What to eat during swimming competitions

November 19, 2014

When preparing to compete at a swimming competition you need to pay careful attention to nutrition. Here are some tips about what to eat during swimming competitions.

The day before

When competition time comes round, you’ll have plenty on your mind. So the day before the event keep exercise to a minimum – if anything at all – and eat meals and snacks high in complex carbohydrates. You need to keep those glycogen stores topped up.

  1. Drink fluids little and often to stay properly hydrated.
  2. Eat little and often – every two to four hours to keep your blood sugar levels steady and fuel your muscles in preparation for your event.
  3. Avoid big meals or over-eating in the evening – this will almost certainly make you feel uncomfortable and lethargic the next day.
  4. Try to stick to familiar foods. Curries, spicy foods, baked beans and pulses (unless you are used to eating them) can cause gas and bloating, so avoid eating anything that may cause stomach discomfort the next day. It’s best to stick to foods that you are familiar and compatible with!

The morning of the event

Don’t swim on empty. Even if you feel nervous, make breakfast happen. Stick to easily digested foods – cereal with milk, porridge, banana with yoghurt, some fruit or toast with jam.

If you’re really struggling, try liquid meals such as milkshakes, yoghurt drinks or a smoothie.

It’s a good idea to rehearse your competition meal routine in training so you know exactly what agrees with you.

Snacks between heats

Try to eat as soon as possible after your swim to give yourself as long as possible to recover if you have to swim again.

High fat and simple sugar foods will do you no favours in competition. Instead search out complex carbohydrates again.

If you can’t stomach anything solid try sports drinks, flavoured milk or diluted juice that will help replenish your energy supplies and assist the recovery of aching muscles.

The list below offers great food options to be snacking on in and around training for a competition. Remember to keep eating healthy foods from your regular diet though, such as fresh vegetables, nuts and fruits.

  • Water, diluted fruit juice with a pinch of salt or a sports drink
  • Pasta salad
  • Plain sandwiches e.g. chicken, tuna, cheese with salad, banana, peanut butter
  • Bananas, grapes, apples, plums, pears
  • Dried fruit e.g. raisins, apricots, mango
  • Smoothies
  • Crackers and rice cakes with bananas and/or honey
  • Mini-pancakes, fruit buns
  • Cereal bars, fruit bars, sesame snaps
  • Yoghurt and yoghurt drinks
  • Small bags of unsalted nuts e.g. peanuts, cashews, almonds
  • Prepared vegetable crudités e.g. carrots, peppers, cucumber and celery

30 Easy Swim Meet Snack Ideas

Resources / Sports / 30 Easy Swim Meet Snack Ideas

On meet days, swimmers need quick, energy-boosting snacks they can scarf down between races. Here are 30 swim meet snack ideas that are yummy and easy to toss in your swim bag.


  1. Hummus – Pack a variety of dippers like pretzels, carrots, cucumbers and pita chips to have options for even the pickiest snacker. Bonus: hummus is made from chickpeas, which provide protein to strengthen muscles for the perfect butterfly stroke.
  2. Ants on a Log – This simple combo of celery, peanut butter and a line of raisins is sure to delight younger swimmers while packing a healthy punch of protein. If your teammates have allergies, try sun butter, which is made from sunflower seeds.
  3. Baby Carrots – Bring single-serve ranch or dressing cups for added flavor.
  4. Edamame – These soybeans are a great grab-and-go snack since swimmers can eat the peas straight from the pods. Add sea salt for extra flavor, and be sure to bring an extra bag for discarded pods.
  5. Veggie Chips – Make your own by tossing thinly-sliced sweet potatoes, zucchini and kale with olive oil and a pinch of salt, then cook them on a baking sheet until lightly brown and crispy.

Coordinate swim team snack duties with a sign up. SAMPLE

Fast and Fruity

  1. Orange Slices – Cut and peel oranges ahead of time for convenience.
  2. Apples – Serve whole, or cut them up and bring peanut butter to dip for an extra protein boost.
  3. Strawberries – Simply wash them and bring them in their container from the store. Buy or make yogurt dip for extra protein and a dash of sweetness.
  4. Fig Bars – Figs are a great source of fiber and vitamins to keep swimmers’ energy up.

  1. Bananas – This potassium-packed treat can help ward off sore muscles and cramping. (Another great one to pair with peanut or nut-free butter!)
  2. Frozen Fruit – Try freezing watermelon slices or grapes for a tasty way to beat the heat.
  3. Applesauce and Fruit Pouches – Often found in the baby food section, these portable pouches are healthy and delicious for all ages.
  4. Raisins – The small boxes are easy to pass out to the team for a quick, sweet snack between races.

Register swimmers for swim team and collect fees with a sign up. SAMPLE

Salty Stuff

  1. Pretzels – Try them dipped in peanut butter or pimento cheese.
  2. Dried Chickpeas – Buy at the store or make them at home, where you can season with spices like turmeric and pepper.
  3. Trail Mix – Get your swimmers involved the night before the meet by having them put together their favorite combination of pretzels, nuts, dried fruit, granola and even chocolate.
  4. Popcorn – You may need to pop ahead of time (or borrow the microwave at the concession stand, if applicable). Look for lightly salted varieties rather than the heavy-butter stuff to save on calories.
  5. Cheese Crackers – Make your cracker sandwiches ahead of time so swimmers can grab-and-go. Choose wheat crackers and low-fat cheese if you want a healthier option.
  6. Mixed Nuts – Every handful will deliver plenty of protein. Choose plain or lightly salted to cut down on sodium.

