Swimmers of all levels – recreational, competitive and elite – engage in intense training. They need enough proteins to build and restore the muscles, carbohydrates to fuel the muscles, as well as amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to sustain endurance races. Several modern studies suggest that nutrition obtained from regular foods, especially micronutrients, is not sufficient to maintain peak performance. Because of that, supplementation is recommended.
The purposes of supplementation for swimmers are as follows:
- Provide key substrates to enhance and ensure efficient production of energy
- Provide antioxidants to support enhanced functioning of cardiovascular and immune systems through neutralization of free radicals produced by intense physical activity
- Provide sufficient amounts of minerals and vitamins to improve overall health
- Ensure support for mitochondrial health, “mitochondria” being the energy producing furnaces inside the cells.
The experts of Canadian Health&Care Mall analyzed the sports nutrition literature to compile a list of key supplements for swimmers.
Best Minerals and Vitamins for Swimmers
Magnesium counteracts stress and fatigue, helps in regulation of metabolic processes, as well as restores muscle function and the nervous system. Magnesium has long been used in sports supplementation. Magnesium citrate is one of the most bioavailable forms of magnesium. Recommended dose: 300 mg - 400 mg of magnesium after training session.
The resistance faced by swimmers is almost 12 times as dense as air, therefore keeping energy levels up while in the pool is essential to ensure top endurance and performance. As multiple studies show, individuals with vitamins B deficit can suffer from muscle cramps and tiredness. B vitamins also play a role in normal energy metabolism, immune support, cognitive function, as well as in reducing tiredness and fatigue. All these properties make vitamin B one of the best vitamins for swimmers.
To sanitize and decrease levels of bacteria, chlorine in used in most swimming pools. use. However, for swimmers, this can have harmful side effects. Many swimmers experience dry skin, red eyes, and even wrinkles. That is why, vitamin C for swimmers is essential.
Vitamin C, a naturally occurring antioxidant, helps undo the harm of chlorine exposure by neutralizing chlorine. Vitamin C also boosts metabolism, thus reducing fatigue and tiredness from training in the swimming pool.
In the realm of endurance sports, vitamin D is increasingly popular. It appears that vitamin D plays an important role in muscle contraction and muscle synthesis. In people with vitamin D deficiency, muscle weakness is a significant problem.
Not many foods contain vitamin D in sufficient quantities, but fifteen minutes of sunlight exposure will supply you with your daily dose of this vitamin. This can be a problem in winter and especially for serious swimmers who are training in indoor facilities and are not exposed to sunlight. One recent study of NCAA divers and swimmers showed that supplementing with 100 mg of vitamin D for swimmers in was effective in sustaining vitamin D status.
Vitamin E, due to its antioxidant qualities, protects your muscles from the oxidation damage. A natural byproduct of metabolism, oxidation destroys healthy cells in your body. Since exercising boosts levels of oxidation, getting enough vitamin E may enhance athletic performance by cutting the recovery time needed between sessions.
There are multiple causes of zinc deficiency in endurance athletes, especially in distance swimmers. In addition to inadequate intakes of zinc, swimmers have excessive losses of zinc by urine and sweat. Zink is needed for oxidative stress counteraction, as well as for maintaining of the immune response.More about healthy living at Canadian Health&Care Mall:
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Endurance and Strength
Swimming instigates dynamic resistance, with levels varying according to how much force is exerted by the swimmer. It means that a swimmer can greatly benefit from increasing his or her strength. Creatine helps boost the athlete’s performance in sports with short bursts of intensity. Therefore, including a creatine supplement can have a positive impact in swimming, especially in short distance competitive swimming.
Creatine is considered one of the best supplements for sprint swimmers. Creatine is an amino acid that can be found in foods like meat and fish. It is also produced by the human body in the kidneys, liver, and pancreas. Creatine turns into creatine phosphate or phosphocreatine and is stored in the muscles. During high-intensity activities, such as sprinting, phosphocreatine turns into ATP, a key energy source in the human body.
Creatine can also help swimmers recover from strength training sessions faster, which allows them to train harder. Recommended dose comprises 3-5 grams per day.
Supplementing with sodium phosphate has been confirmed to amplify aerobic capacity and increase the time before exhaustion due to enhancing the ability of red blood cells to deliver oxygen to the working muscles. In addition, multiple studies have found improvements when it comes to endurance performance in the form of increase in ventilator threshold as well as oxygen uptake. The recommended dose of sodium phosphate comprises 3-5 grams daily, taken for 3-6 days in advance an endurance event.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids
For long-distance swimming, the BCAAs are essential. Metabolizing BCAAs was proved to curtail lactate production which increases the athlete's capacity in all varieties of endurance activities. The recommended dose is 3-6 grams before or in the course of exercise.
Proteins and Amino Acids
Protein supplementation is frequently essential for those swimmers who are either incapable of meeting their requirements through regular food or have heightened needs in protein. Many swimmers follow ‘a whey tradition’. Whey protein is the most loved by a large population of athletes.
