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Iñigo Mujika

Physiology & Training

Nutrition in aquatic sports

June 10, 2014
Start in a swimming event in London 2012 (Photo: Inigo Mujika)

Start in a swimming event in London 2012 (Photo: Inigo Mujika)

Under the auspices of FINA, a group of experts-researchers-practitioners in the areas of sports nutrition and aquatic sports has been working together for almost a year now to come up with sound recommendations for optimal nutrition strategies, general and sport specific.

As a result of this work, a series of articles will be published in a special issue of the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, in a couple of months, and the good news is that the special issue will be fully open access on the journal’s website, meaning the electronic content will be freely available.

Until then, here are the abstracts of the two of the three articles I co-authored. The third one, on nutritional recommendations for water polo, will be coming up very soon.

Nutrition and Training Adaptations in Aquatic Sports

Mujika I, Stellingwerff T, Tipton K.

Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2014 Jun 5.


The adaptive response to training is determined by the combination of the intensity, volume and frequency of the training. Various periodized approaches to training are used by aquatic sports athletes to achieve performance peaks. Nutritional support to optimize training adaptations should take periodization into consideration, i.e. nutrition should also be periodized to optimally support training and facilitate adaptations. Moreover, other aspects of training, e.g. overload training, tapering and detraining, should be considered when making nutrition recommendations for aquatic athletes. There is evidence, albeit not in aquatic sports, that restricting carbohydrate availability may enhance some training adaptations. More research needs to be performed, particularly in aquatic sports, to determine the optimal strategy for periodizing carbohydrate intake to optimize adaptations. Protein nutrition is an important consideration for optimal training adaptations. Factors other than the total amount of daily protein intake should be considered. For instance, the type of protein, timing and pattern of protein intake and the amount of protein ingested at any one time influence the metabolic response to protein ingestion. Body mass and composition are important for aquatic sport athletes in relation to power-to-mass and for aesthetic reasons. Protein may be particularly important for athletes desiring to maintain muscle while losing body mass. Nutritional supplements, such as beta-alanine and sodium bicarbonate may have particular usefulness for aquatic athletes' training adaptation.


Nutrition for Recovery in Aquatic Sports

Burke LM, Mujika I.

Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2014 Jun 5.


Post-exercise recovery is an important theme to aquatic athletes, and involves interest in the quality, quantity and timing of intake of food and fluids after workouts or competitive events to optimise processes such as refuelling, rehydration, repair and adaptation. Recovery processes which help to minimise the risk of illness and injury are also important but are less well documented. Recovery between workouts or competitive events may have two separate goals: 1. restoration of body losses/changes caused by the first session to restore performance for the next; and 2. maximization of the adaptive responses to the stress provided by the session to gradually make the body become better at the features of exercise that are important for performance. In some cases, effective recovery occurs only when nutrients are supplied, and an early supply of nutrients may also be valuable in situations where the period immediately after exercise provides a enhanced stimulus for recovery. This review summarises contemporary knowledge of nutritional strategies to promote glycogen resynthesis, restoration of fluid balance and protein synthesis following different types of exercise stimuli. It notes that some scenarios benefit from a pro-active approach to recovery eating, while others may not need such attention. In fact, there may be some situations in which it may actually be beneficial to withhold nutritional support immediately after exercise. Each athlete should use a cost-benefit analysis of the approaches to recovery following different types of workouts or competitive events and then periodize different recovery strategies into their training or competition programs.

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