Recruit swim meet volunteers with a sign up. SAMPLE

Protein Power

  1. Greek Yogurt – Try pouches if the spoon variety is too messy for the pool deck.
  2. Peanuts – Buy single-serve packs or divide a large package into smaller bags. These protein-packed nuts are a great and easy snack (if your team is allergy-free, of course).
  3. String Cheese – Who doesn’t love cheese? There are lots of options: mozzarella is fun to pull apart while cheddar jack has a cool speckled look.
  4. Protein Bars – Look for varieties that are high in protein and fiber but low in sugar.
  5. Graham Crackers and Peanut Butter – Make mini-sandwiches ahead of time or let swimmers dip crackers into the peanut butter as they go.
  6. Homemade Protein Balls – Find a recipe online — most contain a combination of nut butter, whey protein and chia seeds.
  7. Hardboiled Eggs – These will take some prep-work ahead of time, but swimmers can peel and eat these protein-packed snacks themselves.
  8. Turkey Rollups – Roll a slice of cheese up in a slice of deli turkey for a low carb snack.
  9. Beef Jerky – The average piece of jerky has about 7 grams of protein, and the packs are easy to toss into a swim bag. Stay away from spicy flavors though, because the heat combined with swimmers’ horizontal position can be a recipe for acid reflux.
  10. Whey Protein Shakes – Choose a protein powder with the simplest ingredients possible, and have swimmers shake it up with water or milk in a sports bottle.
  11. Tuna Pouches – Leave the can opener at home and opt for pouches that will be easy for swimmers to open and dip crackers in.

Whether you’re on the pool deck for a full day or just a quick meet, these snacks are sure to keep your swimmers satisfied.

Sarah Pryor is a journalist, wife, mom and Auburn football fan living in Charlotte, N.C.

Posted by Sarah Pryor

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As a mom I find that I have pockets of snacks stashed everywhere. In my purse, in the center console of the car, in swim bags, and in backpacks, I try to always be prepared.

In a society where we have become over-fed and over-sugared what can you pack as a snack that will have a positive impact? And does your swimmer or do you truly need a snack? The answer is yes. After workouts or pre-workout fueling your body is a big deal. Picking the right fuel is even more so.

I’m going to toss out a top 10 of my favorite go-to’s on the go but I would love to hear from you too!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich

I’m completely 100% serious. They are portable; they have a good ratio of carbs, to protein, to sugar. My college coach Frank Busch was always boasting the benefits of having a pb&j on hand to help you get through your day.


Avoid brands with high sodium or sugary flavors, but this is a protein packed example of an excellent on the go snack.


Not the fancy kind that are salted, sugared, or anything in-between. Just nuts. Natural, nothing added. Mix them up for a trail mix blend, variety is a good thing! Pecans, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pepitas, and cashews are just a few excellent choices. A little dried fruit (watch out for sneak sugar added attacks here) is another good add to the mix.

Chocolate Milk

Yes. Why? This is a fast fuel packed with protein and if you make good choices just a touch of sugar. This is a great fast refuel option after a hard workout.

Cheese & Deli Meat Roll Ups

Roll up some low-sodium natural deli meat with a cheese stick inside for an excellent pre-practice or post workout snack. Not so much to make you feel full during training but a great source of fuel to keep you going or top you off when you are done.


Not as portable I know, but with all the Tupperware we know we all have buried in our pantries and cabinets why not put a few to work. Stick some carrot sticks, celery and/or tomatoes in there for a healthy energy boost.

Hard Boiled Egg

Back to super portable! Woo! You can make a large batch of these once and week and easily pack one to go with you for whenever you need a quick pick me up.

Nut Butter Packets

There are an amazing number of these available now, just look for one with a low sugar amount. Be picky about what you put in your body. You can eat these as they are or add them to celery, crackers, pretzels, a wrap, or bread.

Pouched Fish

Like tuna packets. Adding fish to your diet is like taking a vitamin. There is so much good stuff in there that is awesome for your body whether you are an athlete or not!


Careful here. There are so many choices out there it can be overwhelming. And speaking from personal experience it is HARD to find tasty ones that don’t have ridiculous amounts of sugar. I am not on the anti-sugar bandwagon (okay maybe I am) but be a conscious consumer. You will regularly see single servings of yogurt with 18+ grams of sugar in a serving. Look a little harder at specialty stores for something that will fuel your body not hurt it.

About Emily Milak

Emily Milak is a lifetime competitive swimmer living in Southeastern Wisconsin. Emily is a US National Team champion, NCAA champion, and USMS champion with extensive coaching experience. She is a product development consultant at Kiefer.


Swimming requires a dedicated commitment to training, with elite swimmers training 6 to 12 times per week. Depending on the race distance, training sessions can cover up to 10km and include 1-2km of high-intensity sprints. As well as water based session, weight training sessions are completed several times a week by elite swimmers. Training commitments are usually lower at a school or club level.

About Swimming

Swimming requires a serious commitment to training, with elite swimmers training anywhere from 6 to 12 times per week. Training sessions can cover up to 10km and include 1-2km of high intensity sprints. At the elite level, swimmers can swim up to 6 hours per day and also complete other land-based forms of training including cycling or weights. Training commitments are usually lower at a school or club level but still involve multiple training session per week, usually held very early in the morning.

