USA Swimming's Nutrition Pages are here
By Dan McCarthy//National Team High Performance Consultant
Ongoing research has led to more concrete information regarding the timing of protein intake, the quantity of protein ingested and the best source of protein for hard-working athletes. The existing research is very sound; however, modern tools and methods have made evaluating the ability of skeletal muscle to synthesize protein possible.
Post-exercise the muscle’s ability to synthesize protein is increased. Recent research suggests that four equally spaced meals throughout the course of the day and one larger pre-sleep meal may be ideal for maximizing protein synthesis and negating protein breakdown. Hard-working athletes should time one of their meals to occur after each workout to benefit the most from the enhanced muscle protein synthesis. The larger pre-sleep meal helps lessen the impact of protein breakdown that occurs during slumber, when no eating is going to occur.
Each meal should contain .25-.30 grams of protein/kg of body weight/meal. The larger pre-sleep meal should contain .60 grams of protein/kg of body weight. For a 150 pound athlete:
- 150 pounds/2.2 kg/pound = 68 kg
- .25 grams of protein/kg x 68 kg = 17 grams of protein per meal
- .30 grams of protein/kg x 68 kg = 20.4 grams of protein per meal
- .60 grams of protein/kg x 68 kg = 40.8 grams of protein pre-sleep
A 150-pound hard-training athlete should have a meal four times per day with 17-20 grams of protein per meal and a larger meal containing 40 grams of protein before bedtime. Breaking the protein intake up throughout the day is a key strategy for maximizing protein synthesis.
Ingesting large quantities of protein at one meal and very little at other meals does not appear to be effective, nor does eating mini-portions (2.5 grams of protein) frequently (10+ times) appear to be an effective strategy for maximizing muscle protein synthesis either.
Research has also shown that milk proteins are slightly better than soy proteins following exercise. The combination of whey and casein proteins in milk seem to be slightly more effective at promoting protein synthesis and suppressing muscle degradation following intense exercise than soy protein. After intense exercise, whey protein, found naturally in milk, cheese and yogurt, is critical in promoting muscle protein synthesis because of the amino acid, Leucine.
It is important to note that the recommended protein intake is for athletes engaging in a hard or intense training cycle. During training that does not result in the breakdown of skeletal muscle it is generally recommended that athletes eat .8 grams of protein/kg of body weight per day.
ALICIA KENDIG, MS, RD, CSSD // USOC SPORTS DIETICIAN & ATHLETE LAB COORDINATOR, RUSSELL MARK // USA SWIMMING HIGH PERFORMANCE CONSULTANT, DAN MCCARTHY // USA SWIMMING HIGH PERFORMANCE CONSULTANT, STACY MICHAEL-MILLER // USA SWIMMING ATHLETE SERVICES MANAGER
USA Swimming does not endorse the use of dietary supplements and encourages athletes to first practice proper nutrition through a complete and balanced diet. Yet there are still many pressures for athletes to take a supplement. Many supplement companies prey on potential consumers’ compulsion for a “quick fix” in order to make money. Here are three things you need to know.
1. WADA or USADA does not certify or guarantee the safety/purity of any supplements
If any manufacturer makes this claim, it is absolutely false. There are many third-party companies that test supplements, but the lack of ongoing accountability, and auditing of products/manufacturing processes do not make them a gold standard. Only products that are externally audited and thoroughly tested for Banned Substances are at the lowest risk of contamination. For example, those passing the “NSF Certified for Sport” criteria.
2. Eleutherococcus senticosus is a fancy name for Ginseng, just as Geranium Stem is a seemingly innocent name for Methylhexaneamine (banned substance).
Banned substances can have multiple names. Although ginseng is not a banned substance, there have been instances where herbal ingredients, including ginseng have been cross-contaminated with ephedra (banned substance). Any kind of herbal ingredient is questionable, given the extent of processing and extraction needed to make them into powders, extracts, etc. This process also introduces chances for contamination.
The efficacy behind the use of these ingredients in sport is debatable. There is no conclusive evidence, and the research that is available has not been standardized and is often biased (foreign studies appearing in less than credible publications).
3. If choosing to use a dietary supplement such as Creatine, research has shown that only high quality forms should be utilized, and in servings that are specific to the individual. Not as one size fits all. A sports dietician should be consulted to help determine appropriateness and proper usage.
Creatine and other ingredients can be presented in supplements as a “Blend” or “Proprietary Blend”. In this form, you don’t know how much of each ingredient is included, or even what all of the ingredients are. If you’re taking the risk of using a supplement with the goal of benefiting from a particular ingredient, a “blend” is an unsafe and improper way for it to be consumed. Because ingredients like Creatine are relatively expensive, using a “Blend” is a way for a supplement manufacturer to keep costs down and still target athletes looking for the benefits of Creatine.
