Eat to Combat Pre-Race Anxiety

The State meet for most states is scheduled at the end of the month of May, and while everyone, hope to drop sometimes, grab some medals and qualify for nationals through the immense hard work pre-season; Food is often the part that is ignored.

Many follow a nutrition program and abide by it to the ‘T’ during training sessions, but there are most swimmers who would just not want to eat much during meets.

Stress Before the Race

There is obviously a certain amount of pressure to perform better. For most this goes in lines with expectations from coaches, parents and the swimmer him/herself. Then there is pressure to hold the reputation if one is a gold medalist/ record holder already and a wee bit of nervousness just looking at the competitors. All of this adds a great deal of stress just before the races.

Fight/ Flight Response

It is said that a slight degree of stress before something important is essential to incline focus, but there are not so positive effects of taking in too much stress. We have the adrenal glands over our kidneys that are set on a drive to produce stress/catabolic hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and nor-adrenaline that are responsible for the fight/ flight response.

Stress Causes Fatigue

Stress consumes energy. The heart rate racing, the body getting warmer, sweating before the race are all common signs, but all of these consume energy. This energy is brought about by the above-mentioned hormones who have a common feature of causing breakdown of stored fuels.  So assuming you grabbed a small snack an hour before the race, which would pretty much be exhausted taking care of your energy needs due to the stress you took before the race. This is one of the reasons why the last 25-15 m of the race are often tiresome.

Nutrition Strategies to Prevent ‘Finish’ Fatigue

Stress before a race is inevitable and also necessary. Most who get too stressed often avoid food -that drains them off the energy as well. Many complain that eating makes them feel nauseas, heavy, bloated and most swimmers throw up too.

But there is a process of tackling this issue.

It is a routine that has to be formed gradually over training trials and district/club meets to finally follow a food and supplement protocol at important meets like states and nationals.

The key is to eat every 1-1.5h before the race. The amount of food is not as important as the quality of food is. Swimmers should let their tummy guide on how much to eat – because they really know best.

Foods To Do Could Include:

Light and dry items such dry fruit laddoos, oat ladoos, peanut chikkis, granola bars, assorted nuts and dry fruits, fruits etc. and

Slightly heavier options 2h pre-race that include idlies, sweet potatoes, tikkis, parathas etc.

Consciously sipping enough water/ sports drink till about 20 min pre-race before you wear your suit is equally important. When too close to the race, avoid bloating the tummy with too much fluids.

Author: Mihira A R Khopkar

B.Sc. Dietetics, M.Sc. Sports Nutrition


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SwimIndia does not guarantee results of any sort, before making any changes to your diet plans, please consult an expert.

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