Swimming competitions may last for 2 to 7 days depending on the level of competition. Heats are usually swum in the morning and final raced at night. Races can last anywhere from 20 seconds to 15 minutes depending on the stroke and distance being raced. Over shorter distances, swimming is a very anaerobic sport with aerobic metabolism increasing with longer distances. In some competitions swimmers may compete 2 to 3 times per day and have as little as 20 minutes to recover between races while in other situations there may be several hours between races.

Swimming requires the athlete to be tall and well-muscled especially in the upper body. Lower body fat levels can be an advantage as the swimmer has less weight to pull through the water. Many high-level swimmers are in their teens, this means that swimmers are often completing high volumes of training during periods of growth and muscular development. This can lead to high energy and nutritional requirements to meet needs and can make it a challenge to ‘get enough in’.

Body composition goals can be a challenge for female swimmers despite the heavy training loads, as adolescence brings hormonal changes that can lead to a natural increase in body fat. It is important that athletes, particularly young females going through puberty, seek the advice of an Accredited Sports Dietitian to find the balance between body composition goals, health and wellbeing and of course, performance in the pool.

Training diet for swimming

Individual nutrition requirements will be determined by training load, specific athlete needs, training goals, body composition goals, health and adjustment for growth in younger athletes. Typically, training sessions are held early in the morning and as a result some swimmers skip breakfast before training for stomach comfort, lack of appetite or to sneak in an extra 10 minutes sleep! Ideally, swimmers should aim to eat breakfast or a light snack prior to training to maximise performance – especially for key training sessions. Liquid meal drinks or milk tetra packs can be useful for fuelling and stomach comfort, especially when appetite is poor.

Nutrition is often based around lean proteins for muscle repair and recovery, carbohydrate appropriately timed for fuel. In addition, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrains provide important vitamins and minerals, along with some healthy fats. Busy schedules also need to be considered (work, school, university) and meals/snacks need to be organised for eating ‘on the run’ to optimise fuelling and recovery.

Hydration needs

In order to stay hydrated, swimmers should drink fluids should before, during and after training and events. However, body fluid needs will depend on individual fluid losses, which vary depending on individual sweat rate.

Although it can be difficult to identify sweat loss because of the water-based environment, pool areas (especially indoors) are often warm and humid which increases fluid losses. Water bottles should be taken to training and competitions and placed in an easily accessible location to ensure fluids are consumed regularly.

For most training sessions water is sufficient to meet hydration needs. However, if training for maximum performance, or during very long training sessions, sports drinks can be useful as they provide carbohydrate for fuel and electrolytes and fluid for hydration goals.

What to eat before swimming

Swimmers should have a high carbohydrate meal 2 to 4 hours prior to first race of competition. Fluids (mainly water) should be sipped regularly in the lead up the first race. To avoid stomach discomfort foods should be relatively low in fibre and fat. The pre competition meal should be planned and practice during training (don’t try new foods or fluids on competition day!). Suitable pre-competition meals include:

  • Wholegrain breakfast cereal with milk + fruit
  • Fruit salad with yoghurt and nuts
  • English muffin with jam or cheese
  • Sandwich/roll with salad + lean meat/cheese
  • Porridge with banana and cinnamon

A small snack can also be eaten up to in the 1-2 hours prior to a race as a final effort to top up energy levels. For example:

  • Muesli or sports bars
  • Fresh fruit
  • Rice cakes with nut butter
  • Dried fruit & nut mix

If solids don’t sit well before a game, or players are very nervous, a liquid source of protein and carbohydrate such as a fruit smoothie can be a good option.

What to eat and drink during swim meets

Swimmers need to make sure that they take advantage of opportunities to eat and drink between events. An eating plan should be developed that fits in with individual competition schedule and includes foods that are familiar. Competition eating should be practiced during training sessions or intra-club lead up competitions before major events to help identify food choices that will suit best.

If less than 60 minutes between races – keep options light and easy to digest. Carbohydrate rich liquids may be preferred as they are rapidly digested from the gut.

  • Sports drink
  • Juice
  • Flavoured milk tetra packs
  • Yoghurt pouches
  • Dried fruit (e.g. banana chips)
  • Small pieces of fresh fruit (e.g. grapes/banana)

If more then 1 – 2 hours between races – a more substantial meal can be eaten to top up energy needs and avoid getting hungry.

  • Pasta/noodle-based dishes
  • Sandwiches with simple fillings
  • Sushi or rice paper rolls

Competition and training venues do not always have suitable food and fluid options available so it is important that swimmers arrive at venues with food and fluids prepared. A cooler bag with drinks and food options should be packed and kept easily accessible for topping up with fuel and fluids throughout the day.

Post-race recovery

Recovery nutrition is especially important during competitions that are held over several days or during weeks of heavy training loads.

Recovery meals and snacks should contain carbohydrate (fuel), some protein (for muscle repair and development) and plenty of fluids and electrolytes to replace sweat losses.

A recovery meal or snack should be consumed soon after exercise period, particularly when the next training session or race is the following day. Fluids (mainly water) should also be consumed, based on estimated losses.

Some recovery food suggestions include:

  • Ham, cheese and salad roll or wrap
  • Dairy-based fruit smoothie
  • Omelettes or poached eggs on toast
  • Homemade pizzas with chicken, cheese + veggies

Other Nutrition Tips

  • Be organised Players should have snacks ready to go at the stadium as it can be difficult to rely on the venue to provide appropriate choices.
  • Body fat levels Low body fat can be an advantage in swimming for agility, power and technique. However each individual should have their own body composition goal and should consult with an Accredited Sports Dietitian for guidance to avoid compromising health or performance.

