This post is brought to you by Mike Molloy from M2 Performance Nutrition!

To maximize performance in any sport, we want to focus on the ideal body type for the movements being performed. Football players require significant muscle mass in both the upper and lower body, while a baseball player must limit upper body bulking that would impact his or her ability to throw a baseball as fast as possible. Swimming is of course no different as a long, streamlined body is a desired quality to move efficiently through the water. The question is “how do we train and eat to maximize that physique?” Training for swimming is a topic that has been extensively covered, but eating for the right body type is something that can be a little bit more confusing. Do we want a significant amount of protein? Are carbs good for us in this situation or do we need to avoid them? What about fat intake? We’re here to help provide some direction on the topic.

The first thing we want to do is to line up our total calories we eat with the amount of exercise that we’re putting out. Swimming is a unique training stimulus because of the nature of being in the water. Of course, lakes and oceans are at the mercy of the weather/time of year/location, but even pools have a large variety in temperatures. Some are quite cool while others are heated. Regardless of the situation, the human body has to work extra hard to try and maintain 98.6°F. For this reason alone, we need to treat training in water differently than other sports, as it relates to the impact that it has on our bodies.

Ultimately, we are looking for our calorie intake to match our calorie output. This will allow the swimmer to recover from the workout appropriately, without having so much food that unwanted body mass (in the form of either muscle or fat) is generated. Our basic strategy to figuring out how many calories are needed is as follows:

Total Calories = Body Weight x Activity Multiplier

What is an “Activity Multiplier”? It’s an analysis of how much work output is being done on a day to day basis. The more work you do, the higher the multiplier.

Total hours in the pool or in the gym  Activity Multiplier
1 hour13-14
2 hours15-16
3 hours17-18
4 hours18-20
4+ hours

20-22

 

So as an example, a 145 lb woman training 2 hours a day in the pool would use the following numbers: Total calories = 145 x 16.  This comes out to be 2320 calories.

If you’re looking to take your performance to the next level, we want to not just track the calories, but also make sure that the breakdown of those calories, into the the three macronutrients (protein, fat and carbs) is appropriate.

Some basic rules for athletic performance within the sport of swimming would be as follows:

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