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There’s a famous comparison made by Michael Phelps, unarguably the greatest swimmer of all time, where he describes his body as being a “high-performance car”. The point? “You’re not going to put low-grain in a high-performance car, you’re going to put the best kind of gasoline you can into that car to make sure it runs as smooth as possible and as best as possible” 1 Youtube. n.d. This Is What Michael Phelps’ Diet Was Like During Training. [online] Available here. were his exact words.
Those words say a lot and that’s why in today’s article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the best supplements for swimmers to ensure that you’re able to grease that high-performance engine of yours and train at optimal levels so that you can get the best results in the pool and swim as fast as possible.
After all, optimizing your nutrition is one of the easiest ways to maximize your training performance and racing potential which in the end will result in you becoming a better and faster swimmer. So why wouldn’t you want to do that?
But first, let’s take a look at a few benefits that supplements hold for us as swimmers and high-performance aquatic athletes?.
Benefits of supplements for swimmers
Better performance in the water: The usage of supplements can lead to better overall performance in the pool by supplying you with adequate nutrients that fuel performance such as electrolytes from electrolyte powders which helps your body to function optimally, carbohydrates from energy bars or sports drinks which provide energy, and more protein for added muscle growth and recovery.
All of these little details can help you to perform better each workout which in the long run will lead to better and faster swimming times in the water.
Faster recovery: There are a couple of different supplements that you can take to ensure added and optimized recovery after your workouts (I cover these below). These supplements will help you to recover fast enough so that you can bring everything you have to each practice to train as hard as possible.
And needless to say, if you’re able to train at your peak levels each workout you’ll make substantial progress over the course of the season, both in training and in competition so that you can become a better and faster swimmer.
More training time in the long run: Certain supplements can help you to stay healthy and ensure that your body is functioning properly year-round. This will cut away time that you’d have to spend outside of the water for being sick or not feeling well.
Over the course of the season, this can lead to big improvements in your swimming since there won’t be any need to take time off from the pool and you can continue training to maximize your swimming results.
Time saver: Other than all of the nice performance benefits that come with supplements, they also save a ton of time, especially during busy periods of our lives. Certain supplements can help you to spend less time in the kitchen by providing you all of the same nutrients in a single scoop which you can flush down in 5 minutes.
And for those heading to morning practices, you can get some extra sleep. Just pack your swimming backpack the night before with an energy bar and some sports or carbohydrate powders and head off to practice as soon as you’re dressed. You can quickly drink the mix while you’re in the car on your way to another hard practice.
8 Best supplements for swimmers to ensure results in the pool
Here are the best supplements for swimmers-
- Whey protein supplements.
- Sports drink supplements.
- Electrolyte supplements.
- Energy gels or drink supplements.
- Energy bars.
- Recovery drink supplements.
- Multivitamin supplements.
- Creatine supplements.
Whey protein supplements for swimmers
As competitive swimmers, we spend a ton of time training, both in the pool and in the gym. That’s why whey protein is one of my go-to supplements as a competitive swimmer myself.
But before we get more into the functions and benefits of whey protein, I think it’s important that you understand the function of raw protein molecules themselves.
You see, when we work out we usually have some form of external force applying resistance onto our muscles, whether it may be the water we swim in, our own bodyweight from doing exercises like pull-ups, or maybe the resistance created by lifting weights.
This resistance creates little micro-tears in the muscle tissue which then needs to be repaired in order for you to become stronger and also recover for the next time you work out. These tears are also the reason you may feel sore after a good workout in case you were wondering.
Anyway, the point is they need to be repaired. And can you guess what micro-nutrient is needed for this? Yup, it’s protein.
Protein plays many roles in your body, but the most important one to us as athletes is the repair and growth of our body’s muscle tissues. And this is where protein supplements like whey protein come in handy- for optimizing that repair, recovery, and growth process that will, in the end, allow us to become better and faster swimmers.
You see, naturally, we will be consuming protein from foods we eat throughout the day- some foods like meat contain more protein than other foods such as vegetables. The problem? A lot of athletes and swimmers struggle to reach a good and sufficient protein intake each day to reach that optimal recovery and growth level.
That level is determined by your bodyweight. A lot of experts argue on exactly what the right ratio is but generally it’s going to be between 0.8 to 1.1 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
And from personal experience I can say that it can be quite challenging to reach that amount every day without taking some form of supplement, especially on those busy days where I don’t have a lot of time to cook.
Luckily there are lots of protein supplements available that we can use to boost our protein intake and in return become stronger, build more muscle, and recover at an optimal rate so that we can continue training at a high level.
Personally, I like the whey protein powders since I can mix them into a shake with some fruits and oats, but you can also choose to go with some protein bars if you’d prefer that.
As a swimmer, I like the IM Performance Nutrition Whey Protein Powder, it’s specifically made for swimmers, contains 15 servings per tub with each serving providing you with a full 20 grams of protein which is quite a lot. If you’d like to, you can check it out on SwimOutlet by clicking here.
