Nutrition by Charlene Boudreau (2002)


Basically the premise of the session is that you can’t expect to heal your body in the two to three days before a meet.  Everybody wants to know what is going to make him or her swim fast.  My impression of swimming fast is that training makes you swim fast. Everybody agrees with me on that.  That’s a good plug for you guys, right?


Nutrition helps you train at your best.  When you train at your best, you perform at your best, so the whole idea is to come to a meet already fueled with those jock tanks ready to go.  Just like a racecar, you wouldn’t show up without gas, and you wouldn’t show up if your engine weren’t already in impeccable working condition.  Is everybody good with that?  Keep that in the back of your mind as we go through this session today.


When we talk about things like preventative maintenance, we are talking about the basics–eating a well-balanced diet and eating a variety of foods from all of the food groups.  It is as simple as that.  We go back to the food guide pyramid.  Has everybody seen the food guide pyramid–the most recent version of the food guide pyramid?  It is right here, and I have a bigger picture so we will see it again in this session.  We will talk about the 60-65%, 10-15% and 20-25% in a couple of seconds, but this is your chemistry lesson.  This is the only chemistry lesson you will have for the next 60 minutes, I promise you, but we need to talk about nutrients.


Nutrients are chemicals.  That is your chemistry lesson for today.  Nutrients are chemicals you get from food.  When you eat food and it goes into your mouth, it starts to be digested. Those nutrients are chemicals.  They assist swimmers.  They supply swimmers with energy.  They build and maintain body cells and they regulate body process.  For you to sit here and watch and sit up straight and cross your legs and write notes it requires nutrients.  For you to go to sleep at night, for you to go out at night (I don’t know what you guys are doing at night here in Las Vegas.  I’ll bet you are doing all sorts of good stuff.), it all requires nutrients.


The other problem is that there is no single food or food group that will provide all the nutrients your body needs.  That is why we talk about the food groups and about the food guide pyramid.


Eat a variety of foods.  If I were to say two things at this talk and let you go, I would say eat from a variety of food groups and come to the meet already fueled.  Don’t try to put gas in your tank the night before.  It is a good idea, but you should already be pretty close to full.


The food guide pyramid is actually made up of six groups.  The food groups are divided up not because some are fruits, some are vegetables, some are breads, cereals, rice, pasta and grains and some are meats and some are dairies and some are fat.  They are divided up because each one of the food groups supplies certain nutrients that the other food groups can’t, at least not as readily. So for example, you have a lot of food in this food group that may be very high in vitamin C or vitamin E.  You have some food in this food group that may also have vitamin E, but they do not have as much vitamin E as foods in this group do.  You have a lot of foods in this group that have a lot of zinc and a lot of iron, but not in this food group.  They may have some, but not as much.  So, do you see what I am saying?  Each food group comes to the table with something to offer that the other groups just can’t.  They can do it a little bit, but they can’t do it as well.


What happens if you yank out the vegetable group?  It falls over.  You got it.  You can’t get rid of a group or the pyramid falls apart.  What happens if you take the fats, sweets and oils group and hang it off the top?  Nothing.  What does a pyramid look like?  A triangle. All of these food groups are essential.  Now the one thing different about the fats, sweets and oils group – it doesn’t even get a number.  You are supposed to have 6-11%.  You are supposed to have 2-4%, 2-3% – use sparingly.  It is important, but it is not that important.  So it is okay for kids to have foods from these groups, but we want to concentrate on the ones that actually have numbers assigned to them.  The fats, sweets and oils group is important – we will get to that, but it doesn’t have to be there all the time.


There are six basic nutrients-–carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and water.  Six basic nutrients.  Can anyone tell me the difference between the first three and the last three?  I won’t put you on the mike. You can shout it out.  You get calories from the first three, but not from the last three.  That is not to say that vitamins, minerals and water are not important.  They certainly are, but the fact is they do not supply the body with energy directly.  Carbohydrate, protein and fat are what we call the energy-yielding nutrients. They provide the body with energy in the form of calories.  For every gram of carbohydrate you consume, you get four calories.  For every gram of protein you eat, you get four calories.  For every gram of fat you eat you get nine, not four.  I try to trick people on that one.  Nine–that is over double. It puts it in perspective for you.


Now we say that in terms of calories consumed, about 60% of those should be coming from carbohydrates, about 15% from protein and about 25% from fat, and I always say about or approximately before that because this isn’t written in stone and it can fluctuate a little bit.  I am not saying that every swimmer should have 60% of their diet from carbohydrates.  I am saying it is a good goal to shoot for and especially when we are talking about kids who are growing.  Those are good average numbers for them to shoot for.  What does that mean?  The basic premise is that the majority of their calories should be coming from carbohydrates, and it almost looks like the majority of their calories should be coming from fat and less from protein, but we could talk about that.  We do know that one gram of fat has more calories than one gram of protein, so it is not like you are eating much more fat than you are protein.


Are those percentages going to change? Are they going to be different between a distance swimmer versus a sprinter or as they age?  Are they different for a general population versus an athlete?  Yes, and too much of the time we focus on carbohydrates, and maybe we should be getting a bit more protein. Most of the time we don’t get enough of B or we end up with too much fat in place of both carbohydrates and protein. For the general population, I would probably drop the carbohydrate need down towards 50%; maybe bump the protein up a little bit.  We are doing a pretty good job if we can stay at 25% fat in the general population.  The recommendation for maintaining a quality lifestyle for the population in the United States is to keep fat calories to 30% or less.  The problem we have for athletes is if we put this at 30%, it means we have to take 5% from somewhere else.  You will see why we cannot justify doing that.


