Optimal Nutrition and the Age Group Swimmer

This is the spoken script from an earlier run through of a planned lesson :

Before we do anything please familiarise yourself with your tools: some crayons, drawing pens and pencils and two paper plates each. Please turn the plates over and on the first draw a smiley face and write your first name – and on the second a sad face. 


Show me your smiley face. Great

If you find yourself in a tv studio …. or a tv crew came in here to interview you in all likelihood you’d be hooked up with a tie mic or be accosted with a boom microphone and asked: « What did you have for breakfast? »

The sound engineer is not interested in what you had for breakfast. 

But I am. 

Your task is as follows:

You have two minutes to draw what you had for breakfast.

Starting now!

I am not interested in your drawing skills.  

Do please annotate your sketch if needs be.

If you find you have time to do some colouring in I have probably given you too long for the task but you can always oblige for homework. 

I’m hoping that we’ll get plenty of variety. 

If you’re better with observational drawing rather than using your imagination here are some breakfasts.

  • A full English
  • A bowl of porridge
  • Continental Breakfast
  • A kipper
  • Hoping for a wide variety here.

The smiley face and sad face are for if you have a constructive contribution to make or a question to do with the task  = smiley face or if you’re stuck or just need a bathroom break = the sad face.

We’ve gone for one minute and you have one minute left. 

If all you have is a coffee just draw a little coffee cup on your plate. 

If you skip breakfast leave the plate blank.

Your chance will come later when you come up with an evening meal 🙂

Five seconds to go 

  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 1

Let’s get a photo.

Please show me your plate. Don’t worry it won’t spill. 

If you don’t want to appear in my picture hold it over your face – this is for my eyes only.

So what have we got?

Plate 1

Tell me about your plate of food.

Is this something you eat? 


Does it keep you going ?

Would you have a second helping of anything?

Does the family eat the same thing?

Plate 2

Tell me about your plate of food.

Plate 3

Tell me about your plate of food.

These are the two extremes:

1: No breakfast at all.

I’ve asked this question to young and mid teens and got: ‘nowt’ which isn’t much for a sound level so I’d ask what about lunch and I’d get “chips” I’d ask is that all and be told at best “cheesy chips”

2: A tea-tray sized plate of ham, eggs and hash browns that could have fed six.

The teenager is most relevant to us because I now want you to role play as the parents or guardians of a group of performance and competitive swimmers.

Here they are:

14 to 17 year olds girls and boys who have been with the club since the age of seven or eight and they have been competing since the age of 9 or 10. Outside lockdown they train 12 to 16 hours in the pool a week plus 2 or 3 hours in the gym and they may have school sports too. 

What do you think their breakfast looks like?

Will it differ if they had early morning training? 

Or rather, what should it look like?

Into groups: Barracudas, Sharks, Dolphins to discuss (but not today). 

Instead I want you to think about the ideal breakfast for an age group performance swimmer. I’m going to provide some ideas.

Optimal nutrition and hydration. 

Healthy meals and snack choices that enable them to train hard, restore muscles quickly, keeps them alert during the day and helps them sleep at night – and much more besides.

Personal Best Times

In training and competition these swimmers live for PBS. They have seasonal goals for Counties, Regionals and Nationals. The discipline they show poolside does not always translate to what goes on the rest of the day. 

There are issues amongst our swimmers of them eating too much of the wrong thing, the draw of the vending machine and its contents, cheesy chips at college and takeaways of fish and chips, pizza and or Chinese – one swimmer is asthmatic and reacts to monosodium glutamate, another diabetic, a third food allergies. 

All these must be taken into consideration: as in training what they eat will be individual to them. 

Swim coaching is very much about training and pushing their bodies to adapt to the challenges of the stroke and distances and races that they’re doing 

Like choreographing a dance. 

It’s like having gymnasts and one of the things that are really important is their hands. 

I’d like you to take your hands and place them on your cheeks and chin – show me your hand. 

So you now have the cupped hand. This is the best position for the ‘catch’ – to grab a column of water. Maybe you think it’s slightly splayed for swimming but we’re going to use this to help indicate the size of portions of key ingredients for our meal.

A cupped hand of carbohydrates: grains, pasta and bread. These are important because …

Not your cupped hand – but their cupped hand. So the handful is going to be smaller or larger.

Now create is a fist.

So once again, this is carbohydrates and here we’re thinking of fruit and veggies: 

So fruit and veg is important because …

The thumb for fat because … 

we’re talking about nuts and seeds and oils 

Palm of the hand. 

So this is how we get our protein in the palm of the hand such as a piece of fish, because …

Vitamins and minerals

As p art of these healthy choices. 

They should not be taking supplements at all under 18 year with exception being made for medical reasons with medical advice.

So again amongst our group of swimmers:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Eat too little
  • Eat the wrong things.

So now we’re moving on to the second opportunity to draw a plate of food.

So given the ideas. 

  • Cupped hand of carbohydrate grains,
  • Fist of carbohydrates : fruit and veg.
  • The fat is the thumb
  • The palm protein.

You chose: another go at breakfast, or a lunch or their evening meal – which is likely to be the main meal of the day.

Your two minutes start now!

We’re thinking more Grayson Perry having some fun … you may annotate or explain yourself in an email later.

So as you draw:

May I remind you:

  • You are the parent of a performance swimmer
  • They might be 11 to 17, male or female. 
  • They might be five foot five or six foot five, but try and stick with one person in mind for this plate of food in the family
  • The individual might be vegan or  vegetarian.
  • You need to think of a plate of food that they’re going to find nutritious and appetising. 
  • Does it fit in with what the rest of the family are eating?

So keep on drawing. Once again, this isn’t meant to be a fancy piece of artwork.

If you can draw I’m going to indicate some indication of what it is fine.

So another 30 seconds to go I think and then we’ll be done.

A recording of this session will be available online for you to follow afterwards and it will cover things we have been able to talk about today.

So as the two minutes comes up – keep on drawing.

Let’s take a look at what you’ve got.


So once again, if you could just hold up your plates to show me what you have in mind. Hide behind your plate if you’d don’t want your picture taken.

Plate 1,2,3 (time dependent)

Can you tell me about this plate of food.

And what do you have in mind?

And who is your swimmer?

And do you think it’s giving them the things they need?

Are we getting towards our goal of ‘optimal nutrition’?

And is this going to be sustainable across seven days a week?

And this one –  what do you think you have here?

Do you think that will do the job?

The cupped hand full of grains.

It has the fist of fruit and veg.

We’ve made a start, next:

  • How often do they need to fuel up?
  • Why do they need these foods?
  • How far do we need to take it?
  • Portions
  • Weights
  • Hydration

Links to the slides and script

Additional reading for you and for them 

Feedback quiz

Could you give me an indication of how it has gone ?

  • Hold up a smiley face or a sad face!

These are the slides used in the presentation:


Here are some additional resources:

The Plate Method Cartoon YouTube

Harvard Medical School

Harvard T H Chan 

Health eating for kids: What they should eat and then click through to why

Swimming Science Bulletin


High Protein Breakfasts

19 High Protein Breakfasts That Keep You Full

Ten Delicious Breakfastshttps://www.theguardian.com/food/2020/may/04/brilliant-breakfasts-10-delicious-healthy-ways-to-start-day#img-3


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s