What Carbohydrates Should You Eat During Your Diet?

by SwimSwam 4

February 22nd, 2016 Lifestyle, Masters, Opinion

Courtesy of P2 Life, a SwimSwam partner. 

Your dietary choices as a swimmer can give you an edge, or sabotage all of the hours you spent training. So it’s important to pay attention to what you eat and when you eat. This is especially true with carbohydrates because they make up the bulk of a swimmer’s diet and fuel. From no-carb diets, to carbo-loading strategies, it’s hard to know what is most beneficial to your performance diet. Take a look at our recommendations below:

Simple vs Complex Carbohydrates

So here is the trick. First you need to know the difference between these two types of carbs, as this will really help you determine which carbohydrates you should be eating and when.

Simple Carbs: Are sugars. They are made up of 1 or 2 sugar molecules and are broken down and absorbed really quickly by the body.

There are great for the following:

  • Great for short training sessions or when you need a quick energy boost.

Kinds simple sugars that make up simple carbs:

  • Glucose, Fructose, Galactose, Sucrose (table sugar), and Lactose (from milk).

Examples of foods that have a good amount of simple carbohydrates: table sugars, honey, candy, soft drinks (sodas), jams/jellies, syrups and many sports drinks (although some also have complex carbs too which, we will get to now).

Complex Carbs: are made up of many sugar molecules. Think of them as a bundle of grapes or a necklace made of sugars. They are also known as dietary starch and usually contain good amounts of fibre. Complex carbs are broken down and absorbed by the body at a slower rate than simple carbs, so they provide the body a constant source of energy for a longer period of time.

They are great for the following:

  • Medium to long periods of training. Unlike simple carbohydrates, they are not good for a fast energy boost, but rather for a slow, constant energy supply.

Examples of complex carbohydrates:

  •  Green vegetables, fruits, potatoes, pasta, beans, lentils, and some sports drinks.

Let’s dive into each main meal, giving you an idea of what to eat when.

At Breakfast

This first meal of your day is important to start you off on the right foot. You need a constant supply of energy throughout the day so we need to focus, ideally, on more complex carbohydrates. Eat a healthy mix of whole grains like whole wheat toast, or oatmeal. By starting with this substantial carb foundation, you can add in some healthy protein choices like a fruit salad with plain yogurt, hard boiled egg, avocadoes, peanut butter or a little scoop of a protein shake (not too much as it might make you feel heavy in the water).

At Lunch

Lunch is also ideally a complex carb meal, maybe with some simple carbs thrown in (if you are feeling super tired and need some quick energy). If you’re pressed for time, grab a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread. Change up the meats to get your protein intake, but stay away from empty carbs like white bread. If you’ve got more time, enjoy a piece of grilled chicken with your favorite whole wheat pasta or a side of brown rice, broccoli and carrots.

For Dinner

Just because you’re finished with the day, it doesn’t mean you can load up on unhealthy carb choices like enriched (refined) pasta, or ice cream. Continue making healthy choices for dinner and your body will thank you the next morning. This is especially crucial if you have a meet the following day. Choose a plate of whole wheat pasta with lean protein, and a bunch of vegetables. Another option is brown rice, salmon and asparagus. Add in a baked potato for added carbs and some vegetables for a healthy, nutritious side.

And Snacks?

You’re going to need a constant supply of carbs throughout the day if you’re doing more than 90 minutes of exercise at a time. This is the amount of time most swimmers can go before depleting their glycogen stores and need to refuel. Examples of a snack could be eggs with whole grain toast, oranges, or whole wheat crackers with cheese is also a good quick snack that won’t weigh you down.

During a Workout

This is where you need a mix of both complex and simple carbohydrates. Great examples are some sports drinks out there that have a mixture of both, and a little bit of protein (before and during a workout are great times).

To Conclude

For most meals we recommend that you mainly focus on complex carbs. Keep your simple carbs for those times when you are super low on energy or your trainings are very short during the day.

About P2Life

P2Life is family owned, performance-based, nutritional supplement company that was designed for swimmers, by swimmers, to protect health and promote performance. P2Life takes great care in ensuring that every batch of their performance line is tested to be free of banned and illegal substances. Even though P2Life products were the preferred choice for over 40% of the USA Men’s Olympic Swim team during the London Olympics, it is not just for Olympians. It is also the preferred choice for the top high school, collegiate and masters swimmers across the globe.

P2Life was founded by Tim Shead, a Masters Swimming Hall of Fame Inductee and 42x World Record Holder, and co-founded by Michael Shead, who was a 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 has a strong e-commerce platform, which allows them to spend less time and funds on retail stores, and dedicate more time to the swimming community.

A Proven Track Record:

  • Over 40% of the USA Men’s Olympic Swim Team were taking P2Life products during the London Olympics. The athletes brought back 12 medals, seven of which were gold.
  • P2Life Masters Swimmers have over 700 World Records to their name.
  • Michael Andrew, age group phenomenon, has been taking P2Life products since 2012. He now has over 75 NAG’s to his name.

Follow P2Life on Twitter Here 

Follow P2Life on Facebook Here

Kerksic, C., Harvey T., Stout J., et al. “International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Nutrient timing.” J Intl Soc Sports Nutr. 2008;17.
Courtesy of  P2Life, a SwimSwam ad partner.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

2 Comment threads
2 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
4 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Gary P

Not one mention of fresh fruit in a nutrition article on carbohydrates for athletes? What gives?


I was going to comment the same thing. None of the sample meals have fruits or vegetables. Relying on starch and meat alone will not end well for an athlete.

The Screaming Viking!

well, relying on meat alone might.


Thanks for the feedback and yes made those corrections. It was mentioned here and there but made the changes so it is much clearer.

Don't want to miss anything?

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive our latest updates!