I also like the GU Roctane Protein Recovery Mix, it’s a more advanced formula and also contains 20 grams of quality protein per serving. You can also check it out on SwimOutlet by clicking here if you’d wish to.
For protein bars I’d go with the Bonk Breaker Protein bars, they taste really good, contain 15 grams of protein per bar, and come in a well priced 12 pack option which you can once again check out on Swimoutlet by clicking here.
Sports drink supplements for swimmers
Next, we have sports drinks. This is another supplement that I personally use and would recommend my fellow swimmers to take as well.
There are different types of sports drinks that you can take, with each performing a different function for you and your training to help you become the best swimmer that you can be.
Some sports drinks contain a carbohydrate and protein combination, these are best for after your workout as it will improve post-workout performance and recovery.
Then we have sports drinks that contain branched amino acids, also known as BCAA’s which also aid in improving performance and recovery after exercise.
Then lastly, we have in-workout sports drinks which is my favorite type, these help to improve performance and prevent dehydration by supplying you with nutrients that aid you in staying on top throughout your workout so that you’ll never completely tire out and can train at your max.
For this section we’ll only be focusing on the third type of sports drink- the in-workout drink since we’ll be covering some recovery drinks later on in this article.
By having a sports drink within your workout you’ll be able to replenish valuable nutrients that aid in maintaining performance, such as certain electrolytes and carbohydrates which will also help your endurance to stay in peak condition.
My favorite in-workout sports drinks include the Gatorade Endurance Formula Powder, it can easily be mixed into some water to create a great sports drink that will supply you with electrolytes and carbohydrates to power you through your workout. You can check it out on SwimOutlet by clicking here.
Then secondly, I also really like the Fluid Performance Drink Mix, it contains quality carbohydrates that will fuel your training as well as electrolytes. You can check it out on SwimOutlet by clicking here. It’s quite popular among swimmers and can be used during workouts or before a big race.
Electrolyte powder supplements for swimmers
As mentioned above, sports drinks contain their own set of electrolytes. So why take another electrolyte supplement? Well, in reality, there is no need to take another electrolyte supplement, but these can make great and more “lightweight” sports drinks on their own, plus they have a far greater concentration of electrolytes in their mix than a standard sports drink which can be desirable after a hard workout since you would have probably sweated out a lot of the electrolytes in your body.
That said, you can choose to take a sports drink supplement on its own, which will be adequate or you can also pick up an electrolyte drink for those days where you feel like drinking something else during training or for after those sweaty gym or dry-land sessions we do as swimmers.
Some of the functions of electrolytes include regulating nerve and muscle function which is important for any athlete, hydrating the body for optimal performance, and helping to balance blood acidity and pressure as well as rebuilding damaged tissue in your body.
Either way, the decision is up to whether you’d like to use a combination of the two or only one type. Alternatively, you can also test out which works better for you by trying both at some point or another.
Anyway, for those swimmers interested in some good electrolyte powders I recommend the IM Performance Nutrition Essential Electrolytes Mix, which you can check out on SwimOutlet by clicking here or the Skratch Labs Hydration Mix, which is another good electrolyte and sports drink mix than you can take, you can view it on SwimOutlet by clicking here.
Energy gel supplements for swimmers
Having something that replenishes energy and nutrients during your workout is great but what about before training or a big race? This is where I find energy gels to come in quite handy.
These energy gels contain vital nutrients and energizing substances such as caffeine to help you stay focused and strong during a tough workout or before a big race.
They’re easy on your stomach and can be quickly consumed without feeling heavy or bloated. Personally, I like to pop one before my races. This way I can be assured that my body has all of the nutrients and minerals it requires to function at an optimal level and to provide great performance in the pool that will result in some fast swimming.
On other days, I like to keep these with me during those long swimming workouts or maybe on days where I have back to back swimming and dry-land or gym workouts. This keeps my fueled and fired up until I can finally sit down and have a healthy and big meal to eat to help replenish all of those calories I burned during my workout.
My favorite energy gel supplement is the GU Energy Gel, it’s specifically formulated to energize your body during your workout and to keep you alert, active, and powerful. You can check it out on SwimOutlet by clicking here.
Alternatively, you can check out the Huma Chia Energy Gel pack, this is a super high-quality energy gel with a natural combination of ingredients to provide you with all of the nutrients you need during or before a big workout or race. You can check it out on SwimOutlet by clicking here.
Energy bars for swimmers
So far we’ve covered a lot of liquid type supplements- powders that get mixed with water or into a shake, energy gels, and so on and so forth. But what about something a bit more solid and concrete that will fill you up a bit more while tasting good and providing you with essential nutrients required for optimal performance in the water?
This is where energy bars are great. These bars are filled with valuable nutrients required for optimal performance as well as being loaded with lots of quality carbohydrates that provide slow-release energy making them perfect before a race or tough and long swimming workout.
To me personally, I know there’s nothing like refueling with a good energy bar after a tough race in order to prepare for my next while knowing that I’ll be ready because of the training I’ve put in as well as this tasty energy bar supplying me with essential nutrients required for performance in the pool.
