Swimming is an ideal sport to promote total health and fitness. Here is some basic information on health and nutrition to prevent injury and to help ensure improved performance in practice and meets
All pools have safety rules posted. Please read and follow them. These standard pool safety rules always apply:
1. Don’t run.
2. Never swim alone.
3. Look before you dive.
4. Never bring glass containers on a pool deck.
5. No horseplay on pool deck or in locker rooms.
Some other safety guidelines pertaining to swim practices and meets:
1. Inform coaches of medical conditions and prescription drugs.
2. Swimmers with asthma should always bring an inhaler and have it ready for use.
3. Swimmers should always bring and use a water bottle for practice and meets.
4. Wear proper shoes and clothing for outdoor activities.
Swim coaches are required to be trained in First Aid, CPR, and either Life guarding or Safety Training for Swim Coaches.
Injuries incurred during practice, meets, or team activities will be treated immediately and parents will be notified. Sometimes swimmers experience pain that is not the result of a particular wound or accident. Muscle pain is common, especially as swimmers mature and their muscles develop further. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between soreness and injury. If pain restricts movement or lasts more than 3-4 days, swimmers should seek medical attention. Coaches are not doctors and can only give advice, not diagnosis or treatment. It is, however, important to keep coaches informed of injuries, treatments, and rehabilitation.
In case of illness, swimmers should let their bodies heal by restricting activity. It is also better to miss a practice or two than to expose many other team members and coaches to the same illness. Once recovered, swimmers can return to practice and regain their strength in the water.
Food is the body’s fuel, and the body’s performance can be helped or hindered by the quality of food that is consumed. In terms of quantity, young swimmers must strike a delicate balance between consuming enough calories and nutrients to promote growth and skeleto-muscular development on the one hand, and not eating so much that they are sluggish due to excess food storage. As for quality of food, carbohydrates should make up the highest percentage of a swimmer’s diet. Carbohydrates provide the greatest source of energy during physical exertion. Because calorie needs vary from person to person depending on age, size, amount of training, etc., swimmers should concentrate on the kinds of foods that make up their diet. In general, a swimmer’s diet should contain 55-65% carbohydrates, 15-25% protein, and 20-30% fat.
Swimmers may need a boost of “fuel” before and after practice, so eating smaller meals plus snacks during the day can be helpful in sustaining a swimmer’s energy. Furthermore, the body more quickly and efficiently digests smaller amounts eaten throughout the day than it does large meals eaten three times a day. This is particularly important during meets that can last several hours per session. Snacks at meets should be small, easily digestible, and able to be quickly converted to energy (foods high in carbohydrates and low in fat). Try to leave at least 20-30 minutes between the time you eat a snack and the time you swim your next event.
Perhaps the most forgotten element of good nutrition is water. Swimmers need to drink a large amount of water to aid in digestion, keep the body cool and replace fluids lost during workout. (Yes, you do sweat in the pool.) A good rule of thumb is to drink before you are thirsty. Sports drinks can help replace some nutrients and electrolytes during intense exercise but some may have high amounts of sugar and sodium. As a general rule, if an athlete is exercising continuously for 90 minutes or longer then he/she would benefit from a sports drink with carbohydrates. Diluting sports drinks with water can help replace carbohydrates without consuming as much sugar and can help those athletes whose stomachs are upset by the strong taste of such drinks.
Refueling the body after a workout is as important as fueling it beforehand. Within 30 minutes after the completion of a rigorous workout, athletes should start replacing the energy (carbohydrates, fluids and a small amount of protein) that they depleted. Having a small, easily digestible snack on the way home can help the recovery process significantly. Sports drinks, water, energy bars, crackers, bagels, etc. are good choices for replenishment following a workout.
Good sources of carbohydrates:
Breads, bagels, cereal, pasta, fruit, green vegetables, corn, beans, milk, potatoes, rice, granola bars, crackers
Good sources of protein:
Lean meat & poultry, fish, low fat yogurt and milk, soups with lean meat, peanut butter, beans, eggs
Foods to limit:
Sugary foods, fatty foods, greasy foods - i.e. Candy, chocolate, potato chips, French fries, fried anything, butter, mayonnaise, creamy sauces, ice cream, cookies, cake, and cupcakes
Each person has different likes, dislikes, and preferences. Swimmers should be conscious of their food choices and listen to their bodies. Variety is the spice of life; but enjoy everything in moderation.
An excellent source for nutritional information pertaining to young athletes is Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook. USA Swimming also has a nutrition section on their web site.