“When talented, motivated and highly trained athletes meet for competition the margin between victory and defeat is usually small. When everything else is equal, nutrition can make the difference between winning and losing.” – Ron Maughan
Besting the competition goes further than the frequency and intensity of your training. Practicing to consistently optimize your recovery is going to put you in the best possible place to show up stronger training after training, which translates to shaving off split seconds. Optimal recovery comes down to sufficient sleep and optimal nutrition. Sounds simple, right? The tricky part is that many nutrition programs provide a kind of one-size fits all approach, and that simply isn’t a fit for competitive athletes. In part 1 of this gender-focused nutrition series we covered how women are underrepresented in nutrition research. This week, in part 2, we’re focusing on what male swimmers need more of in their diets to jumpstart recovery, reduce their chances of injury and maximize overall health.
When calories count:
The major difference in muscle mass between male and female swimmers is accounted for by testosterone levels, as is the need for additional protein and calorie requirements. Caloric requirements depend on a variety of factors, and that’s not just weight, and the duration and intensity of your training. Your mix of strokes during a training session can make a difference, for example a male weighing 180 pounds swimming a mix of freestyle and butterfly for one hour could burn anywhere between 550-820 calories an hour. According to a study published in the Journal of Exercise Nutrition and Biochemistry, caloric expenditure also depends on the distance of a competition: “While the 200-meter modality utilizes the aerobic energy system at 65% energy expenditure, the 400-m modality can utilize around 81% of energy expenditure. In contrast, during shorter distance races (50 and 100 m), the aerobic system only contributes to 15.3% and 33.3% of energy expenditure respectively”. Refueling post-training for competitive athletes means much more than replacing the number of calories you’ve burned.
Refueling presents a bit of a conundrum. Some swimmers are tempted to undereat so as not to sabotage their training, others may justify overeating (or eating the wrong things) after a tough training session. The issue of disordered eating, across genders and its negative impacts is gaining increasing awareness. It’s worth noting that, according to My Fitness Pal, more than 30% of athletes report to be suffering from disordered eating, and male athletes are accounting for a growing portion of that percentage. Whether disordered eating is becoming a more sizable issue for male athletes, or whether they’re becoming more comfortable reporting the issue is not clear. What is clear is that not refueling correctly poses clear negative impacts to your performance and your health. As we’ve mentioned in previous posts not having sufficient protein, or available glucose, post-training means your body has to reach into its stores. Not only is this less efficient but can sometimes mean breaking down the muscles you’ve worked hard to build.
Male swimmers require more protein, or more specifically more essential amino acids. “In the wild, you can’t eat amino acids in isolation; but this doesn’t change the fact that EAAs [essential amino acids] are all your body truly cares about.” – Examine. Studies published in the Journal of Exercise Nutrition and Biochemistry recommend swimmers who have the goal of optimizing protein synthesis have 0.3g/kg of protein, with a high bioavailable value, immediately after training. According to studies in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “dairy proteins seem to be superior to other tested proteins, largely due to leucine content and the digestion and absorptive kinetics of branched-chain amino acids in fluid-based dairy foods.” The same study noted, “Chronic training studies have shown that the consumption of milk-based protein after resistance exercise is effective in increasing muscle strength and favorable changes in body composition”. This is one of the reasons protein shakes are popular amongst athletes, they provide a mix of protein and glucose in an easily digestible form that can be taken immediately after training.
But you’re going to need a lot more than protein and glucose if you want to beat your competition.
The small things count:
Swimmers need to pay extra special attention to how they’re refueling not just with macro-nutrients (proteins, fats and carbs), but also the micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) that are often overlooked. “Even though you need small quantities of micronutrients in your diet, many men have trouble getting enough,” Dr. Furtado, senior research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Department of Nutrition. Here are a few that are especially important for male swimmers:
Iron is especially important for female swimmers, but male swimmers, especially the vegetarians out there, need to pay close attention to getting enough (but not too much) iron. This mineral is essential for blood production, and comes in two forms, iron may be heme iron (found in foods derived from animals), and non-heme iron (found in both plant-based foods, and foods derived from animals). The body absorbs heme iron more efficiently, so vegetarians should be careful to monitor their iron levels. Stanford Medicine recommends these as the foods with the highest amount of non-heme iron per serving: avocado, cooked spinach and mushrooms, legumes, lentils, tofu, quinoa and whole wheat breads and cereals. In order to enhance your body’s ability to absorb iron it’s recommended that you pair these foods with foods that are high in vitamin C. Males require 90 milligrams of Vitamin C per day, 15mg higher than what females require.
One of the antioxidants male athletes should be most concerned about is selenium. Athletes are estimated to consume 10-15 times more oxygen than a sedentary person, which puts additional stress on the body. Selenium plays a role in protecting cells and membranes from oxidative stress and helps to guard the body against potentially damaging free radical production that is associated with intense athletic training. In addition, selenium may be of a greater benefit to men, as studies have noted a minor decrease in prostate cancer in men with a high dietary intake of selenium. Good sources of selenium include: Brazil nuts, tuna, salmon, asparagus, eggs.
