With the Olympics in full swing, we had the opportunity to sit down with two-time Olympic swimmer Gideon Louw to see how he uses nutrition to fuel him through training, competing, and recovery. Read on to see what this superstar swimmer had to say about fueling for fitness.
Megan Meyer: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us, Gideon. Can you give us a little bit of background about yourself?
Gideon Louw: Happy to be here! Currently, I am an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota with the men’s and women’s swimming and diving team, coaching world-class athletes. I am a 2008 and 2012 Olympian for South Africa. At the Olympic Games, I was a finalist in the 400m Freestyle Relay for South Africa, and placed 9th in both the 50m and 100m freestyle events at the London 2012 Games.
MM: Awesome—you have had quite the career. Let’s “dive” in to the questions that I am sure the Olympic-watching fanatics want to know. What food(s) do you eat to fuel you before you workout?
GL: Before a workout it is necessary for me to get fueled with a carbohydrate and a little bit of protein. My preferences are either a granola bar or an apple for the carbohydrate, and Greek yogurt or string cheese for the protein.
MM: Delish. Now, let’s move on to recovery after you finish a hard workout or compete in a big race. What food(s) do you eat after a workout to replenish your energy and/or help with recovery?
GL: After a workout to speed up recovery, I like to complement my workout with a little bit of carbohydrates from a small fruit—for example, a peach—and also a whey protein shake with 15g to 20g of protein.
MM: Getting more specific, what are your favorite food sources of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats?
GL: Apples, granola bars, bananas, whole wheat pasta, and multigrain bread are some of my go-to carbs, especially when I need something quick or on-the-go. As for protein, I am a big fan of variety: beef sirloin, fish (salmon or cod), milk, Greek yogurt, or whey protein shakes. And finally, some of my favorite healthy fats include avocados, almonds, and olive oil.
MM: Wow! It’s cool to hear how you have such a flexible and varied diet. Do you think nutrition plays a big role in your fitness routine? Do you have any other tips to share with us on how to maximize nutrition for fitness?
GL: Yes, good nutrition is key! It is important to eat the types of food that will functionally fuel you, rather than make you just feel full. Timing your consumption well before and after workouts will help maximize the results of your workout while fueling you for the rest of the day. It is also important to keep in mind that after a workout you may be very hungry, and can be tempted to overeat. I try to eat slow, so that I know when to stop. Eating too quickly can cause you to ingest more calories than what you have expended during your workout.
MM: All great advice. Last question: What is the biggest misconception or myth you keep hearing about nutrition?
GL: The biggest misconception I have heard of is the notion of “the more protein, the better.” At some point your body stops to utilize ingested protein during a meal, and having a surplus of protein can mean that you end up wasting that protein. Additionally, distribution is key: Spreading out the timing of your protein intake throughout the day versus eating the majority of your protein in one meal is critical for gaining all of the benefits of protein. Finally, portion size is key to performance, and not overeating.
MM: I agree with you on this one—it’s a pretty common myth out there in the fitness world. Thanks for clarifying. Also, thanks for taking the time to answer some of our questions about fueling for fitness. It’s especially relevant given the Olympics but is something that many of want to promote in our exercise routines.
Follow Gideon on Twitter at @GideonLouwSwim.