25 percent is plenty of fat for both athletes and non-athletes.  What I would change for the athlete versus the non-athlete is in the first two numbers (carbohydrates vs. protein).  Regarding whether those are going to differ as they age–probably not–provided they keep up with their training.  That is a good question.


So carbohydrates are actually the primary fuel source for all athletes whether the swimmer is an age-grouper or an elite-level athlete.  Not only are the carbohydrates used for energy throughout the day and practice, but also even more important is the value of carbohydrates as a post-workout fuel.  Every time you exercise, if it is hard enough, you tap into your storage of carbohydrate, which is glycogen.  If you are not replacing glycogen on a regular basis, then you will show up to every practice with a little less gas in the tank.  You can drive your carbohydrates for about a week on a tank of gas.  When it runs out, it runs out.  If you top off your gas tank every day when you get home from work you are always going to work with a full tank of gas.  If kids can learn to eat after practice and put back into their bodies what they just used during a workout they will come to practice with a full tank of gas every day and carbohydrate is an excellent way to do that.


Right after exercise, your body is very sensitive to the hormone insulin and the body will need carbohydrate to do what it wants to, which is to put it back into the muscle.  It is not as simple as that but I promised only one chemistry lesson so that is all you get.


You want to encourage your kids to have a nice carbohydrate snack within the first two hours after their practice. We can get into a lot of details whether it should be high glycemic or low glycemic, should it have protein or not have protein, but at this age that is really not the point yet.  For now, if they get into the habit of eating something after practice, putting fuel back into their body where it just came out, that would get them into the habit of having that snack. Then we can fine tune it as the years pass. Something simple–granola bars, yogurt, fruits, a bottle of Gatorade, something easy.  It has to be easy, or they are not going to do it, right?  A bagel with peanut butter, something simple like that.


Why more carbohydrate than protein?  Because carbohydrates will go back into the muscles and carbohydrate protein won’t go back in. There is some evidence that suggests if you combine these two–protein and carbohydrates together–you actually enhance the affect of insulin even more than exercise did.  There are a lot of formulas now that you get a 4:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio.  Those products are fine.


Something that I will comment on, and that I have written a paper on is that if you take, for example, three carbohydrates and you add one protein and you give that to someone and their effect of storing glycogen is good and then you give someone three carbohydrates and add one carbohydrate, their effect on storing carbohydrate is the same.  So, whether it is three carbohydrates and one protein or three carbs and one carb it is kind of the same thing. It is not that protein is bad. I actually think protein is a good thing to have after a workout. But again, those are specifics and I would just get them in the habit of eating something and it depends on how old your kids are too.


How many of you teach 10 and unders, coach 10 and unders?  How many of you are coaching 10 and ups or 11 and ups?  Okay, that gives me a better idea to whom I am talking.  Does that answer your question?


Depending on how much glycogen they use or how much glycogen stores were depleted or how hard they worked, it can take as long as 24 hours to fully refill these gas tanks and replenish a swimmer’s glycogen stores.  The first two hours are the most critical.  If they can consume carbohydrates in the first twenty minutes it is better.  What happens is that the window of opportunity to put carbohydrate back into our gas tank gets smaller and smaller and smaller until eventually (although it is not closed – it never closes) it is the same as it would be three, four or six hours later.  So it is no different than having not exercised at all.


Glycogen can be replenished 2 to 3 times faster if you consume carbohydrate within two hours because of the increased sensitivity to insulin.  The job of insulin is to take sugar from your blood and put it into your muscles where it is converted to glycogen which is the storage form and that is your second chemistry lesson for the day.


Protein – 10-15%.  We talk about protein as an energy-yielding nutrient because it provides your body with energy in the form of calories. However, protein prefers to be used for more important things like building cells, hormones, repairing muscle tissue. Every time your athletes work out, they are doing damage to muscle tissue.  That is okay; don’t view that as a bad thing.  That is what is supposed to happen. In fact, that is the stimulus for the body to build more muscle.  The body doesn’t build more muscle unless you damage something that it already has and tell it that it needs to build more. Protein doesn’t like to be used for exercise.  It does give you energy in the form of calories but that energy should go towards building things.  It should not be being used to support exercise.  When protein does get used to support exercise, it is actually being used because there is not enough carbohydrate and fat to support the exercise.


Earlier, I said that carbohydrate was your primary fuel source during workouts, but fat is also a contributor.  Which contributor is dominant, depends on how hard you are working.  During low intensity exercise you are always using some carbs and fat, but fat is your dominant source.  During high intensity exercise you are always using carbs and fat, but relatively speaking carbohydrates will be your dominant source.  Protein is only a contributor towards the energy used to support exercise when there are not enough carbs and fat to go around.


The cases when you run into this scenario are usually when you are not eating enough.  When an athlete decides to lose weight and he/she cuts back on calories enough that over a period of time the body perceives it to be in a state of starvation, the body will then tap into its own sources.  Where does it get protein that it might use for exercise?  Muscles.  You don’t want to use muscles for that.  You want to use muscles to power yourself, so use protein to build things, not to swim. We have found swimmers need 10-15% protein depending upon things like how old the kids are and how hard they are actually working.  If you do a lot of dry-land training then they need upwards of 15-16% because there is more tissue damage and more tissue repair that has to occur afterwards.  If you overuse protein (and I say overuse if you are having more than 20% of your calories come from protein) it doesn’t get stored as protein.  Too much protein does have to be metabolized by the body and excreted.  There is some evidence, still controversial, that excess protein in your diet can cause stress on the kidneys.  It would be a mostly a health concern more than anything which indirectly can impair practice and then have an effect on performance.