Other than that, you can also have an energy bar for breakfast before an early morning practice since it will provide you with all the necessary nutrients without making you feel too heavy, giving you enough time to digest the nutrients before your workout.
Energy bars are also a great and easy way to replenish glycogen stores directly after your workout, which is always important.
My favorite energy bar for sports performance is by far the Science In Sport (SIS) GO Energy Bars. These taste really good, are nutritious, easy to digest, and contain a lot of carbohydrates to help me fuel up during my workout or before my next race. They are also available in a ton of different flavors which is great. You can check them out on SwimOutlet by clicking here.
Recovery drink supplements for swimmers
Along with whey protein, there are also other types of recovery drinks that we can take to speed up and optimize our recovery between workouts. These supplements can help you to maximize the results from your training by helping to rebuild and replenish your body as soon as possible.
Over the course of a season this can lead to some big improvements since you’ll always be ready to train or race hard because your body will be able to recover optimally.
You see, when we workout we use a lot of the nutrients in our body, we sweat out electrolytes, and even create little micro-tears in our muscles. These supplements can help to “fix” us up as fast as possible by providing us with exactly all the essential nutrients we need to recover.
Personally, I prefer the SIS Rego Rapid Recovery Drink Mix. This supplement has everything you need to optimize your recovery and recover as fast as possible between workouts all while tasting quite good. You can check it out on SwimOutlet by clicking here if you wish to give it a try.
You can also try the BCAA Recovery Mix by IM Performance Nutrition, this one is designed specifically for swimmers and also provides some great results. You can also check it out on SwimOutlet by clicking here.
Multi-vitamin supplements for swimmers
Throughout the year, with its different seasons- both natural ones and our personal seasons including busy times at school or work, hard training blocks, and the racing and competition months, our immunity isn’t always the same. Sometimes it’s higher and sometimes it’s lower.
During the times when it’s on the lower end we are prone to getting sick or not feeling well. This will cause us to have to take time off from the pool which will result in less training time and inevitably lower results when the time to race comes.
We can, however, give our immune system a boost by supplementing with multi-vitamins that will help to keep us healthy and strong so that we won’t get sick or have to take time off from racing.
I recommend NUUN vitamins, it’s an easy to consume tablet which you can dissolve by mixing in a glass of water. Each tablet is packed with 11 vitamins and minerals and will keep you healthy throughout the year. It’s available in both a 4 pack and 8 pack. You can check it out on SwimOutlet by clicking here.
Creatine supplements for swimmers
Creatine is one of the most researched and safest supplements out there and is used by many swimmers around the world to maximize their performance and achieve the best results in the pool- both in training and in races.
Creatine is a substance that naturally occurs in the muscles and enhances performances by aiding muscles during short and intense activities, such as a fast sprint set or a race for example.
There are also, however, side-effects that can occur if you don’t utilize the supplement properly such as kidney stones or the way your body naturally produces creatine.
That said, you should be fine as long as you stick to the recommended dose of about 2g to 5g per day. Also remember to drink more water when supplementing with creatine since it will cause more water to go to your muscles in order to support enhanced performance when exercising.
You may also gain some weight since your body will be holding more water, but don’t worry, it won’t slow you down. In fact, it’ll help you to swim faster by enhancing performance output.
I recommend the Optimum Nutrition Creatine Powder, it’s inexpensive and the brand is very trustworthy. You can check it out on Amazon by clicking here.
Staying Safe: Knowing What You’re Putting Into Your Body
With all that said, I think it’s clear that supplements can be pretty awesome by helping you to increase your performance in the water and save you some time every once in a while when you need it. But you have to, however, still be careful and be aware that there can be risks and consequences if you’re not careful about which supplements you take and from which brands you buy them.
As you probably know, there are regulations set by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as to what supplements and substances athletes can take and what supplements they can’t. Chances are your country also has its own anti-doping agency that works in line with the regulations set by WADA to ensure that you aren’t cheating your fellow competitors, whether purposely or not.
Keep in mind, all of the supplements on this list are safe to take and comply with the regulations set by WADA.
The problems come when you buy from other brands (not saying they are bad, just saying you’re going to have to check that they are legit and compliant) or try out other types of supplements, which once again- you can do as long as you ensure that you are actually allowed to take them.
That said, unless you are a really high-level or professional swimmer, you’re probably not going to get tested. That, however, is not to say that you shouldn’t comply with the rules and keep true to good sportsmanship towards both yourself and your fellow competitors.
Supplements are a great way to enhance your performance in the pool on a day to day basis and in doing so achieve greater results over the course of the swimming season. It’s, however, important to remember that these are here to “supplement” your diet and not to replace it.
There are lots of other nutrients that we require from food as well as actually receiving the bulk of our calories which will be converted into energy our bodies use to train and work hard in the pool and gym to become better and faster swimmers.
Anyway, I hope this article helped you to find a few good supplements that you can incorporate into your diet to achieve better results in the pool and optimize your racing and training. If you’d like to you can check out my blog for more awesome swimming articles and tips. See you there!
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