*Content in this fact sheet should be considered general advice only and may not suit your circumstances. Before modifying your diet, consult an Accredited Sports Dietitian. All content is regularly peer reviewed before publishing.


Peak Performance Swim Camp Tip: 10 Step Guide To Proper Nutrition For Swimmers By Camp Director Nick Baker

Swim Tip

Presented by Nick Baker, Camp Director
Nike Peak Performance Summer Swim Camp Chicago, IL

The term “peak performance” is defined as a state in which a person performs to their maximum ability.

Proper nutrition is critical to meeting the challenging demands of swim training. Falling behind nutritionally, even for a few days, can seriously undermine swimmers’ ability to train at peak levels. It is not uncommon to blame a disappointing training session on fatigue, when in fact, it was caused by poor swimming nutrition.

Swim meets present another challenge for swimmers. Although most events are relatively brief, swimming multiple events over multiple days can seriously deplete hydration and glucose levels, inhibiting performance.

To address these challenges, swimmers must have a nutritional gameplay for training and competing. The gameplay focuses on three vital areas of sports nutrition including hydration, fueling, and recovery (HFR) and is an important part of the Peak Performance Swim Camps.

Fluid loss is one of the greatest threats to swimmers’ ability to perform. High-intensity training sessions, heated pools, exposure to hot temperatures, and high humidity lead to significant losses of fluid and sodium via sweat. Many swimmers gauge fluid loss based on how thirsty they feel at the moment, but the sensation of thirst does not take effect until after a significant loss of fluid has occurred. Fortunately, dehydration can be avoided through a disciplined hydration plan followed before, during, and after training and competition.

High-volume swim training relies heavily on carbohydrates to fuel working muscles. Even a few hours of training can seriously deplete swimmers’ glycogen levels, the major source of energy derived from consuming carbohydrates. When glycogen levels plummet, performance suffers. Fortunately, an acute reduction of glycogen can be avoided through a disciplined fueling plan followed before, during, and after training or competition.

Contrary to popular belief, the physical benefits derived from training are not fully realized until after training has ended. It is during this period that repair to damaged muscle fibers occurs, leading to greater muscle strength and endurance. Swimmers who actively promote recovery, via sound nutritional habits, reap the rewards; while those who ignore this all-important process suffer.

Start The Training Session Fully Hydrated
To ensure ideal hydration levels, swimmers should consume 14-20 ounces of water or a sports drink prior to the start of training. Swimmers can determine their own hydration level by observing the color of their urine. Urine, light in color, indicates good hydration; while urine, the color of apple juice, indicates poor hydration. To prevent this from occurring, swimmers should rehydrate periodically throughout the training session. Consuming energy gels at the same time can help to refuel glycogen levels. Most gels are designed to be consumed every 20-45 minutes.

Start The Training Session Fully Fueled
Many swimmers show up to morning training on an empty stomach, with glycogen levels low due to overnight fasting. The following high-carb options are an excellent way to start the day:

• Toast, jam, and fruit juice
• Fruit smoothie with mango, banana, berries, and low-fat yogurt
• Meal replacement drinks
• High-carb bars, energy gels, or energy chews
• Cold or hot cereal with fruit, and low-fat or skim milk
• French toast or pancakes with maple or fruit syrup
• Breakfast burrito (scrambled eggs, salsa, and low-fat cheese in a whole wheat tortilla)
• Bagel or English muffin with jelly or peanut butter
• Small roll or sandwich made with banana and honey

Timing The Recovery Process
Eating healthy sources of protein and carbohydrates immediately following the training session enables sore muscles to recover quicker. The sooner swimmers consume these nutrients, the sooner the healing process begins. The following recovery snack and meal options greatly improve the recovery process:

Recovery Snack Options

• Rolls or bagels
• Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
• Salted pretzels
• Fresh fruit
• Fruit smoothie
• Low-fat cheese and crackers
• Low-fat chocolate milk
• Protein bars
• High-carb bars, energy gels, and energy chews

Recovery Meal Options

• Eggs
• Milk
• Meat
• Fish
• Soy products
• Whole grains
• Nuts
• Fruit
• Vegetables
• Beans

Swim Meets
On race day, a high-carb meal should be consumed at least two hours prior to competing. Swimmers should avoid slow-to-digest high fat foods such as bacon, sausage, cheese omelets, and fried potatoes.

To ensure adequate hydration 14-20 oz of water or a sports drink should be consumed at least two hours prior to competing. Swimmers should also monitor their urine color throughout the day to ensure ideal hydration levels. Energy levels should be maintained via water or sports drinks, fresh fruit, sandwiches, cereal, granola bars, high-carb bars, energy gels, or energy chews. Swimmers should also remember to jump-start the recovery process once competition is over for the day by consuming additional protein for muscle repair, carbs to reload glycogen levels, and fluids for rehydration.

Additional Nutritional Tips
Swimmers should aim for a well-balanced diet with a variety of carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthful fats.

  • Carbohydrates should be the main focus of meals, but protein is also important.
  • Vegetarians should consume non-meat sources of protein including protein shakes, tempeh, tofu, cottage cheese, lentils, and nuts.
  • Swimmers should drink a large glass of water upon waking up each morning.
  • To keep energy levels up throughout the day, swimmers should snack on low-fat microwaved popcorn sprinkled with parmesan cheese, trail mix without candy pieces, or a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread.
  • Pistachios are an excellent nut option as they are lower in fat than other nuts.