Calcium and its friend, Vitamin D:
Is another often overlooked nutrients, as it is more often associated with women’s nutritional needs. However as we mentioned in our last article, swimmers tend to have a lower Bone Mineral Density (BMD) compared to other sports, so getting enough calcium should be an important consideration for male swimmers too. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) notes that osteoporosis in men has been recently recognized as an important public health issue. WebMD estimates that “one in four men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in his lifetime.” The NIH has recommended ensuring an adequate intake of Vitamin D of at least 600 I/U per day and 1,300 mg/day of calcium for teens and 1,000 mg/day for males ages 19-70.
Vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption, in addition to the role vitamin D has in promoting a healthy immune system. According to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “a growing number of studies have documented the relationship between vitamin D status and injury prevention, rehabilitation, improved neuromuscular function, increased type II muscle fibre size, reduced inflammation, decreased risk of stress fracture, and acute respiratory illness.”
“Because athletes tend to consume little Vitamin D from the diet, and dietary interventions alone have not been shown to be a reliable means to resolve insufficient status, supplementation above the current RDA and/or responsible UVB exposure may be required to maintain sufficient vitamin D status.” – Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The same Journal noted a recent study of National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1 swimmers and divers who received daily doses of 1,00 micrograms of Vitamin D daily were able to “maintain sufficient status over 6 moths) whereas those receiving a placebo experienced a 20 ng/ml loss.
To summarize the key micronutrients male swimmers should be getting more of we’ve created this table:
Key differences in micronutrient recommended daily intake (average male under 50)
|Micronutrient||Recommended Daily Intake for Men||Recommended Daily Intake for Women|
|Vitamin A (vital for normal immune system function and vision).||900 micrograms RAE (Retinol Activity Equivalents)||700 micrograms RAE (Retinol Activity Equivalents)|
|Thiamin (Vitamin B1) – promotes energy release (from protein and carbohydrates).||1.2 mg||1.1 mg|
|Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) – promotes energy release and aids various antioxidant enzymes.||1.3 mg||1.1 mg|
|Niacin (Vitamin B3) – promotes energy release (from carbohydrates, fat and protein).||16 mg||14 mg|
|Vitamin C -Assists immune cell functional activitiesAssists in the production of collagen, carnitine, serotonin and adrenalineAntioxidant in blood cells.||90 mg||75 mg|
|Vitamin K -Plays a role in blood clottingPlays a role in modifying certain proteins and allowing for calcium-binding.||120 micograms||90 micrograms|
|Chromium -Assists insulin action.||35 micrograms||25 micrograms|
|Fluoride -A structural component of bones and teeth.||4mg||3mg|
|Magnesium -Plays a role in bone health, nerve conduction and contraction.||400 mg (420 mg for men over 30)||310 mg (320 mg for women over 30)|
|Manganese -Component of antioxidant enzymes, plays a role in bone development, assists in breaking down glucose and proteins||2.3 mg||1.8 mg|
|Zinc -Assists in the production of hemoglobin, assists enzyme reactions, and supports immune system function||11 mg||8 mg|
P2Life offers gender-based nutrition products, as we recognize male and female athletes need more of different nutrients. Our Sport Multivitamin for Men and Sport Multivitamin for Women are specifically designed with these needs in mind, to ensure athletes are getting the base minimum of micronutrients. The P2Life NutriBoost Shake provides the vitamins and minerals the body needs to maintain optimal health as well as a combination of slow and fast releasing proteins to ensure your body will never need to dip into its muscle stores, and carbohydrates to help replenish glycogen stores post training.
P2Life is a family-owned, performance-based, nutritional supplement company that was designed for swimmers, by swimmers, to protect health and promote performance. Within one year of launching, P2Life was the preferred choice for 40% of the USA Men’s National Swim at the London Olympics. Today P2Life is the dominant force in nutrition and is tried, tested, and loved by elite and aspiring athletes across all levels; high school, collegiate and masters swimmers around the globe. Every P2Life product is independently batch tested to be certified free of banned and illegal substances. P2life products have undergone +35 years of rigorous research and development, and the difference they make is evident in the numbers. With 18 Olympic medals, +800 World Records, and +100 National Age Group Records and counting, it’s clear that P2Life athletes feel the difference.
P2Life was founded by Tim Shead, a Masters Swimming Hall of Fame Inductee and +45x World Record Holder, and co-founded by Michael Shead, a former national water polo player. Tim’s expertise in swimming and years of experience and knowledge working with nutritional products, combined with Michael’s love of innovation and technical background, has enabled the P2Life team to create a technologically savvy company that is dedicated to furthering athletic potential. P2Life strives to empower athletes with the highest-quality nutritional supplements, backed by peer-reviewed scientific research, and to arm athletes and their loved ones with accurate and reliable information to make informed decisions. The whole P2Life team is working to fuel the athletes of today and tomorrow for a bright future, in which dreams become achievable goals and sustainable realities.
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