Watch what you eat

Your Are what you Eat!

Where do we get the energy from to fuel our muscles?

    • ATP/CP System –   stored in your muscles and lasts between 5-10 sec short swim or lifting weights (anaerobic)
    • Glycolysis System - glycogen stored in the muscle and liver is broken down. Lasts from 10sec and up to 2min(in trained athletes, by-product of this is lactic Acid.  
    • Aerobic System –   if the body becomes too acidic, it switches to use a combination of fat, glucose and stored muscle glycogen. Oxygen needs to be present 

Energy Currency - Carbs

    • Carbohydrate
    • Carbohydrate is the major energy currency the body chooses. 
    • Stored in Muscle and Liver as Glycogen.
    • Muscles can access the Glycogen pool quickly (and almost exclusively) at between 80 and 95% of max HR.
    • Total body Glycogen stores last a maximum of 2 hours at above intensity before depletion.
    • Recovery from muscle depletion has been shown to take 7-10 days to recover from.
    • Do not get depleted!
    • Some CHO’s release their glucose slowly, and others quickly.
    • This is important - eg if your glycogen stores are low – to top them up quickly you need to eat the quick release CHO.
    • The Glycemic Index is a ranking of CHO foods based on how quick they release glucose. Just because something is sweet  doesn’t necessarily mean it will breakdown into glucose quickly.
    • CHO’s that break down quickly have a high GI number
    • High GI foods in recovery to top up glycogen stores quickly
    • High GI foods and fluids during training maintain glucose levels.
    • Low GI foods 2-3 hours before events and training help keep 

Energy Currency - Fats

    • Fats
    • Fats are stored in the body within the muscle and in adipocytes, which are located subcutaneously.
    • Impossible to deplete the fat reserves, therefore there are major benefits from having the ability to effectively use them.
    • Longer, slower process of breakdown, but the yield of energy per gram of fat is greater than per gram of carbohydrate.
    • Fats become dominant energy source after extended periods (1.5 hours+) of training/racing, when heart rate is below 70% of max.
    • The body can be trained to use fat as the dominant energy source at intensities as high as 80% of max heart rate. This takes months of high mileage/low intensity training to achieve. This has the effect of sparing the glycogen pool – increased endurance!

Energy Currency - Protein

    • Protein
    • Not designed as an energy source.
    • Used in times of stress when other body supplies cannot meet the demand.
    • Source – Muscle tissue. Continuous cycles of depletion cause a decrease in muscle mass = 
    • Decreased Performance.

Take Home Message:

    • Maintain Adequate Carb Levels
    • Avoid depletion
    • Invest in your body’s ability to use fat as a major energy source by putting in long easy km’s in the pool.  


    • Breakfast comes at a time after body has been sleeping for 8 hours. This equals mild glycogen depletion. Restocking glycogen stores is key.
    • Dinner comes at end of day, after muscles have been used and protein is needed to rebuild them.
    • (Also, imagine starting the day with a 300g Rump in the tummy! – not ideal)
    • Low fat diet to maintain lean mass, without unneeded ‘spare tires’.
    • Eating often, speeds up metabolic turnover = leaner and faster.
    • Human growth hormone is secreted while we sleep and in order for your body to rebuild itself, it needs the building blocks to do so – Amino acids, which are the molecules that make up protein.

Examples of a well balanced diet

Healthy Breakfast Examples: 

    • Cereal, muesli, or oats with milk. Add some fruit and juice.
    • Brown or whole-wheat toast with peanut butter and honey with fruit and juice.

And on the odd occasion:

    • Brown or whole-wheat French toast with banana and maple syrup. 

Healthy Morning Snack Ideas: 

    • Dried mango, or other dried fruit, fresh fruit, cashew nuts, bean salad.

Healthy Lunch Ideas:

    • Grilled chicken breast with rice and salad.
    • Beef or chicken stir fry with pasta.

And on the odd occasion:

    • Nando’s chicken burger with chips (don’t eat fried potato chips more than once per week)

Healthy Afternoon Snack Ideas:

    • Lean biltong with fresh fruit and nuts.

Healthy Supper Ideas:

    • Grilled fillet of fish with vegetables.
    • Roast Chicken and vegetables.

What to bring to the Training Pool

    • Fluid: It should be a carbohydrate and electrolyte solution as natural as possible, but consider the amount of Fructose as that can cause GI distress. 
    • My recommendations and ratings of widely available energy drinks for during training/performing:
    • Gu2O – 4/5
    • PowerBar Drink – 4/5
    • Energade – 3/5 (very short chain, Hi GI)
    • Powerade – 3/5 (very short chain, Hi GI)
    • Fruit juice – 2/5 (high in Fructose)
    • Coke – 2/5 (Great in an emergency, but short chain Hi GI)
    • Water – 1/5 (Can a Formula 1 car perform on water alone? – Well neither can you!)

These drinks can be supplemented with banana’s, energy bars or even chocolate, if the session is two hours in duration.

What do I do on race day?

Race day - meals

    • Aim is to top up glycogen stores.
    • Boost fluid levels.
    • The meal before an event CAN’T replace a poor diet during the week.
    • Should eat 3-4 hours before the events
    • E.G. porridge, yog + fruit, toast + spag, pasta or rice, or smoothie.

Event meal tips

    • Drink, drink ,drink. Urine should be clear or pale yellow
    • Top up 1-2 hours before.
    • Make sure it is low fat, high CHO.

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