Peak Performance Swim Camps
The term “peak performance” is defined as a state in which a person performs to their maximum ability. Swimmers who achieve peak performance in competition exhibit a high level of confidence, technical accuracy, and effortless execution. When asked why he decided to name his swim camp Peak Performance, Founder and Head Coach Nick Baker responded by saying: “It was the best way to convey the camps’ purpose. I wanted the swimming community to know that helping swimmers perform at peak levels was our top priority.”

Choosing the right food to eat before and after swimming can have a massive effect on both your performance in the pool and your body’s ability to recover faster.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a competitive swimmer or you’re just swimming for fitness or leisure. Being smart about what you eat – and when you eat it – is extremely important.

Selecting the right food to eat will depend on your goals. Do you need to release energy progressively to keep you going at full steam for longer, or do you require an easy-to-digest low fat meal that will help you feel more comfortable during your swim?

To prepare for optimum performance, you’ll need to understand what to eat before and after your swim to enhance your training.

Learn about which energy rich foods can help you to swim longer, and which foods to avoid! Check out these top tips for smart eating before and after your swim sessions.


What is the best food to eat before swimming?

Look for foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates. A decent-sized meal that contains these slow-release carbs will act as a prolonged energy source to keep you swimming for longer.

Excellent pre-swim foods for a consistent energy supply include:

  • Wholegrain pasta
  • Wholegrain bread
  • Brown rice
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Peas and beans
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Porridge oats

You could also try yoghurts or smoothies, which are a fantastic way of fuelling your body without putting pressure on your digestive system. The trusty banana is always a reliable choice of fruit, too.

When should you eat before swimming?

Many experts recommending eating the right foods at least one hour before you plan to swim.

Meals containing slow-release carbs can take time to digest. If you get into the pool too soon after eating, you could feel bloated and won’t get the full refuelling benefits.

When you eat, your body will send your blood supply to the digestive system to help break down and process the foods you are eating. During exercise, the blood supply is directed towards your muscles.

Swimming too soon after eating your pre-swim meal will result in both your digestive system and your muscles not getting the blood supply they need to function efficiently.

I have to swim early in the morning. What snacks for swimmers are there?

Eating wisely before swimming depends largely on what time you’re planning to hit the pool. It’s a lot easier to eat the right food if you’re swimming in the daytime or evening.

But what if your only chance to swim is first thing in the morning, before work or school? Many swimmers head straight to the pool after waking up, and don’t have one or two hours spare to eat and digest a proper breakfast.

Whenever possible, you should eat something before swimming. If you train on an empty stomach, you’ll find you will tire out a lot faster and won’t have the energy to make the most of your session.

Quick energy-boosting snacks for swimmers are available for those who need to get out of bed and head straight to the pool. Try a large banana, or dates. They are high in natural sugars and are easy to digest, so shouldn’t feel heavy in your stomach. Other recommendations include:

  • Large banana
  • Dates
  • Raisins
  • Energy bar or cereal bar
  • Energy gels
  • Jellied sweets
  • 500ml bottle of sports drink

If you really suffer from nausea or extreme discomfort when swimming after eating, you can also try to plan ahead the previous night.

Choose a meal that is high in carbohydrates – these will be stored in your muscles as glycogen overnight, and will give you some fuel for your swim the next morning.

How to stay hydrated during swimming

Because you’re in the water, you won’t notice if you’re sweating as much as you would when exercising on dry land.

But swimming is no different to any other form of exercise. It is vital to keep your body well hydrated so you can maintain your energy levels and performance.

Becoming dehydrated while swimming can also leave you feeling unwell, both in the water and for the rest of the day. Common symptoms include swimmer’s headache.

Take a water bottle with you and leave it poolside. Take regular sips in between lengths or drills. It’s also important to drink enough water before and after swimming too.

It’s not just hydration levels you need to remember either. When you exercise and sweat, your body loses vital electrolytes including sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Replenishing these electrolytes is also important for sustained energy during exercise.

An extensive range of sports energy bars, gels and electrolyte drink tabs are available to provide you with such boosts during exercise. Click the button below for our recommended products.


When should you eat after swimming?

It is just as important to choose the right food to eat after your swimming session. You know have to consider refuelling your body and helping it to recover quickly.

Instant recovery foods are available that can be eaten within 20-30 minutes of finishing your swim. Protein helps to repair the muscles, while carbohydrates help to restore your body’s glycogen levels.

If you’re able to eat a healthy meal after swimming, aim to do so within an hour or so after finishing your session.

What is the best food to eat after swimming

For swimmers on the go, instant recovery foods are extremely useful. Recovery drinks or recovery bars will provide protein to start repairing muscle fibres and recharge energy levels.

For your main after-swim meal, you should also be looking for good sources of lean proteins. Tasty options include lean chicken, turkey or oily fish with a baked sweet potato or brown rice.

Adam Peaty discussed the importance of protein in a recent interview with The Telegraph. During the interview, he advised the below:

“During a tough winter training block I can eat 6,000 to 8,000 calories a day to fuel all my training and recovery. I have to get through a heck of a lot of food but I try to keep things interesting by eating my protein on a cycle – for example, steak on Monday, chicken on Tuesday, and fish on Wednesday. I get through a lot of scrambled egg and piles of veg and rice too.”

While protein is important, make sure you don’t overlook other food sources. Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables for a good supply of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

If the main goal of your swimming is to lose weight, you should also choose post-swim foods that have a low Glycaemic Index (GI) score. After a lot of exercise, you’re bound to feel hungry. But choosing food with a low GI score will help you feel fuller for longer, making it easier to resist the temptation to snack.