Is there any indication that girls should have more protein at certain times during the month than others?  No, not that I am aware of.  I know there are issues with weight varying – even upwards of five pounds due to a menstrual cycle. I am assuming that is what you are referring to.  Certainly they (women) could benefit from eating more products that are iron-containing but not all iron-containing products are protein products.  They could just have a couple of extra bowls of cereal during the week.  Nowadays our cereals are all fortified. It has been recommended that you watch out when you tell kids to eat a lot of cereal because they are fortified and it is possible to reach toxic levels on some of the vitamins and minerals. I have not seen any evidence to suggest that they should eat more protein at certain times of the month just to guarantee that they will get their iron.


For protein you typically want to make sure that your athlete is getting somewhere between 1.4 and 1.8 grams per kilogram of their body weight which is about the same as 1 gram per pound and for carbohydrates that number would be 10.  There is a range because it depends on how hard the athletes are training.


If athletes know they are supposed to get 85 grams of protein, when they go to Outback Steakhouse how do they know how much they are getting?  Yes, there is a way to do that.  There is no exact way other than for you to tell them they need 85 grams and then they have to ask the waitress could you bring me the report that says how many grams are in this, but if you talk to them in serving sizes they will get the picture.  There is an approximate number in a certain serving size of meat.  Yes, this is true of all the foods that you eat.




Is there a difference between animal protein and vegetable protein?  Yes, one comes from animals and one come from vegetables, but, seriously, protein is protein is protein and you should get this many grams, this percentage of protein.  The biggest difference when you are eating all of your protein from just animal sources then you have to be conscious about whether they are high fat or low fat and how much cholesterol you are getting.  It is always good to combine protein from an animal and plants.  The other part of that (and we are getting a little bit deeper than I had intended, but that is okay) is that proteins are billed as amino acids and just like there is no single food or food group that has all the nutrients, there is no one protein food that has all amino acids. So it is important to combine protein sources to form what we call complete proteins that have your combinations of essential and non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are the ones you have to get from food sources.  My recommendation would be to combine both to make sure you are getting the most complete protein from different sources.


I don’t spend too much time on fat and that is really based on the fact that we don’t seem to have any problems getting it so I don’t think your kids would argue if you said go eat fat.  They would be as happy as clams.  We do try to limit it to 20-25%.  We actually dropped down 5% from the recommendation for the American population simply because we really want to try to stay at 60% on the carbs and 10-15% on the protein, you know, around 15.  We can’t take any more away from that so that drops us down.  I wouldn’t recommend dropping down below the 20% fat level–that is getting a bit low.


As I said before, the fats, sweets and oils food group didn’t get a number, but it is still part of the food guide pyramid. This food group is still an important product, and it is essential.  Fat is essential for many of your body’s regulatory processes including the hormone-building process and hormones are what promote muscle growth.  So you want to treat hormones nicely.  Allow them to grow.  Allow them to develop.  You may think that’s a bad thing if you teach a bunch of teenagers, but trust me, it is a good thing.  Fat does facilitate cellular reactions and eventually your body learns to use fat during exercise more efficiently than it did when you were new to exercise so as you develop as an athlete your body becomes much more efficient at burning fat at higher intensities.


Now here are some practical suggestions for trading high fat foods for low fat substitutes:


Lean cuts of meats.  If you are a parent, and you do the grocery shopping, you want to look for meats that don’t have a lot of marble in them.  It is easy when it just has the fat on the outside.  You can cut that off.  You can even cook it with that on and cut it off afterwards, but that is a huge source of fat.  If you are looking to lean up a piece of meat, cut that off and buy pieces of meat that are very, very red in the grocery store.


Angel food cake instead of chocolate cake.  I am talking about fat, not calories.  Angel food cake still has calories because, what it doesn’t have in fat, it probably has in sugar. We are just talking about fat here.


Substitute applesauce for oil or butter.  If you are cooking chocolate cake or brownies or banana bread or something like that, you may want to substitute applesauce instead of oil or butter or margarine.  It works.  You can’t taste it.  Applesauce is good for you.  It is one more way to lowering your fats – that is your Martha Stewart cooking tip for the day.


Frozen yogurt instead of ice cream. Nowadays, many brands of frozen yogurt are in the store, not just soft frozen yogurt, but the hard kind that tastes good. Again, low in fat, but not always low in sugar, so be sure to keep calories in mind at the same time.


2% or skimmed milk instead of whole milk. You are not losing any of the nutrients by changing to a skim milk product.  You are not losing any of the proteins, just cutting out the fat


Baked anything instead of deep-fried.  The one thing that comes to mind obviously is pretzels and chips–those kinds of snacks and French fries of course.  Ruffles and Lays both make a baked potato chip.  We are just talking about fat.  We are not talking about calories, and we are not talking about salt.  You take one pretzel and it is chocked full of salt.  You take one scoop of potato chips, baked, I don’t care how it is prepared, and it’s still got a lot of salt so those would be treats.


