein is important to build muscle. It turns out that strength athletes actually require high carbohydrate intake and adequate glycogen stores to fuel their workouts. It is the strength training workout that leads to increased muscle mass and strength. This is because all high intensity, powerful muscle contractions (such as weight lifting) are fueled with carbohydrate. Neither fat nor protein can be oxidized rapidly enough to meet the demands of high-intensity exercise. Adequate dietary carbohydrate must be consumed daily to restore glycogen levels.

Nutritional guidance from Mick Glynn