PEAK PERFORMANCE (fueling your sport)


          Does a “high-power” athlete, such as a sprinter, need a different diet than an endurance athlete like a distance swimmer?  Not really – both rely on carbohydrates as their primary fuel.  Carbohydrates are the only nutrient that can supply energy to working muscles for short-duration, high-intensity exercise…and carbs are the major fuel used by your body for endurance exercise.

          Good nutrition is a teen athlete’s best friend – the extra edge you need to have a winning season. Fatigue from lack of fuel defeats more athletes than any other competitor.  No matter how big your muscles, they have a limited capacity to store energy.  They must be refueled before, during, and after exercise


       EAT several small to medium sized meals and snacks

       each day.  Be sure to include breakfast!



The pre-event meal is important to fuel your muscles for competition.  Since fat and protein take longer to leave the stomach than carbohydrate, eating too much fat or protein before an event increases your risk of indigestion, nausea, and vomiting during the event.  Sugary foods (candy and sweets) are a quick source of energy but healthier carbs provide energy PLUS the mineral and vitamin benefits.


More than 3 hours before 2 hours before                 >1 hour before

Fruit or vegetable juice             fruit or vegetable juice    fruit or vegetable juice

Fresh fruit, lowfat yogurt          fresh fruit                      fresh fruit (low fiber-

Bread, bagels, rolls                    bread, bagels, rolls          plums, melon, cherries,

Baked potato, boiled rice,          (no added fats)                peaches, applesauce)

Pasta with tomato sauce

Low fat yogurt, cereal with 1% milk

Baked chicken or fish, tuna, lowfat cheese


Remember to sip fluids during the meet, about 4oz every 15 minutes.  Fluids like half-strength juices (diluted with water) or sports drinks supply needed carbohydrate and leave the stomach quickly.


AFTER the meet – eat carbohydrate foods to restore muscle glycogen.





GO FOR IT!                    CAUTION                      NOT SO FAST (think again)

1% or fat free milk          2% milk                           whole milk

frozen yogurt, sorbet       soft-serve ice cream        scoop ice cream

low fat milk shakes           milk shakes                                                                     

bagels, English muffins     cornbread                       biscuit, croissant

pancakes, waffles             French fries (small)          French fries (large, curly,

cereal, bread sticks                                                cheese, or other fries)

baked potato                                                          pie, cookies, brownie                 

veggies (salad bar)           tuna/chicken salad           croutons

pasta bar                        coleslaw                          bacon bits

fresh fruit                      macaroni/potato salad      more than 2 Tbsp dressing

soup (broth type)             cream soups                                                                    

grilled chicken                 cheeseburgers                  fried chicken (and sandwich)

chili with beans                steak sandwiches              fried fish (and sandwich)

plain hamburgers              cheese pizza                    chicken nuggets

chicken/turkey,ham,                                               “super”, “deluxe”, “supreme”

  deli sandwich or sub                                             meat, pepperoni, or extra

                                                                                  cheese pizza

                                                                             breakfast biscuits, sausage,


catsup                             lowfat dressings               mayonnaise (lots of…)

mustard                                                                 cheese sauces

barbecue sauce                                                      alfredo, hollandaise sauce

                                                                             extra butter                   


WHAT ABOUT WATER?  Swimmers often do not realize that they lose body water through sweat.  It is easy to become dehydrated after intense exercise and sitting around in the hot, humid poolside environment. Your body’s thirst mechanism does not work well during exercise so “feeling thirsty” is not a good guide.


Before exercise               During exercise               After exercise

1-2 hours before-            Drink 4oz cold water,      Drink 2 cups of cold

drink 10-14oz cold            dilute juice, or a              water or undiluted juice for

water or juice.                 sports drink every           every pound of weight loss.

                                      15 minutes.

15-30 minutes before your event, drink 1 cup of cold water or dilute juice.

 For training season, your general meal rule is:


          *high CARB (2.5g to 5g of your body weight each day),

Some carbs ARE better than others!  Simple sugars from fruit, milk and yogurt, and complex carbohydrates (whole-grain bread, cereals, rice, pasta, and potatoes) give you energy plus vitamins, minerals, and fiber. 

*moderate PROTEIN (between 1/2g- 1g per pound of your weight),

          *low FAT (limit fried foods, high fat snacks with >5g fat/serving and go easy on added butter, cream cheese, cheese, and salad dressings)


Try dividing your day into 5-6 eating zones…


Zone #1 should be within an hour of getting up in the morning.  Try cereal + fruit + lowfat milk OR scrambled egg + lowfat bacon + toast + juice, OR lowfat cheese or peanut butter sandwich + juice OR granola or power bar + yogurt.

If swim practice is in the morning, eat something light (like juice + a plain bagel or dry cereal, OR a banana + yogurt) before practice.  Your pre-breakfast should be mostly carbs – limit or avoid high fat and high protein foods.  Then bag a breakfast to eat after training. NOTE: A high carb meal eaten within 1-2 hours after training will restore muscle energy stores (glycogen) best. 

Zone #2 is your mid-day meal.  Bag a lunch if you can’t find what you want in the cafeteria.  Include a lowfat protein food + bread or other starchy food + fruit/vegetables or juice.

Zone #3 is your afternoon snack, before afternoon sports or activities. 

SNACK IDEAS:  dried or fresh fruit (apple, orange, banana, grapes, melon, peach, pear, etc), pretzels, graham and animal crackers, fruit and granola bars, bagels, lowfat cheese or yogurt, pudding, cereal with lowfat milk)

Zone #4 might be after practice or games when you need to replenish your energy.  Keep a high-carb snack in your gym bag.  (Idea: when you can’t brush after meals and snacks, try chewing sugarless gum.)

Zone #5, dinner, should include a good source of lowfat protein (baked or grilled meats, poultry and fish) + vegetables for fiber, vitamins and minerals + bread or other grain foods (rice, pasta, potato, corn, beans).  End the meal sweetly with fruit.  Remember you are still in training and a high fat meal, like a lot of fried foods, will add inches to your waist instead of energy to your muscles.

Zone #6, your evening snack, is the last chance to score nutrition points.  Recall what you’ve eaten so far and fill in the Food Pyramid gaps.