Nutrition and Hydration Are Important


Competitive swimmers need more energy than athletes in almost any other sport. Delivering peak performance throughout a long season is not easy. It takes plenty of practice, backed by solid nutrition that provides energy and endurance. This section will help you understand how the foods and fluids a swimmer consumes affect their performance.


Swimmers should take a balanced approach to nutrition. June Kloubec of the Health and Exercise Science Department at Gustavus College in Minnesota says there are no bad foods, just bad choices. Fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water are all major nutrients that must work together to regulate the body.


Carbohydrates: Used as fuel for intense exercise

·        During digestion, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, an important energy source used by muscles during exercise. Glucose can be used by your body immediately or stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen, readily available as fuel for activity at a future time. Endurance is related to the amount of glycogen or fuel stored in your muscles. The greater the amount of glycogen, the longer a body can delay the onset of exhaustion.

·        Active swimmers should consume from 60-65% of daily calories in carb-rich foods. Male and female swimmers have different caloric requirements due to the difference in their metabolic processes. 6 to 7 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight should be considered. However, these figures are only approximations, since requirements reflect age, sex, body size and the duration and intensity of daily practice and schedules


Examples of High-Carbohydrate Foods Moderate or Low in Fat


Food                                                      Calorie                                   Carbs

Apple, Medium                                      81                                            21

Grapes, 1 cup                                        58                                            16

Strawberry Yogurt                                 257                                         43

Peas, cooked, 1 cup                            110                                         19

Applesauce, ˝ cup                               97                                            26

Banana, medium                                   105                                         27

Corn, ˝ cup                                           88                                            21

Baked Potato, large                             139                                         32

Raisins, 2/3 cup                                    300                                         79

Whole Wheat Bread, slice                   61                                            11

Corn Bread, 1 piece                             198                                         29

Macaroni & Cheese                             217                                         31

Noodles, egg, 1 cup                             178                                         33

Cheese Pizza, one piece                     153                                         18

Rice, 1 cup                                             205                                         45

White Toast, 1 slice                              64                                            12

Corn Tortilla, 6” diameter                     67                                            13

Spaghetti w/ Tomato Sauce, 1 cup     179                                         34


Protein: Builds and maintains muscle tissue, enzymes, hormones and antibodies


Fat: Carries vitamins through the body and serves as a minor energy source


Vitamins and Minerals: Essential for balancing body processes


Fluids: 60% of body weight is water



Swimmers Diet Recommendations


Early Morning Pre-Workout:


Competitive swimmers often face early morning workouts due to pool scheduling and availability. One of the common concerns is what to do with breakfast. Athletes are advised to eat 2 to 3 hours before exercise to allow for the stomach to empty. However, many athletes do not want to eat before practice, as the food left in their stomach may cause nausea. Swimmers will simply forgo food before early practice but this habit of skipping a meal before exercise can lower their store of energy and impair a swimmers ability to train or compete.


Many swimmers can benefit from a 100-200 calorie carb and protein snack before practice and then eat breakfast once the workout is over. Try these suggestions:


·        A glass of orange juice and 2 pieces of toast

·        Half a bagel with peanut butter or cream cheese

·        A Banana with 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter

·        Applesauce and 2 Graham Crackers

·        Trail mix with nuts or dried fruits

·        A low-fat yogurt

·        Granola bar or Energy Bar

·        A small bowl of cereal with low-fat milk


Recovery Strategies:


Once the workout is over, swimmers should try to eat a regular breakfast. To recover from the workout, both fluid and fuel must be available to the body. If the meal can be eaten within 30 minutes after the workout, then the body can start the recovery process and should be ready by the next practice to provide a quality workout. Swimmers should try some of the following breakfast suggestions:


·        A bagel with peanut butter and a banana

·        A bowl of Oatmeal with raisins and nuts

·        Low-Fat yogurt, a banana and orange juice

·        A Waffle with syrup and low-fat milk

·        Three Pancakes with syrup and low-fat milk

·        One breakfast egg sandwich with ham and orange juice





In addition to breakfast, lunch and dinner, swimmers that tend to lose weight easily should also consider eating a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. These snacks should consist of nutritious carb-rich foods.



Pre-Meet Meal:


Contrary to popular belief, the pre-meet meal does not usually provide very much energy for competition. That energy should already be stored in the swimmer’s muscles from carb-rich meals eaten during the previous 2-3 days.  The pre-competition meal is really a “mini-nutrition period” that should occur 4 to 5 hours before the start of the meet.  Most of the calories should come from easily digested carbohydrates or foods that are efficiently converted to energy. Swimmers should try to avoid heavily spiced foods or large amounts of fats and proteins. Some examples of foods rich in complex carbohydrates include:


·        Pasta

·        Cereals

·        Baked Potatoes

·        Muffins

·        Vegetables

·        Fruit Juices

·        Low-fat Yogurt




Regardless of the techniques or products you use in your swimming nutrition and hydration programs, use common sense and good judgment throughout the season. The following tips should help a swimmer achieve a safe and rewarding season:


·        Eat three balanced meals a day, including foods from all of the major food groups

·        Avoid high-fat, high-sugar foods and snacks such as chips, soft drinks, mayonnaise, candy bars, and desserts

·        Emphasize foods that are rich in complex carbohydrate-cereals, pasta, baked potatoes, muffins and vegetables

·        Make sure your snacks are nutritious and good sources of energy. Fresh fruits, juices and other nutritional beverages are good choices

·        Good nutrition is something a swimmer should apply every day throughout the season-not just the day before a meet.