How do you know how much fat, protein and carbohydrate are in a product?  Has everybody seen one of these?  Okay good.  Is everyone still awake?  I know lunch puts you right to sleep doesn’t it?  Nutrition facts (the label on most products)–the very first line is the serving size.  What do you think they could have done better on this?  Yeah, put down something I might actually eat, but even more than that–2 ounces!  This is from a box of spaghetti.  I don’t know what two ounces of spaghetti looks like uncooked.  How do you put that on your little scale in the kitchen?  56 grams (this is even worse) is metric.  If you were from Canada or England it would be okay.  1/8th of a box – they got it after a while.  So I took this box of spaghetti and (I really did do this) I took it and divided it in half and then I took that and I divided that in half and then I took that and divided that in half and I had 1/8th of a box. I was very depressed because it was smaller than a dime when I looked at it from the top, but that is one serving.


One serving of spaghetti has 210 calories, one gram of fat, 41 grams of carbohydrates (pretty good) and 7 grams of protein.  Just be aware that those are all listed right on the box for you, but that is for one serving.  When you go to the Olive Garden, you could have brought five of your closest friends and each had one serving, or you could eat this for dinner yourself and just say okay I had six.  Make sure that you know to multiply each of these numbers by 6.  Many people think I ate one serving of spaghetti because mom gave it to me and it had 210 calories.  That was mom’s serving size and it is okay to eat more than one serving.  You don’t have to feed the kids this much spaghetti.  It depends on how big they are, but realize that the serving size is directly tied to the energy-yielding nutrients that are reported on the box.  It is a simple math lesson!


Any questions on the nutrition facts label?  Serving sizes we are going to talk about again when we talk about the food guide pyramid again.  OK, right now.  What happens if we take a good food group out?  It falls apart.  It is not a pyramid anymore.  One thing I do want to stress about the food guide pyramid is that it is a guide.  Use it wisely.  It is a guide.  Nothing is ever set in stone.  The food guide pyramid is pretty good in that it gives a recommended number of servings and for age group athletes, is pretty relevant and it fits quite well.  It is a guide.


Choose from all of the food groups. Variety will get you all of the minerals you need.  There is no single food or food group that provides all the nutrients needed which is a very simple way to explain this to your athletes at home.  You’ve got people age 10 and under who just want to know. Parents just want to know how they can convince their kid to eat more.  Give them a picture of the food guide pyramid and every day they get to put check marks in the boxes for all the food groups that they ate from and when it is all filled up then they have done a good job.


Serving numbers are based on the caloric intake and most of these young athletes fall somewhere in the 2200 to 2800 calorie range.  That is per day.  What that means is from that big group on the bottom they should be getting somewhere between 9-11 servings per day.  Athletes also need 4-5 servings per day from the vegetable group; 3-4 servings per day from the fruit group; 2-3 servings per day from and milk and meats.   These figures are based on a 2200-2800 calorie per day meal—maybe a little higher than that for some of the bigger kids (some of the guys who are growing, maybe hitting their teen years).


So what does this mean?  Well, one serving from the bread, cereal, rice and pasta group is one slice of bread – not two.  If you eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich you could take two servings from that food group.


For the vegetable group, one serving equals one cup of raw leafy vegetables.  One cup of salad will do it.  Half a cup of other vegetables like carrots or broccoli – half a cup is not that much.  Convincing kids to eat two different half-cups of vegetables would be even better. A lot of times our glasses look like this, not like this, so if you pour a full glass of juice, be it fruit juice or vegetable juice, chances are you got two servings from that food group right there.


From the fruit group, one serving is one medium anything (banana, apple, orange, pear, kiwi fruit).  Half a cup of chopped, cooked or canned fruit is one serving. So those little canisters that you get when you peel the top off would be considered one fruit serving, provided it is not one of the ones in the heavy thick syrup.


For milk, yogurt and cheese:  one cup of milk or yogurt is a serving. That is a lot of yogurt for a kid to eat.  So give them half a cup – just half a serving.  You can find another half somewhere else, but half a cup of yogurt is actually a lot (8 ounces to a cup).  1.5 ounces of natural cheese (block cheese like block cheddar, mozzarella, gouda) is one serving.  1.5 ounces can be measured by looking at your thumb and just the end – the bending part, about an inch, cube that. An inch on all sides like the cubed cheese, maybe two, not a lot of cheese.  Two ounces of processed cheese equals one serving.  Processed cheese is sliced cheese.


And from the meat, poultry and fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts group (they could have probably given that a longer name) 2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry or fish is one serving.


I would you like you to take your hand, stretch it out flat like this, and pull your thumb in close.  Take your other hand and cover up your fingers.  Now look – that is about a serving of meat – chicken, fish or poultry–about the thickness of your hand.  So, if you like your meat really well done, you can just flatten it out and it looks bigger.  That is about a serving of beef.  A serving of meat like that will have between 25-45 grams of protein.  Peanut butter, eggs, and nuts are excellent sources of protein.


We talked about preventative maintenance, the stuff that athletes should be doing all along, all the time.  What happens a few days before the meet?  It depends on what kind of competition or meet they are going to.  Chances are they are going to be doing some sort of taper.  There is a reduction in the training mode.  Usually, there is a reduction in training volume.  Intensity is still pretty high.  This is the time to focus on carbohydrate intake because coaches have been doing a good job topping off their gas tanks.  If you missed a few days, now is the time to eat correctly.  Do not wait until the night before. You cannot start to eat well the night before.  If you really want to maximize the race potential, top them off here two or three days before the meet.  Keep the fat and protein intake consistent. The reason I say that is because now is not the time to start changing your diet around.  It is two or three days before the meet.  You don’t want to be giving the kids an upset stomach.  Even if they have a special thing they like to eat that is fine, but this is not the time to start shifting things around.


