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Intense Swimming & Weight Loss

By Barrett Barlowe

Competitive swimmers focus on eating enough to fuel their workouts so they do not lose strength. So you might fret that swimming does not help you lose weight. Still, intense swimming burns through many calories and requires you to maintain enough energy to make it through sprints and distance training. When you ramp up your fitness workouts, concentrate on the quality of what you eat as much as the quantity.

Energy Used

You burn 705 calories per hour with intense swimming if you weigh 155 pounds and 931 calories per hour if you weigh 205 pounds. You burn so many calories swimming in part because water is denser than air, and you exert yourself overcoming its resistance. Add power and speed to the mix, and you can easily burn through 2,000 calories in a typical two-hour team workout. You primarily rely on carbohydrates or glycogen for energy during a swim; your body breaks down carbohydrate efficiently, in contrast to fats stored in adipose tissue and the blood stream, which metabolize more slowly.

Building Nutrition Stores

You build up your energy reserves over many months. Building strong muscles takes training and adequate protein, carbohydrate and fats in your diet. USA swimming coach and nutrition expert Mike Meija says that as a serious swimmer, you need a diet high in carbohydrates and rich in vitamins and other nutrients. Sweet potatoes, whole grains, nuts and beans provide you with the complex carbohydrates that sustain energy and build fitness. Although fresh fruits and vegetables are as important in your diet as are lean proteins, too much emphasis on green vegetables and other high-fiber foods might not provide you with enough calories to maintain a healthy weight if you swim multiple workouts six days a week.

Swimmer Shape

Swimming differs from other individual sports such as running and biking. You stay immersed in water, isolated from gravity and cooled by water’s ability to conduct heat away from your body. You do not build up lean muscle mass as efficiently swimming as you do performing weight-bearing exercise, so even though you might be able to swim for long intense sessions, you might retain a higher percentage of body fat than runners.

Watch the Calories

Overestimating the number of calories you need each day or cutting back on exercise while maintaining calorie consumption may lead to weight gain. Young team swimmers have higher energy needs than dedicated mature fitness swimmers. A swimming session might not burn as many calories as you think if time is spent idle rather than swimming.

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