What you eat before a swim will decide how you perform. If you eat the wrong types of food before a swim or in the wrong quantities, you could find yourself experiencing a whole lot of discomfort during your swim. It is important to ensure that you have a good supply of energy but then again ensures that the food that you’ve eaten is well digested by your body before you enter the water.
Lack of digestion time after a meal could result in inefficient digestion of food, which could lead to various issues such as bloating and gas.
Swimming is a great way to stay in shape. It provides your body with a great overall body workout which tones your muscles, keeping you fit and healthy. It is a competitive sport that involves training for both speed and endurance. Some swimmers aim to swim fast for short distances, while others look to build more endurance and stamina to swim longer. Hence when it comes to diet, there is a variance in what you would need for optimum performance.
With races lasting anywhere between 20 seconds to 15 minutes, there is a range of energy requirements which your body will need. You may also be required to do more than one heat per day, which would require you to have a good supply of reserved energy which will allow you to excel and perform. With everything there is to consider, how a swimmer eats will decide and define how well they perform. Eating too close to swimming can be bad for performance, with what you eat impacting your performance. In this article, we will aim to provide a good overall guide on how you should eat as a swimmer for overall performance gain and competitive advantage.
We will highlight everything you need to know with regards to what is ideally best for swimmers to eat before and after a swim. We will provide you with a swimmer’s meal plan that will help you achieve optimum levels of performance. We will highlight the types of food you should eat if you are a sprint swimmer and also provide insight into the types of food that you should eat to help build stamina.
Before we go to answer all the questions, the first thing that this guide will address is the timing of your pre-swim meals. It is really important that you consider when you eat your meals and provide your body with sufficient time to digest the food. Hence, let’s dive straight into that and understand the timings of meals.
How Long Before a Swim Should I Eat?
You should eat your larger meals 2 to 4 hours before a swim and no closer to your swim. If you are eating a snack, you can eat that 30 minutes to 2 hours before a swim. Your larger meals should include a good staple low glycemic index carbohydrate and a healthy share of protein and fat. When you eat a large meal as such, you have to ensure that you provide your body with sufficient time to digest your food. Otherwise, your performance may suffer due to indigestion.
Though what you eat will decide on how well you are equipped to perform when you eat your meal before the swim plays a crucial role in ensuring optimum performance. You have to ensure that you are well-fed and fueled for your swim.
While eating too close to swimming can cause indigestion and issues brought about by that, eating too far from your swim would mean that you swim on a rather empty stomach. This would mean that you wouldn’t have readily available energy to burn, thus hampering your performance once again.
Let’s try to understand a little better the effects on your athletic performance of swimming on an empty stomach.
Swimming on an Empty Stomach
Swimming on an empty stomach could hamper your athletic performance. If you are better fueled and fed, you are more likely to have a better workout. On the contrary, if you are trying to lose weight, swimming on an empty stomach can be effective in helping you lose weight.
When you consider swimming on an empty stomach, you have to take into consideration the people who go for a swim first thing in the morning, usually before eating their breakfast. Though not entirely a compulsory necessity, eating before a workout would help you increase your glycogen stores which are your stored carbohydrates. This will allow your body to have a reliable, readily available source of energy that you can burn during your workout. This will not only prevent early exhaustion but will also work to propel your performance.
The only benefit of swimming on an empty stomach is, it helps you lose weight and burn more calories. Hence, for athletes who are looking to excel with their performance, training or swimming on an empty stomach is not recommended.
In fact, swimming on an empty stomach could cause blurry vision, fatigue and light-headedness. You may also find yourself hungry during the swim, which can be disastrous for those who are competitively swimming or training for competition. By simply eating something before your swim, you provide your muscles and brain with the necessary fuel to burn during the exercise of swimming. Thereby ensuring that you don’t fall prey to exhaustion, which can obviously hamper your performance.
With the importance of a pre-swim meal iterated, it is now necessary to consider the types of food that you should be eating before a swim. What should you eat for optimum performance and how much of it should you eat.
