Swimmers’ Health – Nutrition, Hydration, and Body Maintenance

Category: Education, Swimming

NOTE: The information included in the following articles is intended to promote the health, safety, and knowledge of our swimmers, parents, coaches, and other participants. Prior to implementing any new routine into your athletic performance, consult a physician.  Sovereign Rehabilitation cannot be held responsible for any personal injury resulting from misuse of the information listed in the site.

011708-swimmersNutrition and Hydration: What you put in your body will affect the performance level coming from your body. Good nutrition is key to high performance, and staying hydrated is essential to every sport. Hydration can present an extra challenge in swimming because the surrounding water decreases the ability to sense sweating and dehydration.

Let’s start with the day before the meet. The night before your meet, you should have a meal with complex carbohydrates in it such as pasta. Make sure to prepare your body with a good night’s rest and plenty of fluids. Drinks high in sugars (colas, excessive amounts of juices, etc…) are not a good way to hydrate, and can actually end up helping to dehydrate a swimmer.

The day of the meet, help your body by eating a good breakfast. A high-protein breakfast cereal and a banana is a good way to provide your body and muscles with the energy it needs to perform well. During the meet, try to avoid candy bars. Candy bars may be helpful to give you an immediate boost of energy, but after the initial sugar spike your performance may actually decrease mid-race or mid-meet.

If you are interested in nutritional supplements, consult your physician. If used properly incorporated into your diet, they are not necessarily harmful and can be helpful. However, it’s important to remember that taking supplements alone will not enhance your performance. Training and effort are the true “performance enhancers.” The only way to build muscle and strength is to work-out and practice. Athletes do need a supply of protein in their systems to perform, but there is no need to run to the store for supplements. Items you already have in your kitchen with high protein can work just as well and can be combined with carbohydrates for energy in preparation for a meet. Some examples include: cereal with milk, yogurt and a banana, a bagel with peanut butter, or a turkey sandwich.

Below are a few other helpful hints for summer swimmers. 

“Pool toes:”
 If you’ve ever experienced “pool toes” you know exactly to what I’m referring. Pool toes is a unique dermatosis, or skin irritation that can be very painful. The sole of the foot and bottom of the toes becomes red and possibly swollen and tender. The condition typically appears early in the swim season before feet fresh from winter have had a chance to thicken or develop calluses. Friction between the feet and the coarse surface of the pool bottom causes irritation to develop. Avoiding contact with the pool bottom will allow the condition to resolve, and topical ointments can help to alleviate the symptoms.

Chlorine Hair: Tips from the hairdresser… instead of buying the expensive specialty shampoo to strip your hair of chlorine and other “impurities” acquired in the pool, try adding a small amount of baking soda to your shampoo. This will cleanse your hair and remove the chlorine without breaking the bank. Frequent hair washing and swim caps can also reduce the effects of chlorine on hair.

Swimmer’s Ear: Swimmer’s ear which is caused by a breakdown of the lining of the outer ear due to excess moisture can be very painful. Presenting symptoms can include pain and/or itching. Try to keep your ears as dry as possible to prevent swimmer’s ear, but avoid excessive cleaning of ears because ear wax provides a natural barrier to the external environment that prevents bacteria from growing in the ear. If you develop swimmer’s ear, call/visit your physician. Ideally, with swimmer’s ear, a swimmer should stay out of the water for 7 to 10 days. Because swimmer’s ear can recur frequently, an option for swimmers is to use ear drops containing isopropanol and vinegar after swimming and showering. Some ear drops sold commercially contain boric acid, and those should be avoided because they strip the ear of the protective ear wax.

Additional Resources:
ACSM: Sports Nutrition Update  (see page 11)
ACSM: Performance Issues for Parents: How to fuel active kids

Cohen PR. Pool Toes: a sports-related dermatosis of swimmers. International Journal of Dermatology. 2005; 44(9):794-795.