PLYMOUTH, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Wyoming Valley West Boys’ and Girls’ Water Polo teams worked hard in the pool Tuesday morning as their high school season nears. When they’ve been out of the water, Spartans like senior Logan Fluegel paid attention to USA’s Olympic Water Polo team. “I watched pretty much every game that the USA was in,” he said.
They’ve also taken note of many Olympians’ eating habits before competition. Endurance sports like water polo and swimming are often fueled with up to 8,000 or more calories in a single day. WVW Water Polo Boys’ and Girls’ Teams Head Coach Frank Tribendis said, “I know in the Olympics I guess (Michael) Phelps was talking a lot about what they do and we try to teach the same things.”
That means avoiding junk food and turning to good sources of calories. It’s something called ‘clean eating’. “It’s clean carbohydrates meaning whole grains, fruits, vegetables… things that supply the muscles with energy that they can use efficiently,” said Geisinger Health System Sports Medicine Physician Justin Tunis, MD.
Nutrition is something that could be overlooked especially for student athletes just beginning an endurance sport. WVW High School senior girls’ water polo player Chelsea Mackiewicz said, “In the morning you have to eat a healthy breakfast before you come here. Otherwise you’ll get sick to your stomach.” She shared her eating strategy. “I like to bulk up on carbs and proteins. Like, every morning I eat eggs.”
Mr. Fluegel said the eating strategy applies to more than preparing for a water polo match. “Recovering is also important so I like drinking protein shakes, too, like whey protein is very healthy for swimmers.” Dr. Tunis added, “It’s all about being able to replace those calories and keeping an optimal energy balance so you can perform at a high level.”
It’s not just what they eat that’s important to these athletes’ performance. Staying hydrated is key. “I’d say the best thing would be my hydration honestly. Like drinking water before, during and after practice is important,” said Mr. Fluegel. Eating and hydrating to win… a formula these Spartans hope pays off in the pool.
Dr. Tunis said endurance athletes should space out their big meals by 2 to 4 hours before competing. The timing of eating a carbohydrate-rich meal after competition is equally important. He recommends endurance athletes wait 45 minutes to an hour after their athletic event before they ‘chow down’.