Liquid Lunch!

After my last blog post I received several questions about my nutrition plan and some of the gear I used for my swim and during my training. This post is going to focus on nutrition and fueling. I will do a follow up post focused on some of the gear I used in a few days. None of the following is a recommendation of any sort. This is the feeding plan that I have come up with that work for me and my body. My hope is that this will help give you some ideas of new foods and/or feeding intervals to test out. Some may work and some may not but that is the only way to find an optimal plan for you! I hope you find this helpful. I am providing links with every image of where I purchased my products from in the event that you do what to give them a go.

Test, Test, Test!

I can’t reiterate enough that what I am about to describe is not a recommendation. This is the nutrition plan that I have come up with that works for me and my body.  Throughout my training I have tried many different feeding intervals and foods. The following is what I have found works best for me. It keeps me fueled, hydrated and most importantly does not cause any stomach issues. The only downside is that it makes me have to pee..a ton! Keep in mind that when you are coming up with a nutrition plan that works for you, test it out extensively in training. If something isn’t working for you in training, then it certainly will not work on the big day.  You should experiment often until you find exactly what works best for you.  Overtime you may have to tweak your plan but it is worth it because nutrition can make or break you come race day.  You should be confident in your feeding plan and nothing new should be introduced to it on the day or even a a week or 2 weeks leading up to your big swim.

My Fuel Sources

Carbo-ProCarbo-Pro is a pure complex carbohydrate powder. I love it because it has no flavor when mixed with water. There are 100 calories per scoop and I will generally put 2 scoops per 20oz bottle. This is enough for 1 hour of feedings. This type of carbohydrate is quickly absorbed and helps your body use muscle glycogen as the main fuel source. This will help reduce the use of muscle proteins as a fuel source. 1 serving of this has about the same amount of carbs as 1/2 lb. of cooked pasta. For my long training swims and the Catalina Channel, this was a perfect fuel source to help keep me going.

GU RoctaneGU Roctane is the other powder based fuel source that I use. This is where I get my electrolytes, amino acids, caffeine and additional carbs during long training swims and my channel attempt. It is not overly sweet and the flavor is very subtle. After I do a feed with this, I usually instantly perk up and am more focused. 2 scoops of this mixed with 20oz of water is another 1 hour of fuel for me.

Cliff BarCliff Bar is the only real solid food that I will use. I will eat half of a chocolate chip Cliff Bar every 2.5 to 3 hours. This provides protein and fiber so that I don’t get feelings of hunger and it breaks up some of the flavors so I don’t get sick of my other feeds. The only down side to this is that it requires chewing which makes the feed take longer than just liquid and gels. I also drink about 12oz of water with this to prevent dehydration from the protein in the bar.

GU Roctane GelI use the GU Roctane Gels only as needed. If I am feeling depleted and need a quick pick me up, I will use one of these. Within a minute or two of eating the gel I begin to feel better. The flavors of these are powerful and they can be very sweet. Be sure to try out different flavors when you are training to make sure you can stomach it. Personally the thought of eating a chocolate or peanut butter flavored GU in the middle of a 6 or 8 hour swim is nauseating. So I tend to stick to the fruit flavors but if you hate fruit then obviously you would want to pick a different option.

The Feeding Plan

I like to keep my plan relatively simple. I feed every 30 minutes and then the last hour to two hours of my swim I shift it to every 15 minutes if I am struggling.  My feeds alternate between the Carbo-Pro and the GU Roctane. On the bottom of the hours I drink half my Blender Bottle of Carbo-Pro which is about 10-12oz of water and Carbo-Pro which is about 100-125 calories. Then on the top of the hours I drink half my Blender Bottle of GU Roctane which is about 10-12oz of water and Carbo-Pro which is about 100-125 calories. Every two and a half to three hours I will do my normal feed plus half of a Cliff Bar and an additional 12-18oz of water. Depending on how I am feeling, I may ask for a GU Roctane Gel once every few hours for a little extra boost.

That is the plan I follow for the majority of the swim. If I am starting to fade in the last one to two hours, I start to feed every 15 minutes.  These feeds are not so much for fuel but just for quick mental breaks. These feeds are about 10 seconds and usually involve a quick swig of Carbo-Pro or GU Roctane and a quick stretch. My normal feeds average around 15-20 seconds unless I need to pee in which case they may be closer to 1 minute.  The plan is very simple and it works great for my body. I take in an average of around 250-350 calories per hour and about 20-24oz of liquid. Everyone is different so the calories I take in may be too much for some and not enough for others. This is why it is very important to experiment in training.

Medications & Sea Sickness

There are a few additional elements to this plan that are very specific to me. For the past month of training including my Catalina Channel swim, I have been dealing with a shoulder injury. In an effort to keep the pain to a manageable level, I take Advil prior to swimming. I will then take Tylenol after 4 hours of swimming and then another does of Advil 4 hours after the Tylenol.  This is not a long term solution and definitely should not be a practice followed for more than a few days in a row but it was necessary for me in order to get through my long training swims and my Catalina swim.

Additionally, I get severely sea sick! The thought of being on a boat or in rough seas is enough to make me want to throw up. This is sad because I love being in the ocean. Sea sickness usually leads to vomiting and once you start vomiting up your feeds, then none of the nutrition from feeds is staying with you. This sickness will most likely be severe enough to force you to end a big swim. Luckily I know this about myself and it is important for you to know this about yourself too.  Since I know I get sea sick easily, I take Bonine before my big ocean swims. It isn’t enough to just take it an hour before, I have to start a few days prior. I will take 1 pill before bed 48 hours before the swim, then 1 pill 24 hours before the swim, then 1 the morning of or 1 hour before the actual swim. You need to build up the medication in your system for it to be fully effective. I do this before all my ocean swims and all my Scuba dives and it has kept all sea sickness away. I personally prefer Bonine because it does not make me drowsy like Dramamine. Dramamine makes me fall asleep instantly and then I am out for days. Bonine will make me a bit hazy on the first day and then I have no hazy feelings at all after the first 12 hours or so of taking the first dose. This is why I start 48 hours before and take it before bed. By the time the swim rolls around, all those side effects are completely gone and I feel totally normal. If you don’t get sea sick, then you are lucky and none of this matters to you but if you do then you need a plan!

I hope you find this helpful as you experiment with different feedings plans. I am always looking or new ideas for myself and to pass on to fellow swimmers. I would love to hear what works for you during your training and long swims and so would other swimmers, so if you are comfortable sharing please post some of your plans in the comments!

Successful Swims Are Built With Endurance!


Craig Lewin