How to Fuel Your Workout: Carbs and the Glycemic Index (Coaches’ Corner, May 13, 2019)

admin Coaches' Corner

By Coach Kiersten, SR2.

The beginning of the season is the time to integrate new habits into one’s routine. As we learnt from Coach Jon last week, there is more to swimming than pool workouts; dryland and nutrition are also major contributors to success.

Nutrition is often overlooked because its results are not directly visible in relation to one’s training. However, the foods we eat fuel our body during workouts as well as during recovery. Therefore making good food choices is related to performance in the pool.

Carbohydrates and the Glycemic Index

The glycemic index is a measurement of how much a food raises blood sugar levels after consumption.

  • Low glycemic index foods will provide lasting energy for hours.
  • High glycemic index foods provide quick energy that cause a spike in blood sugar levels, otherwise known as a “sugar high”, followed by a sharp drop in blood sugar, otherwise known as a “crash”.

Low glycemic index foods should be the main source of carbohydrate intake throughout the day and should be consumed up to one hour prior to practice. This will provide a swimmer’s muscles with a steady flow of energy which will power them through a workout. In general, high glycemic index foods should not be consumed often because of their effect in raising blood sugar. For athletes, it can be argued that a small amount of a high glycemic index food can be reasonably consumed post-workout, as the sugar spike will replenish the muscles’ depleted energy stores.

With this in mind, try to plan your meals and snacks in advance so you are not caught off-guard and left to buy something on the run. Your body and your performance will thank you!

Here are some examples of low, medium and high glycemic index foods:

Low Glycemic Index – Consumed Usually

  • Sprouted Grain Bread (my favourite is Squirrely brand)
  • Sourdough Bread
  • Steel cut oats
  • Pasta (al dente)
  • Quinoa
  • Cantaloup/ Honeydew
  • Berries
  • Apples
  • Orange
  • Milks and dairy products (includes soy and almond milks)
  • Beans

Medium Glycemic Index – Consumed Sometimes

  • Whole Grain Wheat Bread
  • Instant/Large Flake/ Quick Oats
  • Basmati/Brown Rice
  • Couscous
  • Bananas (varies by ripeness)
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Pineapple
  •  Ready made bean soups

High Glycemic Index – Consumed Only Post Work-out

  • White or Whole Wheat Bread
  • Jasmine/White Rice
  • Watermelon
  •  Fruit Juices
  • Rice Milk

Here’s a sample meal plan with a low glycemic index:

  • Breakfast – steel cut oats with fruit, nuts and milk/non-dairy alternatives OR scrambled eggs on sprouted grain bread
  • Recess – fruit OR veggies and hummus
  • Lunch – Bean and veggie salad OR a sandwich on sprouted grain bread OR whole grain pasta and sauce AND fruits or veggies
  • Pre-workout Snack – unsweetened yogurt (or non-dairy alternatives) with fruit OR cheese and whole grain crackers OR sprouted wheat peanut butter sandwich
  • Post-workout Snack – milk or chocolate milk (or non-dairy alternatives) OR granola bar
  • Dinner – a balanced meal (½ veggies, ¼ starch, ¼ protein)