Focus on getting carbohydrates.  Keep the fat and protein intake consistent and as you get closer

(the night before) it is good for them to have a snack—such as a high carb meal.  If you want to talk about pasta dinners that’s fine, but we talk about pasta dinners in the wrong context.  We think when we eat all that pasta it is going to make us swim really fast.  What you have been doing the last 364 days is making you swim fast, not what you are eating or drinking the night before the race.


Unlike your nutrition and your storage from the carbohydrates, you can fix your hydration.  If you are dehydrated two days or the night before you can do something about that.  Your kids should have to get up during the night to urinate.  They can and they should have to get up and go to the bathroom during the night.


How many coaches make your kids eat breakfast before they show up at the pool on the day of the race?  How many try to?  Do you talk to them about that?  Okay – it is a good idea.  It gets the day off to a really good start.  They show up at the pool with blood sugar in their bloodstream already. You always have a little, and your brain relies on blood sugar.  Did you ever notice at afternoon practices when your kids start to get inattentive and grumpy and they are not really there?  They start forgetting the sets you told them, and they complain about being hungry.  That is what happens when you get hungry.  Your brain is not getting the fuel it needs.  Your brain tells your body what to do.  How can you expect them to swim well?


What would you recommend when a swimmer says eating breakfast makes him/her sick?

Ask them if they have ever tried it first.  If they can’t eat something, ask them to drink something like a glass of juice.  Ask them try a power bar or a gel.  Some kids warm-up, then they eat and then they wait for the meet.  That’s okay.  If they can eat something before they get in to warm-up, some of them will eat something like half of a muffin. In most cases, swimmers will drink something such as Gatorade or juice before warm-up.  Then they have their breakfast and then they wait for the meet to start.  That is fine.  They are fueled.  They are good. No, in fact I don’t ever advocate a big breakfast.  I am a bigger advocate of maybe smaller things throughout the day so there is more of a steady level of blood sugar maintenance.


It is a good idea so look at what your race schedule is for a day and base your timing of meals on that schedule.  It takes more than just 30 minutes to digest a big meal.  It could take two to three hours to fully digest and reap the benefits of a substantial meal.   Again, hydration is so critical.  The point on meet day is to focus on fueling for the day.  You have already done your job if you have been eating your carbs, eating your proteins and getting a variety of foods from all the food lists. You should have come to a meet with your fuel tanks already full.  Now it is time to keep them there.  Focus on the day.  Focus on swimming, not eating.  Consume small things throughout the day that can prevent you from becoming hungry.  Small things throughout the day can prevent your blood sugar from rising and falling.  Timing your meals backwards from when you are actually doing a race is a good idea.


Basically the rule of thumb is the closer you get to your swim, the smaller and more tolerable you want the foods to be.  One hour before a swim, some kids do not tolerate solid foods very well so only consume items easily digestible and fluids


If you are four hours or more prior to a swim, you are looking at meals rather than just food.  Here are some examples:


1 hour or less before competition: try fruit, vegetable juices, orange, V-8 or fresh fruits like apples, watermelon, peaches and something to drink.  If they can’t keep this stuff down on meet day because often times they are nervous and they can’t keep food down, and you have two to three hours to go you might want to combine your fruits and juices with something like breads, bagels, or English muffins.  You may want add a little bit of butter to these also.  That helps keep your blood sugar levels a little more stable so there is no sharp dip.


When you are going to a meet you have to figure out what to have for breakfast. You want to avoid high fat food, like bacon and sausages.  There are people eating bacon and eggs – if that’s what they like, ok, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  I would stay away from high fat foods and I would also recommend that you pack things to take with you.  Dry cereal is an excellent thing to take to a meet.  It is easy, convenient and it doesn’t have to be refrigerated.  The kids can eat it for snacks when they feel a little bit hungry.  They can have a couple of handfuls of that.




If you eat breakfast at a fast-food place, try to pick normal foods like cereal and juice–things that you might get at home.  Choose pancakes instead of things like sausage biscuits.  Here are a couple of examples:  orange juice, fresh fruit, low fat yogurt, pancakes and milk.  That is an example of a nice high-carbohydrate breakfast.  Can everybody eat this?  No.  Can everybody eat some of it?  Maybe.  An English muffin with jam or scrambled eggs and juice and a little bit of milk?  Do you have to eat it all at once?  Not necessarily.  If you can get boxed breakfasts-to-go that would be great.  Almost all fast-food restaurants have pancakes or hot cakes these days, but I would urge swimmers to hold the margarine and the sausages back.  Now regarding apple, bran or blueberry muffins, these are usually really high in fat, so you may want to cut them in half and share.


If you are on the run or on the traveling to a meet, and you have to stop at a convenience store to pick up your food, you can find yogurt, bran muffins (again I would split those into half because they are huge to begin with and they usually have about 20 grams of fat), bananas, orange juice, and milk all at a local 7-11 store.  When you are on the road for lunch and dinner you want to try to pick places that offer pastas and bread – excellent sources of carbohydrates.  Salads are going to offer the cupful of leafy vegetables.  You may want to order thick-crust pizza instead of thin crust because it gives them extra carbohydrates and vegetables on the pizza instead of the high fat choices like the salami.  Emphasize the bread in the sandwiches and probably not treat them to the French fries on meet day.


