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The diet of an Olympic swimmer

The Rio Olympic Games 2016 is swiftly approaching and in preparation for the huge event, Olympic athletes will already be following a strict diet and exercise regime to enable them to perform at their very best at the Games.


A good diet can be the difference between a gold medal and going home empty handed so it's important that athletes pay a huge amount of attention to what they put into their bodies.

Below Newitts takes a look at some of the components that make up the diet of Olympic swimmers.

The intake

Olympics athletes are known for eating as little as 1,500 calories to as many as 6,000 calories per day depending on the type of sport they are performing in. Olympic swimmers train in the pool twice a day and can potentially complete up to 1 hour of land training as well, so it is important they eat plenty of snacks and regular meals in between sessions to keep their strength and performance on track. Alex Popple, EIS Performance Nutritionist who worked with Team GB's 2012 Olympic Swimmers, said: "The biggest dietary priority for swimmers is to ensure that their nutritional strategies enable the body to recover quickly between multiple training sessions per day."

The dietary components

Diet can have a major effect on the performance of an athlete therefore nutrition needs to be accurate and precise for an Olympic athlete to perform at their very best. The food an Olympic swimmer consumes needs to contain the following:

  1. Fluids - for rehydration
  2. Carbohydrates - that are easily digestible to replenish muscle glycogen
  3. High quality protein - to stimulate the repair and reconditioning of muscle fibres
  4. Fresh fruit & vegetables - to provide powerful vitamins and minerals that help deal with the stress the body is placed under during training sessions

The best snacks

Swimming is a very intense sport so competitive swimmers must ensure they fuel their bodies with the proper nutrition in the right quantities every day. Olympic swimmers need to regularly snack on energy foods between events and stay well hydrated with water. Swimmers need to eat small and easily digestible snacks such as apples, bananas, raisins and nutritional bars. These types of snacks build stored fats in the liver that can quickly be used by the body as power sources during races. The addition of water is essential as it aids digestion, so for the body to process the food quicker, each snack should be accompanied by 1-2 cups of water.

The food preparation

The preparation of food for Olympians is just as important as what they eat. Even healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables can lose some of their nutritional appeal if they are prepared incorrectly. For example, cooking foods in butter, oils or other foods high in saturated fats will destroy all of the goodness being put into an athlete's body.

The best foods to eat

Olympic swimmers need to consume foods that are high in antioxidants to ensure the best performance possible on the big day. Below is a list of some of the power foods an Olympic athlete might consume before a race day in order to achieve top performance.

  1. Beans - beans are packed with antioxidants and protein, making the one of the best foods to each for energy and health.
  2. Dark chocolate - you may find it hard to believe but eating a square of unsweetened dark chocolate can provide a huge surge in antioxidant power.
  3. Apples - contain antioxidants which help the body to fight against free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that bond with body tissues which can speed up the aging process and cause long-term health complications.
  4. Prunes - are super foods with the ability to slow down the aging process.
  5. Pears - contain pectin, a fibre which helps remove any harmful metals in the body through the bowels.
  6. Berries - cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries are all rich in antioxidants.
  7. Sweet potatoes - are rich with beta carotene, which helps promote endurance.

Do you follow a specific diet when training for competition? let us know your dietary tips that helps you compete at your best...


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