Swimmers lunch box
– what should we pack during swim meets?
The swimmers lunch box is normally the most important thing that goes into the cooler box with the water and the protein shake which the swimmer takes at the end of their events. The issue with a lunch box and a young swimmer (in our case 8 years old) is to keep it interesting and nutritious.
We are preparing for another 2-day swim meet and the issue surrounding the swimmers lunch box came up in discussion with my husband again. We know that there are food and snacks sold at the pool’s kiosk. It is normally takeaway food which does not fall withing the normal eating habits of our swimmer so we prefer to avoid it and stick to what we normally eat on race day.
Club galas versus age group galas
During club galas, the food on offer is normally a bit healthier but still revolves around hamburgers, chips, pancakes, sausage rolls and the likes thereof. We live on the East coast of South Africa, where a large Indian community resides and at some galas the aromatic smells of Biryani and rice, samosas, and other Indian cuisines, fills the air around the pool. These foods are high in spices and for fear of an upset tummy which is not used to spicy food, we also avoid these delicious foods on offer.
It is times like these, that Google becomes swim mom’s best friend as let’s face it, none of us are qualified nutritionists, yet we are required to have the knowledge to pack swimmers lunch boxes for the ever-so-hungry swimmers.
To top all of that off, we also face issues with heat in our area – it occurred twice now that our swimmer suffered from dehydration – in 2014 during an extremely hot event over 2 days in Richards Bay and again this year in January at an age group gala. Following the galas at night time she woke up feeling nauseous, aching head and an unquenchable thirst.
We sorted these symptoms out with some Rehidrat, an oral electrolyte mixture. It is, however, not nice to go through these symptoms with your child and we now work towards preventing dehydration rather than fixing the problems.
At first, I was perplexed by this issue as we take more than 2 liters of water and a protein shake (she drinks this after the last event) to every gala. Then it struck me – our child only drinks water and milk. She recently started to add pure apple juice to the list, but in general, where other children get extra electrolytes from their energy drinks and cold drinks, Monica does not take anything else but water in during swim meets.
This resulted in a quick discussion with our GP and she confirmed my suspicion. We now go to the swim meets better prepared to avoid dehydration but it surely is a learning curve.
Besides the fluids, Monica cannot eat too much chocolate. We see some kids consume slabs of chocolate before races which always amaze me as with distance events you surely do not need sugar as the source of energy but rather longer term energy in the form of glycogen in the muscles. (I learned this from a dietician that worked out a diet for me to ensure sufficient long-term energy during my triathlon days in my twenties.)
Monica is asthmatic and the cocoa in chocolate stimulates phlegm production which leads to sinus, post nasal drip which then result in bronchitis and before we know it, we are back in the hospital with pneumonia. As a result, we keep the allergens at bay and we are very strict about it.
Pack the swimmers lunch box based on events
Back to the swimmers lunch box – I found this article quite useful which speaks about smart swimming for swimmers on race day. I was delighted when I read the article to find that we were on the right track. Our eating plan (it is actually a lifestyle rather than an eating plan) starts a couple of days before race day as we need to build energy up depending on the distances Monica will race. Coming back to this weekend’s racing, we look at the following:
I would like to give an example and will use this weekend’s racing. We look at the following:
On Saturday 6 February she will swim in the afternoon from 15:00 pm 200 back, 50 free, 100 Breast and 100 free.
On Sunday 7 February, the events will be in the morning from 8:00 am – 200 IM, 100 Back, 200 Free and 200 Breast.
Using this example, you will note that the food needs to be different on the two days.
To start off breakfast will be a wholesome meal on Saturday as she swims in the afternoon. On Sunday, we will focus on a lighter meal as the swimming takes place in the morning.
Snacks and lunches – Saturday we can still do the 10 AM snack and fruit with a normal lunch but on Sunday snacks and lunches will have to be fast digesting food which gives immediate energy. Doing distance will also require the use of muscle glycogen so the nutrition through the week will come into play – i.e. low gi foods which we eat as part of our normal daily allowance will start working when it is needed most.
In the photo of the swimmers lunch box, you will note that we picked some favorites which include salad items (cucumber, cherry tomato etc). On this particular day, we did not pack a whole wheat roll as one has to be mindful of high fiber food so we took a normal white bread roll with protein on it. Breakfast biscuits with white cheese after the race (recovery) and a home made muffin during race day. We normally include some nuts and fruit in our cooler box and keep it all cold with ice packs. To keep it interesting a peanut butter snack bar surprised our little swimmer.
Special eating plans and swimming
At one of the swim meets a mom asked me if Monica (Mica is her nickname) is on a special eating plan. Initially, I thought she was joking as the child is eight and our pediatrician seriously warned us against diets for children under the age of 16. To quote her:
Children under the age of 16 should eat and drink everything as they are growing. Including full cream milk and the skin of chicken….
Fortunately, I just replied to the mom that she loves broccoli and spinach which is the truth. The swim mom continued the discussion relating to how swimmers should eat and I did not comment as we have other issues at hand when I put together the week’s meal plan. We follow a simple philosophy of two-thirds vegetable and one-third protein during non-racing weeks and when racing weekends are on the calendar we adjust as discussed above based on the distances set for race day.
Potato of any kind is a treat once in the week as we replace potato with sweet potato. I am sure this article will elicit a lot of comments and would love to hear what other swim moms are doing and we are open to advice or suggestions. We do not experiment with anything on race days but we will give it a try during the offseason to see if Monica likes it and during normal training to see if it has any effect on her.
What we do and the way we pack our swimmers lunch box seems to be working as our swimmer is never hungry, performs well over various distances and lately enjoyed extreme health regardless of the first 5 years where she was so sick and we spent endless days and nights in the hospital. Enjoy the racing this weekend!!
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