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Do swimmers need supplements?

You might have seen the myriad articles about Michael Phelps’ ‘unique’ dietary habits – reports range from 10 egg omlettes to French toast with powdered sugar – but one thing which crops up again and again is his use of sports supplements. Of course, it’s understandable that an Olympic Champion training six hours or more each day needs to look outside normal food & drink for his required 10,000 calories, but does this mean that you need to include sports supplements in your own dietary routine? We spoke to Anthony Peters, in-house nutrition expert at Sci-MX Nutrition to find out. “Endurance athletes, who may be concerned with minimising weight, sometimes associate nutritional supplements with getting as big and muscular as possible and this tends to put them off. But, in fact, most of our products are primarily focused on helping the body recover and, with the right training, weight gain is not a concern. When you consider that boxers, who are obsessed with weight, use supplements extensively then it starts to make sense. A lot of our customers are serious swimmers and triathletes. He added, “Principally, endurance athletes tend to focus on fuel products, high-carb drinks taken before and during training to keep blood sugar topped up, and they often ignore post workout supplements for recovery. However, we tend to find that the more serious the athlete, the more attention they give to supplementation after training has finished. If you consider protein supplements for example, yes they can be used for muscle gain, but their core function is really to provide sufficient resources for your body to repair itself so they are perfect as a recovery aid. We manufacture a gradual release protein, GRS-5 System, which is great just before bed to keep your body topped up and allow it to rebuild while you sleep”. Of course, the opinion of a sports nutrition company was always like to favour the use of supplements, but are there any proven benefits? Well, yes. Swimming creates dynamic resistance, that is to say that the level of resistance varies according to how much force the swimmer exerts, which means that a swimmer can derive great benefit from increasing their explosive power. Creatine to deliver benefits in explosive power and including a creatine supplement could have a considerable impact in short distance swimming. But, if you swim further and at a more sedate pace, to keep in shape for example, you should keep in mind that all supplements, fuel, protein, and even creatine, have a calorific value and if you are simply adding them to your program without proper consideration, the results might not be as you expect.  Consider talking to a personal trainer or a swim instructor with experience at an elite level to get an idea of whether sports supplements are right for you.