It may sound obvious, but avoid fatty foods. These are harder for your body to digest, and can lead to indigestion and discomfort while swimming. Also avoid excessively spicy food, excess caffeine and alcohol.

Daily meal plans that help you exercise

You have decided to make a change to your lifestyle. You want to exercise more to improve your wellbeing. But what do you eat? Well, here are some daily meal plans that will help you with your lifestyle change.

Our daily meal plans will boost your ability to exercise and and work to improve your health. They are packed with protein throughout the day and cover essential intakes of carbohydrates, fats and sugars. We have also included pre- and post-exercise snack ideas.

The time of day you eat is as important as what you eat. Check out our article on the best times of day to eat to maximise your workout here. If you are vegetarian you can find guidance on what to eat to maximise exercise in our article here.

Daily meal plans to help you exercise


Your first meal of the day is the most important. You can find more breakfast ideas in our Breakfast ideas for working out article. So, starting our daily meal plans choose ONE from the three below. Try your toast unbuttered. Use semi-skimmed milk.

  • 1 cup of Oats with milk
  • 2 pieces wholegrain toast
  • 2 eggs on wholegrain toast

Pre-workout snack

Snacking is not a bad thing, especially if you exercise regularly. It depends what you snack on. If you do eat more often through the day, make the meals you eat smaller. So as part of our daily meal plans we say choose ONE from the following to have a pre-workout snack.

  • Glass of milk and a banana
  • Peanut butter on wholegrain bread
  • Grapes/Blueberries/Apple
  • Nuts/dried fruit

Post workout meal

After exercise you will need protein to help your poor muscles recover. Make protein shake – there’s a good article on making shakes at home here – and add half a banana. Then for your meal choose ONE of the following

  • Chicken with wholegrain pasta
  • Tuna with wholegrain bread/pasta
  • Small Baked potato with chilli/beans/tuna
  • Egg/beans on wholegrain toast

And add to it any of the following…

  • Sweetcorn/peas/broccoli/peppers


Healthy main meals don’t have to be complicated or boring. You simply need to ensure you have variety in your diet so you get all the nutrients you need. You can find out more about healthy meals here. For a main meal in your daily meals plans we suggest ONE of the following:

  • Fish/turkey/chicken/lean mince/steak/quorn

With two or three of:

  • Sweet potatoes/tomatoes/broccoli/carrots/asparagus/peas/mange tout/beans/cauliflower/peppers


Not everyone likes to have something before going to bed. But if you are doing a lot of exercise you might want to consider a protein shake or some milk before bedtime to give your muscles an extra boost.

This is what the breakfast of US Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte looks like: Five to six eggs with spinach, tomatoes, and ham. Hash browns, pancakes, oatmeal, fruit. And a French vanilla coffee (with one sugar and cold milk, please).

That’s just on a normal training day.

The amount that Olympic swimmers eat is legendary. Back in 2008, Lochte’s teammate and rival Michael Phelps—he of 21 gold medals and counting—made headlines when he boasted of his 12,000-calorie-a-day diet:

Breakfast: Three fried-egg sandwiches with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise. Two cups of coffee. One five-egg omelette. One bowl of grain. Three slices of French toast topped. Three chocolate-chip pancakes.

Lunch: One pound of pasta. Two large ham and cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise on white bread, plus energy drinks.

Dinner: One pound of pasta, an entire pizza, and even more energy drinks.

Though Phelps later admitted the 12,000-calorie figure was an exaggeration, there is truth in that Olympic-level swimmers burn around 3,000-10,000 calories a day, depending on the intensity of their workouts. No surprise then, that the likes of Lochte and Phelps consume about 7-8,000 calories a day—four times the average adult male’s diet.

Nelson Antoine/Invision for SUBWAY Restaurants/AP Images “This is my pre-breakfast snack, Pelé.”

Australian swimmer Melanie Schlanger has said that eating as much as she likes at the 24-hour McDonald’s that comes standard at the Olympics is one of the best things about the Games.

A week before a competition, Lochte carb-loads on pasta such as fettuccine alfredo, plus chicken, steak, or other protein, he told Bon Appetit. Two or three hours before a race, he’ll have another full meal with a caffeine pill after morning coffee. Peanut butter snackbars tide him over in-between. And on Fridays, he joins his family for their traditional dinner of pizza, chicken wings, and Mountain Dew soda.

Bear in mind: he burns off all of this in the pool.

Why is swimming so energy-intensive? In terms of calories burned, it’s about the same as cycling or running. The average swimmer will probably burn 400-600 calories in an hour-long swim. The difference is the water, which provides resistance that is about 12 times greater than air.

Swimming is also a whole body workout, making use of all four limbs moving at the same time, through dense liquid. Pro swimmers can achieve power physicists estimate at a maximum of 1,200 watts—three times that of a cyclist.

Moreover, the body loses a lot of heat to the surrounding pool and has to expend a greater amount of energy on temperature regulation. There’s also a theory that submerging the body in temperatures below 20ºC (68ºF) triggers hunger, releasing hormones that signal for the body to store more fat for insulation. No wonder, then, that swimmers need and want a lot of fuel.

This can be a problem when swimmers retire. Phelps, now 31, reportedly put on 25 pounds after the 2008 Beijing Games, and says his calorie intake has dropped considerably, partly because of lifestyle and training changes after rehab for alcohol abuse, but also because, sadly, he no longer has the body and metabolism of a 23-year-old.