At some of the age group meets (and I know and this is tough because a lot of times the parents are in charge of providing the food at the concession stands), you end up with foods like chilidogs.  It is really not that bad if you take out the hot dog and nachos with cheese, smothered – I mean they are having a few nachos with their cheese instead of a little bit of cheese with their nachos.  Maybe you could provide some input when it comes time to arranging the meets and you can take some of this information home or have them make some calls and find out what they could offer at alternatives so the kids aren’t sitting around half way through the meet eating pizza with ground beef and pepperoni and tons of cheese on it and drinking sodas instead of having juice.  It is not nearly as much fun I know.  Then again, you want to keep your milk and juice there instead of the soda pop because the milk and juice are going to provide nutrients.  The soda pop is not.  That falls into the fats, sweets and oils.  Actually I don’t even know if it falls there but it seems like it might.


Some examples of high carb lunch or dinner meals would include turkey sandwiches, vegetables (like carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower or peppers), low-fat yogurt, fresh juice or milk. Another good example (and kids like these) would be chili on a large baked potato.  Go easy on the chili, and, if they have never had chili, I wouldn’t give them this on the way to a meet.  You can also get a lot of soups that come with bread and that is fine, just easy on the butter on the bread or crackers.  Milk, juice, sherbet (as a little treat if you are going to offer them something for dessert) are also good. Remember, you can’t deprive them the whole time.  They have to have something a little yummy like a thick-crust cheese and vegetable pizza with salad and some fresh fruit.  You can usually find these items in most restaurants, but here are some more practical examples.


How many of you take kids to McDonalds?  Be honest! There is nothing wrong with that.  McDonalds is clean and has good food. You just have to know what to look for–chicken fajitas, for example.  You can even buy them a hamburger (but not a big Mac) and the low-fat milk shake or a low-fat frozen yogurt cone.


Drinking water or other fluids is critical.  If an athlete gets in the pool and then gets out of the pool after practice and has lost 2% of their body weight, they can bet that they are dehydrated.  2%! If you weighed 100 pounds before practice and then you weighed 98 when you got out of practice, you have lost 2 pounds and it is a safe bet you are dehydrated. Thirst is not a good indicator.  If you are thirsty, it is too late.  If a kid says I am thirsty, they are dehydrated.  You don’t ever want your kids to come to you and say they are thirsty.


How can you prevent them from becoming dehydrated?  Make fluid intake a regular part of the day.  Sports drinks provide you with sodium and potassium – the electrolytes that you lose when you sweat which is why they contain them.  For fluid replacement, water and sports drinks are equals.  Sports drinks are equal to water in terms of fluid replacement, but in terms of providing energy during a workout, sports drinks are better than water. During a two-hour workout, swimmers need to have something to hydrate them during the workout, so I would suggest a gel between sets or sipping on a sports drink.


One of the most convenient things that we find athletes, parents and coaches looking for and getting are energy bars, drinks and gels.  I do want to want to touch briefly on this because I think it is a very important issue and one that is not going to go away.  There are very legitimate reasons for providing these foods.  They provide the body with energy; they spare muscle protein; they give you all kinds of things in the energy yield that regular foods do.  So how do you pick?  You have the high carb bars that would be good for endurance workouts, high protein bars that may be helpful for recovery, and the mixed bars that may be like energy replacement bars that you would offer as mid-morning snacks. Energy gels are pretty much all the same– they are a good source of carbohydrate when you need something on the go.  Gels absorb pretty quickly.  Within 30 minutes they are in the bloodstream.


Nowadays sports drinks have gone from the carbohydrate electrolyte solutions to drinks that contain more amino acids.  They have herbal ingredients.  They have mental boosters.  They have really been targeted to an audience that is much broader than just the sports community, so be very aware that the cans and the containers look really cool to kids. They will want to drink them and as soon as they see their buddies drinking them.  Carbohydrate and electrolyte drinks are just as good water, in fact sometimes they are better because kids tend to prefer the taste, but something you have to keep in mind about all of these energy bars and gels, they are supplements. You have to read the labels and you’ve got to know what is in them.  Choose those things carefully.  Know what is in an energy bar or a drink or a gel.  Don’t recommend them to your kids until your have tried it yourself and you’ve looked up the label.  Remember, these are kids.  They don’t metabolize things the same way you do.  I do want to encourage you to visit the USA Swimming website under the programs and services section – there is a link for coaches.  Under that link for coaches, you will find a section dedicated to nutrition where you can find papers on basic nutrition.


Much of the information that we have talked about today is on the website. If you are looking for specific grams for carbohydrates and protein you will find it there, papers on various topics and the supplements database also. I encourage you all to find my email address and send me a nice email and good questions.



Fueling for Performance…Power Point Presentation
Start your Engines Early

By Charlene Boudreau

USA Swimming

“A race car driver wouldn’t show up at the Indy 500 without gas, nor would he bring a car that isn’t already in impeccable working condition.”

Preventative Maintenance

Eat a well-balanced diet.

Eat a Variety of Foods from all Food Groups.

                60-65% Carbohydrate

                10-15% Protein

                20-25% Fat

Let’s talk about Nutrients, -the chemical substances obtained from foods during digestion.