Remember, supplement companies do not have to prove their products are safe for humans to use or if their product even improves performance. They may make claims and provide assurances that their product is safe, certified, etc., but no matter what, the athlete is strictly responsible for ensuring no prohibited substance enters his or her system.
Every once in a while you see companies catch like wildfire in the middle of summer; Chocolate Milk Refuel, in the past couple of days, has been one of those companies. Their trending started with a post on Facebook from USA Swimming when they stated that there was a big announcement that included Chocolate Milk Refuel. Seven hours ago, the replenishing drink company announced that they are the official beverage of USA Swimming on their Facebook page:
We’re very excited and proud to announce that lowfat chocolate milk is official refuel beverage for Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, IRONMAN, Challenged Athletes Foundation, USA Swimming and Life Time Fitness this year! – Chocolate Milk Refuel
In reviewing some of their latest announcements, it appears that Chloe Sutton, Ricky Berens, Peter Vankerkaay, Dara Torres and a slew of other elite athletes (i.e. Apolo Ohno).
So, what is Chocolate Milk Refuel? Take a look at what their saying on their Facebook info page:
Whether you’re a gym rat, power walker, varsity athlete, competition swimmer or even a coach/trainer, we know that if you get active then you’re committed to getting the most of any practice or workout. But is there more you could be doing to refuel your body post-workout? When it comes to performing at the highest level, an athlete’s post-game recovery routine is just as important as their pre-game prep. Experts suggest there’s a two-hour recovery window—the best time to refuel and rehydrate your body to keep it in top shape and help you get back in the game.
With the athlete roster and well-planned launch through social media (and their red carpet event), their momentum will keep rolling for the time being and we’ll keep an eye out on the progress they make in the meantime.
BY Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, RD, CSSD
Here are some of the top questions I’ve gotten from my readers.
Question: Is fruit juice a good beverage for a young swimmer who is trying to gain weight?
Answer: Fruit juice is a good carbohydrate source and a high calorie drink, so it is good for swimmers who are trying to gain weight. Look for 100% fruit juice and not fruit drinks which contain added sugars. Real fruit juice has simple carbohydrates (natural sugar) and vitamins and minerals so it is a nutrient-rich beverage. Fruit juices with the highest calories include grape juice and pineapple juice (152 and 132 calories per cup of unsweetened, natural juice) while orange and apple juice contain less calories (114 and 115 calories per cup, respectively). Fruit juice is best used as a recovery beverage or with meals. Some people don't recommend drinking a high glycemic index carbohydrate (like fruit juice) right before a workout because it might raise blood sugar and insulin levels which might affect performance. However, as a post-workout beverage, it could help the muscles restore glycogen rapidly to get ready for the next day’s workout.
You might also try some of newer fruit juice blends (cran-grape, berry-orange, etc.), but read the nutrition facts panel to find a juice without added sugars. You can always make your own juice with a home blender. Toss in strawberries, apple slices, bananas, or orange sections and find a favorite mix for homemade juice.
Question: My son has tried two different recovery products for after swim practice, and we are trying to figure out which one is the best for him. One is a chocolate milk product and the other a fruit smoothie with protein. Is there an ideal carbohydrate-to-protein ratio that we should use to evaluate products?
Answer: I don't look at a specific carb-to-protein ratio because the science isn't that clear cut, but what is pretty well established is that the protein sources of whey and casein appear to be best for muscle repair and growth. So, I would give the edge to the chocolate milk product containing both whey and casein; the juice has slightly more protein but its source soy. Whey protein seems to have the edge for muscle protein synthesis because it is rich in the amino acid leucine, which may be a trigger for muscle protein growth (soy isn’t bad; it might just take longer to achieve results compared to whey). Research also shows that 20 grams of protein is probably the maximum needed for muscle recovery so assuming your son drinks the entire bottle of chocolate milk recovery product (the label shows that 8 ounces is a serving, but the bottle contains 2 servings) he will get 20 grams of high quality protein.
The best answer is that both are good products, so switch it up and use both to help restore muscle glycogen (fruit smoothie) and milk product for muscle repair. By changing up the drink you can avoid “taste fatigue” by using only one recovery beverage. As with any commercial product, it is good to check the nutrition facts panel and check the ingredient list to make sure it doesn’t contain any banned substances or an added protein source that may be from a banned substance. Products sold as dietary supplements, as opposed to foods, are more risky for athletes because they do not have any regulation from the Food and Drug Administration.
Question: I have a bet with my daughter. She says swimmers only sweat in land training, not when they are in the pool. I say she sweats in the pool but she might not notice it.
Answer: You are right. She does sweat during a long workout in the pool. When you add in the warm pool water and high humidity surrounding the pool water, she can sweat a lot in the pool. Hydrate to avoid more than a 1-2% loss of body weight during a workout to improve performance and stay healthy.
Chris Rosenbloom is the sports dietitian for Georgia State University Athletic Department and is the editor of recently published Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Professionals, 5th edition, published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2012).