What to Eat Before Swimming
- Porridge with sliced fruit
- Sandwich with lean meat and cheese
- Muffin with cheese
- Fruit bowl with nuts and yoghurt
- Wholegrain cereal with milk
Don’t stuff yourself too much. Rather eat a regular portion and leave room for gentle snacks between your larger meal and swim. These snacks can be eaten 1 to 2 hours before a swim. You can use these snacks as the final push to propel your energy levels before a race or training.
Good sources of healthy snacks include,
- Dried fruit and nuts
- Rice cakes
- Sliced fruits or fruit bowls
- Sports bars
What to Not Eat Before Swimming
What to Eat After Swimming
Both protein and carbohydrates are integral in the recovery after a swim. With the energy reserve after swimming begin used up, it is important that you regain your energy levels by eating glycogen rich food. This will enable your body to regain the lost energy, allowing you to recover from the exercise. High glycogen content food includes carbohydrates such as pasta, rice and bread, including foods like fruits, yoghurt and cereal. While good sources of protein will include, milk, yoghurt, eggs and meat.
You should aim to eat something as soon as you possibly can after training or a race. This will enable the effective recovery of the body from exercise. Ideally, you should eat within an hour of swimming. After an intensive workout like that during swimming, your body is in need of essential nutrients to kick start the growth and repair of muscles. It is important that you get a good amount of protein to ensure that muscle recovery is aided.
With regards to the best meal for post-swim recovery, you should look to balance the meal as much as possible with a good amount of carbohydrates, healthy fats, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Both protein and carbohydrates are essential in ensuring optimum recovery, muscle maintenance and the further upgrading of your body to attain better results at the next training session. You should aim to get about 20g of protein after swimming to help with muscle recovery after a heavy training session. This will enable you to tone and build muscle which will resultantly help boost your performance.
The ideal meal would be spaghetti and meatballs with a side salad, followed by a bowl of fresh fruits and yoghurt.
What Food Makes You Swim Faster
If you are looking to improve speed, you have to rely on easily digestible and readily available sources of nutrients. Opt for nuts and seeds, which are a healthy source of energy and you can top these nuts and seed on your cereal or yoghurt. This would work really well as a pre-swim meal to help you boost speed.
Pecans and walnuts are a great source of energy. These high energy foods when strategically consumed pre-swim will give you an added boost of power, that will undoubtedly help you better your results.
Antioxidants are another thing that could help you boost performance with regards to speed. Antioxidants inhibit the oxidation of food, enabling better digestion and absorption of food for effective use as energy. This prevents energy loss and wastage from the food consumed. Reliable sources of antioxidants include berries such as raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, blackberries and strawberries all containing wholesome amounts of antioxidants. You can also rely on unsweetened dark chocolate which is an exceptional source of antioxidants.
In general, any fruit that you eat before your swim will help you boost speed. Snacking on an apple or an orange about 30 minutes before a swim will allow your body to stock up on healthy sources of readily available energy, which will enable you to propel yourself further.
When you are considering speed, it is important to ensure that your body is equipped with the right muscles to help you perform better. Faster speed is attained by better acting muscles that are able to propel you in the water faster. Hence when it comes to building and maintaining muscle, protein is a very important component. Make sure to add some milk into both your pre-swim and post-swim meals. The protein is mostly necessary post-swim, for it is there that your body needs all the protein to help repair and build the muscles that were torn and worked out during swimming. Hence make sure to keep in mind the importance of protein.
Endurance is another factor when it comes to improving your speed. If you are looking to improve your endurance, opt for food that is high in beta carotene which helps promote endurance. Sweet potatoes are a great example of a food that has a good quantity of beta carotene.
Though improving your speed will take time, incorporating these elements into your training and maintaining a healthy diet as such will most certainly help you improve. When trying to boost speed, don’t just rely on one thing, look to incorporate everything we have mentioned within this section. Then only would you notice results in your pursuits.