Nutrients supply swimmers with energy.

Nutrients build and maintain body cells.

Nutrients regulate body processes.

               No single food provides all the nutrients a body needs.

               So…Eat a variety of foods from all of the food groups.

The Basic Nutrients are:







The Energy-Yielding Nutrients:


               The primary energy source for swimmers.


               Used primarily to build cells.


               Another energy source.

They all provide energy in the form of calories.

The Swimmer’s Diet.  In terms of calories…

60% should come from Carbohydrate

15% should come from Protein

25% should come from Fat

Preventative Maintenance



For energy throughout the day and practice.

For recovery from daily workouts.

Fueling the Body at Rest

Depending on the extent of depletion, it can take as long as 24 hours to fully replenish glycogen stores.

The first two hours post-workout are the most critical.

Given the right fuel, glycogen synthesis during this time can occur as much as 2-3 times faster than normal (i.e. compared to if they were given no fuel at all).

This is due to the increased sensitivity of muscle cells to the hormone insulin.

Preventative Maintenance

10-15% Protein

To repair muscle tissue damaged during routine workouts.

Not used for exercise.

Intake >20% not beneficial and may overload kidneys.

Preventative Maintenance

20-25% Fat

A well-trained body learns to utilize fat as a fuel source during prolonged exercise.

Fat facilitates cellular reactions.

I need Fat, but…Limit Fat intake to 25% of total calories.

Trade high-fat foods for low-fat substitutes:

lean cuts of meat instead of meat with visible fat

angel food cake instead of chocolate cake

frozen yogurt instead of ice cream

low fat salad dressing instead of regular

2% or skim milk instead of whole milk

baked anything instead of deep-fried!

The Food Guide Pyramid

It’s a GUIDE…

The rules are not set in stone.

Choose from all of the Food Groups.

Variety gets you all the nutrients you need.

The Food Guide Pyramid


Take one of the pieces out:

The pyramid falls apart!

No single food or group of foods has all the vitamins and minerals you need.

Number of Servings

                Serving numbers are based on caloric intake.

                Most young athletes fall into the 2,200 – 2,800 kcal/day range.

What is a Serving?

One serving from the Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta Group:

                1 slice of bread

                1 oz of ready-to-eat cereal

                1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta

One serving from the Vegetable Group:

                1 cup of raw, leafy vegetables

                1/2 cup of other vegetables, cooked or chopped raw

                3/4 cup of vegetable juice

One serving from the Fruit Group:

                1 medium apple, banana, or orange

                /2 cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit

                /4 cup of fruit juice

One serving from the ilk, Yogurt, and Cheese Group:

                 cup of milk or yogurt

                .5 oz of natural cheese

                 oz of process cheese

One serving from the Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts Group:

               2-3 oz of cooked, lean meat, poultry, or fish

               Note – 1 oz of lean meat is the same as:

1/2 cup of cooked dry beans, 1 egg

2 Tbs peanut butter, 1/3 cup of nuts

Specialized Preparation

2-3 days prior to meet.

Reduced training load.

Focus on carbohydrate.

Replenish glycogen stores.

Keep protein and fat intake consistent.

Last Minute Details

The night before

High-carbohydrate snack.

WATER/FLUIDS (2 full water bottles).


250 kcal about 1 hour before meet.


WATER/FLUIDS (one full water bottle).

Show Time!

Focus on fueling for the day, not the race.

Maintain energy/blood sugar levels.

Schedule meals to enhance performance.


Timing is everything!

<1 hour to race

easily digestible, high-carbohydrate foods

2-4 hours to race

solid, carbohydrate-dense foods

>4 hours to race

solid, carbohydrate-dense foods/meals


Competition Cuisine


Order pancakes, waffles, French toast, bagels, cereal, English muffins, fruit or juice. These foods are all high in carbohydrates.

Avoid high-fat choices such as bacon, sausage or biscuits and gravy.

Pack containers of dry cereal, crackers, juice or dried fruit such as raisins and apricots; or pack fresh fruits such as apples or oranges in case the restaurant does not provide these items.

If you eat breakfast at a fast food restaurant choose foods like cereal, fruit juice and muffins or pancakes instead of breakfast sandwiches.



Orange juice

Fresh fruit

Low-fat yogurt

Pancakes with syrup

2% or skim milk


Plain English muffin

Strawberry jam

Scrambled Egg

Orange juice

2% or skim milk



Hot cakes with syrup

(hold the margarine and sausage)

Orange juice

low-fat milk


Cold cereal with low-fat milk

Orange juice

Apple, bran or blueberry muffin


BREAKFAST AT Grocery Stores and Family Style RESTAURANTS

Fruit flavored yogurt

Large bran muffin or prepackaged muffins


Orange juice

Low-fat milk


Pancakes, waffles or French toast with syrup (hold the margarine, bacon and sausage)

Orange juice

Low-fat milk



Try restaurants that offer pastas, breads and salads.

Order thick crust rather than thin crust pizza for more carbohydrates.

Order vegetables such as mushrooms and green peppers on the pizza.  Avoid high fat toppings such as pepperoni and sausage.

Order vegetable soups accompanied by crackers, bread, or muffins.

Emphasize the bread in sandwiches, not the filling, mayonnaise or potato chips.

Avoid deep fat fried foods such as French fries, fried fish and fried chicken.


Choose low-fat milk or fruit juices rather than soda pop.