The experts of Canadian Health&Care Mall have researched the requirements of proteins for swimmers and elaborate – in the paragraphs below – on the various types of protein supplements for swimmers obtainable today.
Essentials about protein requirements:
- Demand for a protein supplement depends on the dietary patterns of swimmers and these patterns must be gauged by a sports nutritionist.
- Normally, protein requirements comprise about 1.2-1.4g per 1 kg of body weight per day for adult swimmers.
- Protein needs are various across different age and gender groups.
Although all various kinds of protein supplements have optimum muscle health as their principle purpose, they have some variations in their functions.
Whey proteins: Whey proteins can boast of the highest biological value of 104. This means they have got essential amino acids – those not produced by the body – in adequate quantities, including BCAA. Whey is the fastest absorbed protein that can deliver amino acids at a rate critical to build lost muscle mass, especially post exercise. Whey is a byproduct of cheese production. To obtain pure forms of whey, a process of whey microfiltration is essential.
There are 2 varieties of whey protein:
- Whey protein concentrate provides 70-80% protein. It is slightly higher on lactose (carbohydrates) and fats, but it contains immunoglobulins vital for immunity as well as important growth factors. They should be taken at breakfast/ mid-meals.
- Whey protein isolate is further processed in order to remove the lactose and fat to contain more than 90% of pure protein. Isolates are absorbed at a faster rate and should be taken post training.
One scoop of whey protein (~30-40g) usually provides some 20-25g of proteins.
Casein: Casein proteins are obtained through ultra-filtration of milk to get casein powder. Casein proteins are absorbed gradually, which means that they provide a steady growth of blood amino acids. Casein proteins are essential to prevent muscle catabolism and should be consumed at night time through the repair process.
One scoop of casein protein (~30-40g) usually provides some 20-30g of proteins.
Egg albumen: With biological value of 100, egg albumen is the reference protein to gauge protein quality. In its absorption rate, it is second to whey only. Egg albumen should be consumed post training. 1 scoop of 20-30g provides 16-24g proteins.
For vegan swimmers, there are soy and pea protein options. They tend to contain slightly higher quantities of carbohydrates than egg and whey proteins.
There are alternative types of protein powders, for example weight gainers and meal replacements with different protein and carbohydrate compositions. Meal replacements can become indispensable for those swimmers who have increased body fat percentage and aim to lose body fat. Weight gainers are appropriate for those swimmers who try to gain extra muscle and the correspondingly required fat weight.
L-Arginine and Citrulline Malate
Arginine is an essential amino acid, while citrulline malate is its metabolite in the body. These two amino acids appear to have vasodilating properties, as well as abilities to boost strength and endurance. Arginine can increase the aerobic and anaerobic endurance, albeit with no substantial effect on the lactic acid’s threshold. The recommended dose for arginine is 3-6 grams per day before training.
Citrulline malate stimulates nitrogen oxide’s levels and maintains the stability of arginine levels in the body. Citrulline malate is regulating the overall fatigue and diminishes muscle pain and fever after training sessions. Citrulline malate has been proven to increases the levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) through the aerobic pathways.
Many competitive swimmers emphasize their increased aerobic capacity as well as endurance after taking at least six grams of citrulline malate before training. The recommended starting dose comprises 5 g per day.
When the human body is depleted of glycogen deposits, the content of acetyl carnitine in the blood reaches its peak upon supplementation with L-carnitine.
The experts of Canadian Health&Care Mall recommend taking at least 3-4 grams of L-Carnitine before a training session and 2-3 grams in a non-training day in to postpone the fatigue onset and make an impact on the aerobic capacity.
L-carnitine is obtainable in capsules or in liquid form.
To get the most out of protein supplementation, it is advisable to consume proteins with carbohydrates. This combination of macronutrients can stimulate outstanding rates of protein and glycogen synthesis.
To help maintain sufficient glycogen deposits, an endurance athlete is recommended to consume carbohydrates, which represent a major source of glycogen for the human body.
A larger part of glycogen is getting depleted in the first 30 minutes of the workout and then it continues to drop consistently. It represents a major problem for the endurance swimmers: in the moment when the swimmer "hits the wall", his or her glycogen levels are depleted and the level of sugar in the blood drops down, jeopardizing the athlete’s ability to perform.
One of the effective methods to minimize the risk of glycogen depletion is the use of energy (carbohydrate) drinks and isotonic drinks – arguably, the best supplements for distance swimmers. Many types carbohydrate products available on the market include pure maltodextrin. The recommended dose of carbohydrate supplements is 40-60 g taken 30-60 min in advance of a physical activity.
The experts of Canadian Health&Care Mall remind that the use of dietary supplements by athletes, including swimmers, might become a concern because in some countries the production and labeling of certain supplements might not follow the strict rules, which may ultimately result in taking a supplement including an undeclared substance that may be prohibited according to anti-doping regulations in certain countries.