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How Many Carbs Should I Eat?

A Simple Guide to Carb Loading

While carbohydrates are a primary fuel source for a training body, many swimmers consume far too many carbs than necessary. If you find yourself asking, “How many carbs should I eat to stay energized?”, check out the simple guide below. After all, sound eating habits lead to fruitful training sessions.

Broccoli and noodles in a bowl.

A meal replete with complex carbs and protein will leave you feeling satisfied for longer, and won’t deplete as quickly as a simple carb meal.

Because every swimmer’s body and metabolism is different, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all “magic number” of carbs that automatically satisfies any and everyone. According to a study conducted by the Dietitians of Canada in 2000, most athletes function well with a ratio of carbs that falls somewhere between 6 – 10 grams/kg of body weight (or approximately 3 – 5 grams/pound). For example, an athlete that weighs 130 pounds (or 59 kg) should be consuming between 350 and 600 grams of carbs per day.

Of course, this estimation is affected by a swimmer’s age, gender, and training environment. Some high level swimmers, such as endurance swimmers and triathletes, require much higher carbohydrate levels. If this is the case, dieticians recommend striving toward the highest recommended amount – 9 to 10 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight/day – in order to maintain high energy and recovery levels.

Yet, just as every swimmer isn’t built the same, not every carb source is used the same way by our bodies. If you’re trying to balance your carb intake, consider the type of carbohydrates you’re ingesting. While simple carbs, such as white breads, pastas, and candy, give you a quick energy boost, they burn off quickly and can leave you feeling depleted shortly after eating. Complex carbs, on the other hand, are digested more slowly and can keep your energy levels stable throughout training. Good examples of complex carbs include multi grain breads, whole wheat pasta, legumes and dark vegetables, like broccoli.

While reaching for foods high in carbohydrates at your next meal, don’t forget that a balanced diet – one that incorporates lean protein and healthy fats as well – will give you the right kind of fuel to tackle any challenging workout. Luckily, most veggies offer both carbohydrates and protein in one source. Not to mention minerals and vitamins galore.

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