Large turkey sandwich on 2 slices of whole-wheat bread

slice of low-fat cheese

lettuce, tomato

Fresh vegetables like carrots and celery

Low-fat yogurt

Fresh fruit or fruit juice


Chili on a large baked potato

Whole grain bread or muffin

Low-fat chocolate milkshake

Fresh fruit


Minestrone Soup

Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce

Salad Bar

Italian Bread

Fresh Fruit

2% or skim Milk



Thick crust cheese and vegetable pizza

Side salad

Fresh fruit

2% or skim milk



Chicken fajita

Vanilla low-fat milkshake



Low-fat milk

Low-fat frozen yogurt cone

BK Broiler with BBQ sauce

2% milk

Orange juice




Side salad with low calorie dressing

Strawberry low-fat milkshake



McLean Deluxe with cheese

Medium fries

Chocolate low-fat milkshake


Energy Bars, Drinks & Gels

Carbohydrates, proteins and fats can:

Sustain blood glucose.

Replenish muscle glycogen.

Spare muscle protein.

Repair muscle tissue.

Promote muscle growth.


Conventional vs Commercial

A swimmer’s needs for nutrients can be met by eating a variety of foods from the five food groups.

Energy bars, drinks and gels provide a convenient substitute when you need something nutritious on the fly!


  1. Fluid replenishment (drinks).
  2. Energy provision (bars, drinks, gels).


But how do you choose?

The Categories

Energy Bars:

High Carb Bars (>30g) for endurance workouts.

High Protein Bars (>12g) for post-workout recovery.

Mixed Bars (>20g carb, >10g prot, 2.5-10g fat) for a well-balanced snack.

Energy Gels:

High carb (>30g), low protein (<12g), and low fat (<1g).

Simple sugars provide carbs to the blood-stream quickly.

Breaks between sets during long workouts provide opportunity to consume gels.



Sports drinks have traditionally been comprised of carbohydrate and electrolytes in amounts that enhance fluid absorption and minimize gastrointestinal distress.


Sports drinks have expanded to include those with added amino acids, herbal ingredients and herbal mental “boosters.”


Many products have been marketed to a consumer base that goes beyond the competitive athlete and into the realm of the recreational and leisure activity participants.



Daily water requirement ranges from two to six liters per day.

Failure to maintain a hydrated state can lead to detrimental changes in the cardiovascular response to exercise, over-heating of the body and decreases in both maximal power and work capacity.

Just a 2% drop in body weight due to dehydration can have an overall negative impact on exercise performance.


The Thirst Mechanism…

Thirst is not always an accurate indicator of when an athlete should begin hydrating.

Thirsty = already dehydrated.

Make the intake of fluids, including sports drinks, an important part of the daily nutrition program, especially during the recovery phase.

Fluids containing sodium may be more efficient at hydrating than plain water alone.

“one should consume adequate fluids during the 24-hour period before an event and drink about 500 ml (about 17 oz) of fluid about 2 hours before exercise to promote adequate hydration and allow time for excretion of excess ingested water.”  (ACSM)


Research – Highlights

When given the choice, many athletes will drink more of a sports drink than water because they prefer the taste.


The claims made by the manufacturers of Sports Nutrition Bars are not always supported by science.  An athlete may be better advised to choose a product that has KNOWN scientific benefits.


Reminder on Usage and Claims

The use of energy bars, drinks and gels varies with personal preference, time available to eat, etc.


Athletes are compelled to select these products based on claims made by the manufacturers about the addition of various ingredients and which products are “the best.”


Some of these claims are related to fat burning capabilities, the roles of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride) and caffeine, and the addition of various carbohydrate/protein hydrolysate combinations.


Remember that because most bars, drinks and gels are considered dietary supplements, they are subject to the less stringent regulation demonstrated within the supplement industry since the passing of the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act of 1994.


Choose bars, drinks and gels cautiously.


The Final Word

When it comes to choosing an energy bar, sports drink or gel, the most important things to know are what is in it and how it works.  To help guide your athletes in their selection and use of bars, drinks and gels, offer these tips:


Check for Effective Ingredients in Drinks!…CHO, Na, K, Cl

Drink Water with Bars! …8-16 oz for bars, 4 oz for gels

Experiment! …digestion, bathroom breaks

Beware of Extra Stuff!  …energy “booster,” herbals, etc.

Read the Ingredients! …remember issues with labeling

Eat “Real Food!”  …vitamins and minerals from all food groups


For additional information on related issues, please visit the following web links:

Laboratory Evaluation of Nutrition Bars:


Laboratory Evaluation of Powders and Drinks:


Carbohydrate, Protein and Recovery:


Hydration and Fueling During Exercise:


Caffeine as a Dietary Supplement:


Let’s Review:


Optimal Nutrition: Balance is the key…


Eat a variety of foods from all of the food groups!


The Swimmer’s Diet:

60% Carbohydrate

15% Protein

25% Fat


How do I pick my foods?
Put a check-mark next to the statements that are true.

___ I eat whatever is there.

___ I think a lot about the foods I eat.

___ I check the fat content of the foods I eat.

___ I usually eat the same foods every day.

___ I tend to eat a lot of dessert foods.

___ I eat a lot of different foods every day.

___ I eat foods that will make me swim fast.


How can I improve my diet?
List 3 things you will do to improve your diet.


Goal #1 –

Goal #2 –

Goal #3 –

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