When preparing for your next big race, there are very important aspects to consider achieving a great race. Practice everyday in and out of the water, sometimes is just not enough. What we eat and drink can make the difference between winning or losing that race, regardless of how much or how long we have been training for it.
Preparing your body for exercise and competition can be a puzzle containing several pieces. Let’s break them out for you! First of, we need to consider hydration. Swimming, just like any other sport, results in sweat loss. There are several theories out there that suggest that hyperhydrating (increasing total body water above normal prior to exercise) may increase sweat rate and improve thermoregulation during exercise. The truth is that, hyperhydrating prior to exercise may be of benefit when fluid consumption during exercise is limited, but it might just not be crucial if enough fluids are ingested during exercise. The recommendation for athletes is to consume enough fluids days prior to competition and be sufficient to result in light-colored urine, or consume approximately 500 mL of fluids 2 hours before and from there, 150-200 mL every 15 min of exercise. This suggests that small volumes of fluids consumed frequently rather than large amount occasionally, is ultimately better. Electrolytes are also important. The replenishing of sodium, potassium and magnesium can be achieved with sports drinks during exercising lasting more than 60 minutes.
Second, glycogen is the main nutrient your body counts as a source of energy. Glycogen come mainly from carbohydrates, however, your body can also produce energy from protein and fats. It is very important that the endurance athlete aims to maximize glycogen stores prior to exercise and competition through appropriate carbohydrate replenishment strategies. A light meal containing 150-200 g of carbohydrate 4-5 hours prior to competition or training may ensure adequate carbohydrate availability during exercise. Also, the ingestion of carbohydrates during exercise prevents the decline in blood glucose and carbohydrate oxidation. Therefore, continuous supplementation during endurance exercise is important, ranging from 30 to 60 g of carbohydrate per hour.
Lastly, recovery is the best way to get ready for your next event or training session. Several studies have shown that the combination of carbohydrates and protein post exercise in a ratio 3:1 within 30 minute of exercise is adequate for recovery. Therefore, not only protein is now considered the solely source of muscle recovery but also carbohydrates. This strategy will help replenish glycogen stores, as well as, promote muscle synthesis post exercise.
Taking in consideration these three important aspects can determine the difference between a great or a poor executed race. The choice is up to you!