Ned+McKendry+2011+Australian+Swimming+ChampionshipsFor many years I thought I was alone with the voracious appetite after swimming…but after leaving school and actually being able to socialise with my training partners after a session (over food!!) it was evident that I was not the only one experiencing the hunger phenomenon!

When I looked about the café after tough swim sessions, it seemed that that we were ALL putting back a cooked breakfast plus a smoothie (which was meal-sized in itself…), yet in the same café following an intense run session, we could be quite content with a bowl of muesli. So I put my observations to the group… “Am I the only one feeling like I could demolish a buffet and then go back for seconds??!” No, it was agreed that we were all ready to eat this enormous meal after swimming, and then start on morning tea as soon as we got home!

Since those days in the café, I have learned there IS valid science behind this. Let me explain:

  • The cooler temperature of the water causes your body to lose heat
  • This cooler body temperature creates a hormonal environment that tells your body you need more fuel… basically by being in the cold water, we trigger a hunger response in our brains
  • Naturally, we respond to a high appetite. However, this response can sometimes go over the top, and can result in unwanted weight gain. Which was NOT part of the plan, right??

It is no secret that a lot of swimmers struggle to deal with this hunger and as a result struggle to maintain an athletic figure. So here are some of my best tips to keep the post-swim hunger under control:

  • Eat around training: have a small snack prior to training then have your recovery MEAL after. That way you can cut down your portion sizes at other times of the day if necessary.
  • Plan your post-training nutrition the day before and stick to it.
  • Ensure you are including quality protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats and then fill up on plenty of veggies.
  • Eat good foods that you know will satisfy you: if you could eat half a loaf of bread then choose something other than toast for breakfast.

Not a swimmer? Training sessions such as running and cycling typically supress the hormonal hunger response due to an increase in body heat. So we often see athletes after tough running sessions not wanting to recover well, and delaying their recovery meal. While the appetite may pick up later in the day, this does not make for optimal recovery for those muscles crying out for a little refuelling! This brings me to another topic – strategies to enhance recovery when you have ZERO appetite. A story for our next newsletter!

Steph is our resident water-sports nutrition specialist. She has over 15 years experience in competing in surf life saving. Pool swimming has always made up the majority of her schedule, however other training sessions included board paddling, ski paddling, resistance training, road/sand/treadmill running, boxing classes, functional training… the list goes on. Steph knows nutrition for the aquatic environment! Click here if you would like to book a session with Steph.