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Swim team members adjust eating habits to enhance performance

Four hours before

Four hours before GRAPHIC / TIM LU

By Alex Mackall
amackall@hilite.org

As they prepare for what they hope will be another successful season, the women’s swim team is looking at different aspects of their game to work on in the upcoming season. In November, Head Coach Chris Plumb had a nutritionist come in and talk to the team about healthy food choices and proper portion sizes. Alicia Deogracias, swim team member and senior, said she thinks having the nutritionist come in was beneficial to having a healthy and successful team this year.
“I think it is something we all should be educated on just because, with the amount of physical activity that we put ourselves through, it could be really damaging, I guess, if you don’t eat right,” Deogracias said. “You have to take care of yourself, and I think that knowing what’s better for you to be eating and what’s going to make you go faster is a good thing.”

According to the National Institute for Fitness and Sport (NIFS), although nutrition is important for everyone, it plays a more significant role in sports. An athlete without a proper diet or a good body composition cannot perform at the same level as another who eats a healthy diet. Many student athletes today overlook elements such as body composition, healthy ways to gain or lose weight and the ideal amount of calories needed.

Plumb said, “I think proper nutrition plays a large role in an athlete’s success and just their overall health and well-being.  Eating a proper diet can help athletes recover faster, prevent illness and give them more energy.”

According to the NIFS, eating a nutritious diet also helps athletes decreases recovery time between workouts and supplies energy and nutrients for workouts.

Two hours before meet

Two hours before meet GRAPHIC / TIM LU

Kim TenBrink, physical education department chairperson, said, “(What sorts of foods an athlete should eat) depends on the athlete, but they need to make sure they get the right amounts of protein, fats and carbohydrates. They also need to hydrate themselves.”

TenBrink said a good example of how proper nutrition is unique to each athlete is Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. Phelps, who has collected 17 Olympic medals thus far, consumes approximately 12,000 calories per day while he is in training.

This is not because he simply loves to eat, but because he needs the energy since he burns so many calories during his workouts. According to NIFS, during an average swim practice that lasts an hour and 45 minutes, an athlete would burn around 1,100 calories.TenBrink said it is important to choose the right foods. She said, “The stuff that tastes good is usually not that good for us. You just have to eat a healthy balanced diet and that’s really hard to do. You just have to plan for it and I think in such a fast food society we just grab and we don’t plan.”

She also emphasized how eating the wrong foods can affect performance. “(An effect of not making healthy choices is) poor performance,” she said, “and you know it may not be poor performance right away, but eventually it’s going to catchup with them. If they don’t eat well and don’t sleep well, it’s going to affect them.”

Deogracias said, “(On) the days that I don’t eat a whole lot or don’t eat anything that has a lot of nutrients in it, it definitely hurts a lot more after practice. But, also I’ll have days where I eat ice cream in the middle of the day and then go back and swim finals that night and still score a best time.”

Plumb said, “Swimmers have challenging and difficult schedules to manage, particularly on days with multiple and demanding practices on it.  With this in mind, having proper nutrition is a must for a successful swimmer.”

Deogracias said she tends to drink water at practices and Gatorade during meets. “During a meet there’s a lot more time when you’re sitting around waiting so Gatorade helps keeps sugar in you and helps keep you hydrated,” she said.

One hour before

One hour before GRAPHIC / TIM LU

However, TenBrink said, “I would always suggest water over anything. One thing that you really need to be concerned about when drinking an energy drink is the amount of energy it has in it. My daughter (who is a professional soccer player), for instance, can’t drink that. She drinks water. The sugar in those give her too much of a sugar spike.”

Plumb said although the coaches often talk to the team about nutrition, it was nice to have a professional come in and speak to the athletes.

When speaking about whether they would ask someone to come back in future years, Plumb said, “We will have to wait and see, but I am encouraged so far.”

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