Cody Miller: What Olympic Swimmers REALLY Eat

2016 Olympic gold and bronze medalist Cody Miller has released the 3rd video in his vlog series. In this installment, he shares on a topic near-and-dear to all of our hearts (and our stomachs): food.

Miller describes his diet as “like the Paleo diet,” high in carbs, lean proteins, and ‘good fats.’ He says he eats lots of plant-based products as well.

Miller goes through his normal week of eating, saying that he does cheat once per week, on Saturday afternoon, because he doesn’t have training on Sunday. While Miller does declare that his diet isn’t the same as every Olympic swimmer’s diet (and he sidesteps the classic “do you really eat 12,000 calories a day question” with an I-don’t-know), the video does give good insight into the sort of regimented discipline it takes to be an elite, international-level athlete. For athletes of this caliber, eating is as much part of their job as is training, and this video really highlights that.

See the video below. For the first two installments, click:

  • Cody Miller Vlogs Episode 1: 2017 College Challenge
  • Cody Miller Vlogs Episode 2: Crazy Day of an Olympic Swimmer

* -Special shoutout to 2017 SEC Champion Ashley Neidigh, sister of SwimSwam writer Lauren Neidigh, for her super-awkward cameo @3:00.

What Olympic Athletes Eat and Drink Every Day Will Shock You

When it comes to planning out a daily diet, Olympian athletes have a few more things to consider than we do. From cardio-intense workouts that happen several times a day to certain sports that require a weight requirement to compete, the top-of-the-top in their field know a thing or two about nutrition. But they also know how to indulge (and we do mean indulge) when the time is right. As you watch these highly trained (and incredibly inspiring) athletes take the stage in Rio, give them an extra shout-out for all the attention they put into their epically healthy, balanced lifestyle—not to mention their epic cheat days. Here’s what Olympians really eat:

Michael Phelps, swimmer

Four years ago, you likely heard all about swimmer Michael Phelp’s 12,000 calories a day diet. And nope, that wasn’t a typo: That’s more than 10 times the daily recommended intake for men his age. But hey, if you’re going to do that much cardio in the water, you must need it. He shared everything he eats in a day with the New York Post and it’s pretty incredible. (We’re jealous.) Here’s the breakdown:

Breakfast is “three fried-egg sandwiches loaded with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise.” Next comes “two cups of coffee, a five-egg omelet, a bowl of grits, three slices of French toast topped with powdered sugar and three chocolate-chip pancakes.”

Lunch? “Phelps gobbles up a pound of enriched pasta and two large ham and cheese sandwiches slathered with mayo on white bread – capping off the meal by chugging about 1,000 calories worth of energy drinks. For dinner, Phelps really loads up on the carbs – what he needs to give him plenty of energy for his five-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week regimen – with a pound of pasta and an entire pizza.” As for the final lap: “He washes all that down with another 1,000 calories worth of energy drinks.”

Gabby Douglas, gymnast

By now, Douglas is a household name, and for (an incredible) reason: in 2012 at the Beijing Olympics, she became the first African-American woman to take home the gold in individual all-around gymnastics. She’ll be tumbling again in Rio, and she told Real Simple that the morning of practices, she’ll keep it light with oatmeal and a banana: “This gives me the energy I need to get through the first hours of training,” she said. But when she has a day off? She’ll opt for something more savory and filling, like scrambled eggs with cheese, kosher beef bacon and waffles. Breakfast is a big deal for Douglas and she made sure to add: ““Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! You can’t expect to perform at your best if you don’t take good care of your body.”

Ryan Lochte, swimmer

He’ll be taking a dip for the Gold in Rio this year, but not before he consumes around 8,000 calories a day. Since swimmers burn so many calories doing laps and building endurance, Lochte makes sure to pack in the food to keep his stamina strong. But while he eats healthy most of the time, this swimmer knows how to balance the good-for-you with the indulgent. He told the Charlotte Observer that every Friday night since he was 9 years old, he’s had one binge tradition: pizza, chicken wings and Mountain Dew.

Usain Bolt, sprinter

If you don’t know this Jamaican sprinter’s name, you won’t be able to forget him soon: not only is he the first man to win six gold medals in sprinting, but he fuels all of that fancy-and-fast footwork with none other than… McDonald’s chicken nuggets. According to his autobiography, he said: “At first I ate a box of 20 for lunch, then another for dinner,” he wrote. “The next day I had two boxes for breakfast, one for lunch and then another couple in the evening. I even grabbed some fries and an apple pie to go with it.”

Nicole Barnhart, soccer player

While she’s not competing in the Olympics this go-round, this goalie’s diet sounds pretty refreshing. Why? It’s totally manageable. According to an interview with Epicurious, Barnhart starts her day with an (awesome-sounding) smoothie of bananas, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, mango, pomegranate juice, coconut, milk, almond milk, flax seed, whey protein, Trader Joe’s peanut butter, and Vega Sport energy powder; 2 slices Trader Joe’s low-fat zucchini date loaf; and Emergen-C.

For lunch, Barnhart will take her black bean and cheese tacos with a side of milk and half of a grapefruit, she tells Epicurious. Dinner involves even more Trader Joe’s: “2 sushi rolls made with brown rice, honey, rice vinegar, cream cheese, eel sauce, avocado, cucumber, carrot, mango, sesame seeds, panko bread crumbs, tuna, salmon, soy sauce (gluten-free), ginger, wasabi; 6 Trader Joe’s chicken gyoza; 1/2 grilled artichoke with herbed goat cheese and lemon mayonnaise; seaweed salad; Emergen-C; hot green tea.” Regardless of whether she’s on or off the field, this is what she typically eats in a day. Why? Because she likes it. As she said in the Real Simple interview: “The way I eat, in general, doesn’t really change too much whether I’m in training or not. I don’t like sweets or chocolate, so I don’t have to worry about eating any of that stuff ever, and I’m really not a big greasy-food eater.”