Food To Help You Swim Longer
If you are looking to swim longer, you are looking to build your stamina. The best types of food to help you boost stamina are mostly complex carbohydrates which are a reliable source of glucose that provides energy. Pasta, rice and bread are all good sources of complex carbohydrates for your pre-swim meal that is sure to provide you with the energy reserves to swim longer.
Stamina is about endurance and beating fatigue and exhaustion. When you consider what exhaustion is, it is the eventual running out of energy in your body, which will require you to undergo more complicated processes to produce the energy that is required. This may include the breakdown of fats or protein. When glucose reserves run out, you find yourself exhausted and thereby unable to maintain your level of performance.
Hence, in order to beat exhaustion, look to plan a complex carbohydrate meal for your pre-swim meal, thereby enabling your body to break down those complex carbohydrates to produce the energy that is required during your swim. Eating complex carbohydrates such as pasta will help you maintain a steady level of energy during your swim, thereby allowing you to not only swim longer but maintain performance level which is key within the competitive sport.
You can also rely on a pre-swim snack which can be eaten 30 minutes prior to your swim. This could include dried fruits and nuts or an energy bar which is sure to help you run longer. It is also very important to ensure that you are hydrating well. You should aim for good hydration throughout the day before the swim. This way, when you enter the waters, your body is fed and prepared to keep swimming for long durations of time.
Remember, when it comes to stamina it is complex carbohydrates that are important both pre-swim and post-swim. Complex carbohydrates eaten pre-swim will load up on the fuel while complex carbohydrates post-swim will enable you to refuel for the lost energy. Coupled with complex carbohydrates ensure that you get a good amount of protein post-swim for muscle recovery and growth.
Eating in Between Swimming Heats
If you are training for a long period of time and would like to eat something between heats, you can consider smaller meals and snacks to help you boost your energy levels. These food have to be easy to digest. Smoothies, fruits, dried fruits and crackers are all good at providing your body with the required energy in between heats.
You do not want high-fat food or those that include simple sugar. What you need is food that contains good amounts of complex carbohydrates. Pasta salads, plain sandwiches all work really well in fueling your body further, allowing for easy digestion and effective absorption.
Fruits and vegetables are also a good source of readily available energy which will help you recover fast and keep going. Yoghurt and yoghurt drinks all act as good sources of both carbohydrates and proteins which will help with both fatigue and muscle recovery. You could also try your hands with a sports drink that is intended to rehydrate and revitalise you.
Nuts are another reliable source of nutrients. Unsalted almonds, walnuts, peanuts and cashews are a great way to stock up on energy before the next heat.
The only thing that you have to keep in mind when eating during swimming is, not to eat too much food or the wrong types of food. Avoid the types of food that we have listed out specifically in the above sections of this article. Make sure, not to consume a too large portion for this could cause cramping and bloating which would cause you problems during the heat.
Swimmer’s Meal Plan For Peak Performance
When you consider a meal plan for swimmers for training, you have to take into consideration all the meals that are integral for success. Though typically we are accustomed to only three meals, swimmers, in general, are recommended to consume three large meals combined with two smaller meals on training days. Hence, breakfast, lunch, dinner and two small snacks.
When you are considering the meal plan for peak performance, here is our recommendation. However do note, that you may want to tweak this plan based on whether you are achieving for speed or stamina.
- Toast, jam and fruit juice
- Cereal with fruit and low-fat or skim milk
- Pasta with cheese and eggs
- Fresh Fruits
- Slated pretzels
- Energy bars
- Rice with chicken or turkey and vegetables
- Noodle with pork or beef and vegetables
- Pasta with beef or meatballs and fruit bowl
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
- Low-fat cheese and crackers
- Protein bar
- Beefsteak with boiled vegetables
- Pork loins with rice and vegetables
- Spaghetti with meatballs and yoghurt
When you are considering your pre-swim meal or breakfast, make sure to get a regular portion and not overeat. You can eat a little bit more than usual post-swim, for you would need the added energy to recover from the swim. With regards to dinner, you want to ensure that you hold a staple protein source to further help with your muscle recovery. Once again, stick to recommended portions pre-swim to prevent cramping and bloating during the swim.
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