Ditch sugary drinks to improve swimmer’s performance

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Earlier this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Heart Association issued a joint statement endorsing public health regulations aimed at reducing the amount of sugary drinks children consume.

Sugary drinks can range from soft drinks, fruit boxes, sports drinks, energy drinks, flavored waters … to name a few. How many of these are a part of your child’s normal, daily routine?

If you’re like most American families, sugary drinks are probably the norm. Fruit juice of some sort for breakfast, lemonade or soft drinks with lunch, Gatorade after school while playing outside. It’s easy to let consumption get out of control with so many tasty, well-marketed options!

How water became our first choice

Posted on May 2 2019 by

At our house, I am happy to say that my children’s sugary drink consumption is relatively low, at least right now. Our beverage of choice is water. The kids have a glass of orange juice or milk with breakfast, but then it’s water the rest of the day. During peak training season, they will add a Gatorade and/or recovery drink to the mix (more on this later).

But water is always our go-to drink.

For me, this hasn’t always been the case. I grew up drinking (and loving) Coca-Cola. The summer before I became pregnant with our first child, I noticed that I was constantly thirsty. I’d drink a Coke at lunch, be thirsty. I’d reach for another can. And I’d still be thirsty.

I hopped online for a little research and quickly discovered I was dehydrated and that each Coke was only making it worse. So I immediately began increasing my water intake and limiting my Coke to one per day at lunch.

That was more than 16 years ago and it still holds true today.

When our firstborn became a toddler, we noticed he’d obsessively drink pear juice. He’d suck that down like there was no tomorrow. But, hey, it’s fruit juice, right? Where’s the harm in that?

I learned at our next pediatrician’s visit, when the doctor asked how much juice he was drinking per day. When I told him how much he was drinking, he cautioned that my son should only have 6 ounces a day and that he was getting no benefit from the juice.

We eliminated it almost entirely, save a special occasion.

That set us on our course of favoring water above all other drinks (except milk, of course).

It’s ideal, really. We can get water just about anywhere we go, when dining out we save money by ordering water instead of other drinks, and now the kids prefer it over just about anything else.


Nutrition, sugary drinks & your athlete


The AAP and AHA’s new recommendations come as child obesity continues to be a major issue in our country. But if you have an athlete in your home, then you should already be concerned with how many sugary drinks your child is consuming (as well as sugary foods).

Nutrition is as important to your child’s training and performance as rest and recovery. Without proper nutrition, your athlete’s body won’t have the adequate fuel for training and won’t recover well after intense workouts.

If your child is consuming sugary drinks regularly during the day, chances are she’s not adequately hydrating her body for practice. Those sugary drinks don’t hydrate the body at all. An athlete needs water to properly hydrate.

The same sugary drinks are probably filling up your child, leaving little room or desire to consume healthier carbs and proteins that are needed to provide fuel to the body.


Commit to ditch sugary drinks


This season, make the commitment to improve your child’s nutrition. Commit to significantly reducing or eliminating all sugary drinks. Eliminate energy drinks that offer absolutely no value. Avoid fruit juices, except perhaps a small glass with breakfast. Replace juice boxes with water.

If you don’t think your child will be willing to give up all sugary drinks, then aim to reduce consumption significantly. Have your child choose one drink she’d like to keep, then eliminate the rest. Reduce consumption to one sugary drink per day or limit those drinks to weekends (when there isn’t a swim meet) only.


Refueling and recovery


Allow a couple of exceptions if your athlete practices more than an hour each day. Swimmers who train more than an hour should include a sports drink like Gatorade as part of their workout. Water alone isn’t enough to replace electrolytes and sugars that are depleted through intense, longer training sessions.

Within 30 minutes of those training sessions, your athlete needs to consume a recovery drink. Timing is essential here. In the 30 minutes after your swimmer finishes practice, your swimmer’s muscles are repairing at a faster level than normal. By consuming a recovery drink high in carbohydrates and protein during this window, those muscles will repair and rebuild even more quickly.

Why does this matter? When an athlete is pushing her body to the limit (or beyond) each and every day, every little bit counts. No doubt, your swimmer’s body is exhausted after each workout. Promoting better recovery from those intense workouts will prepare your swimmer’s body to attack the next practice.

Chocolate milk is touted as an excellent recovery drink in numerous studies. (Check out this presentation from USA Swimming on the benefits of chocolate milk.) The main reason is that chocolate milk provides the right amount of protein and carbs, yet is easy to find and affordable. Plus, it tastes great.

Be a role model for your athlete


Take the commitment to ditch sugary drinks one step further: Be a role model for your children. Replace that 32-ounce soft drink from the local convenience store with an insulated bottle filled with water.

When buying groceries, don’t purchase sugary drinks that you know will tempt you and your swimmer. Order a glass of water when dining out as a family.

Make it fun and save that money you would have spent on sugary drinks at the grocery store and restaurants. Instead, use it to let the family splurge on another treat once a month that everyone can enjoy.

If you’ve given up sugary drinks already, leave us a comment below with your tips and how it’s helped you or your child.

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Author – Laura Healy

Laura Healy is a former collegiate swimmer, current swim team parent, and swim coach who’s passionate about sharing her love of competitive swimming with anyone who’ll listen. You can read more from Laura at goggles&flipturns 

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