David Boudia, diver

Taking the diving platform this year is U.S. diver David Boudia, and his eating method is one you might recognize for yourself if you’ve ever tried to drop a few pounds. Instead of giant meals, he has smaller portions throughout the day to keep his momentum and endurance strong. In other words? This athlete has not one, not two – but three lunches every single day. He shared his typical diet with GQ:

“Breakfast: Protein pancake (egg whites, oats, yogurt, cinnamon, blueberries). Post-workout Breakfast: Smoothie with strawberries, blueberries, oats, spinach, peanut butter protein powder, Zico coconut water. First Lunch: Apple slices with peanut butter. Second Lunch: Turkey slices rolled with cheese. Third Lunch: Carrots and hummus. Dinner: Barbecue chicken and polenta, with sliced avocado, and peaches.”

John Orozco, gymnast

Though John Orozco isn’t part of the Olympic team this year thanks to an ACL injury, he’s won Bronze at three Olympic Games and is definitely an athlete to keep an eye out for in the years to come. When he’s in the middle of training, he keeps things light and refreshing, and makes sure to get plenty of protein, too. GQ gave us an insider’s-look into his diet:

“Breakfast: Three eggs scrambled with bacon and grapes. Lunch: Turkey burger and a side of plain, undressed lettuce. Snacks: Banana, yogurt. Dinner: Chicken with side of rice.”

Brianna Decker, hockey player

Though Decker won’t be competing at Rio since ice hockey is a winter sport, when she’s in the middle of training, she focuses on lots of protein, vegetables and some healthy carbs to keep her skills sharp, as she told Cosmopolitan. “For breakfast I’ll eat eggs with vegetables mixed in, like a scrambler with some type of meat like ham, chicken or steak from the night before. Also some berries or banana. After my morning workout, I’ll have a protein shake to recover my muscles from weight training. Then I head straight to practice, and throughout that I’m constantly drinking water and those little gummies, Shot Bloks. Between periods I’ll have half a banana and peanut butter or almond butter to tied me over for the rest of the game. For dinner I like chicken with asparagus or any type of green vegetable. Sometimes a baked potato.”

Heather PcChie, skiier

Since skiing requires you to be nimble and flexible, along with maintaining your upper and lower body strength, having a diet that focuses on keeping her energy up throughout the day is important for Olympian PcChie. How does she do it? She gave the scoop to Cosmo: “I almost always have oatmeal in the morning — organic slow-cooked oats, which keeps me full for an entire morning. I usually throw in some fruit and some sort of protein like peanut butter or sunflower butter. I’ll snack on carrots and hummus. For lunch I’ll have a quinoa salad with greens and sunflower and pumpkin seeds. After training I’ll have a Luna bar. For dinner I enjoy red meat with cooked broccoli and steamed veggies. And ton of water throughout the day.”

Kelly Clark, snowboarder

If you’re not the biggest fan of green leafy veggies or taking a daily vitamin, like Clark does, juices and smoothies are a way of getting the nutrients you need pre-workout. Depending on whether she’s on the road training or competing or at home, this snowboarder switches up her diet: “When I’m home, I have the luxury of juicing, which I do every day. When I’m on the road, I make smoothies to replace that. I’m getting the bulk of my vitamins and veggies in the smoothie or juice format. Every morning I either have a smoothie or fresh juice and eggs and toast and bacon. A very traditional breakfast,” she told Cosmo.

Erin Hamlin, luger:

When you’re a luger, you actually want to weigh as much as you possibly can, because that way you’ll move faster and have a shot at winning. But it’s not just about eating a bunch of calorie-stuffed foods; you want foods that will help you put on weight without wrecking your performance. As Hamlin told Cosmo, “One of the biggest parts of my training is eating, which can become so painful sometimes because a lot of times I’m just force-feeding myself…I’ve been doing this since I was 12 so I’m not really sure what my natural weight would be. I may be bigger than the average person, but it’s muscle and I’m proud to be a strong female. There are certain things you can’t get away with wearing when you have ‘man shoulders,’ but I’m totally OK with that.”

What does she eat? “When I’m training, for breakfast I’ll have an array of cold cut meats, two or four boiled eggs, bread of some form, some yogurt with muesli or granola and an orange or a banana. Lunch might be a plate of pasta…. Dinner is similar to lunch, but the portion will be a little bit bigger. I also normally have a protein shake after dinner to give myself some extra calories.” But she eats a little differently on race day: “My breakfast will be a lot lighter because I don’t want to feel uncomfortable while I’m racing.”

Zack Test, rugby player

He’ll fight with his team for the Gold on the rugby field at Rio, but when he’s finished trying his best shot at taking home the top honor, he’ll indulge like the rest of us. While he follows a healthy lifestyle most of the time, when he’s taking a day off and wants to savor some of his go-to’s, this player takes “cheat day” to an impressively high level. Just how high? He gave GQ a glimpse at what he consumes when he’s off the field and in front of Netflix: “Breakfast: Waffles with syrup and jam. Lunch: Cheese pizza with whipped cream. Dinner: Beef brisket sandwich with mac and cheese.” Wait, cheese pizza with whipped cream?! Yep, you read that right. Off we go to try it….

Olympic swimmers diet plan

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