Nutrition in Swimming (Sport)

Why bother with nutrition?

A balanced, varied diet will help you to achieve swimming potential


All swimmers need to ensure that they:

  • Have the correct amount of energy for growth and development
  • Have the right foods to build and maintain strong bones
  • Need to be fit and healthy
  • Need to recover from any illness as quickly as possible
  • Have the ability to get to and maintain an appropriate weight
  • Be able to concentrate on training and school/work

In other words food and fluids will affect swimmers on a daily basis and shouldn't be left to chance

E - Energy get yours from carbohydrates
A - Attitude a positive attitude towards food choice is essential
T - Tasty taste is important, always try to make food tasty

W - Water is essential for life and for swimming
E - Enjoy your food it puts you in a good mood when you enjoy it
L - Little and often is the best way too stay energised
L - Lots of fruits and vegetables benefits your immune system

S - Spend some time planning and organising your snacks and drinks
W - Worrying about food at competitions should be a thing of the past
I - Invest in good quality food not cheap convenient food
M - Make breakfast an essential part of your preparations

W - Water bottles need cleaning regularly
E - Energise to survive the rigours of long hours training
L - Learn to rustle up some quick, tasty meals on your own
L - Lastly enjoy the occasional treat you deserve it


Training Diet

Your main challenges are:

  • To have variety in your diet (base meal choices around the Balance of Good Health) Plate model courtesy of BNF
    Balance of Good Health
  • To eat suitable snacks around training sessions
    Suitable snacks Bananas, Milkshakes, Yoghurts, Chicken sandwich, Ham roll, Raisins, Sultanas, Teacake, Currant Bun, Scone and jam
  • To keep as hydrated as possible
    Water, weak squash/cordial or an isotonic sports drink
    Make sure you like the flavour and remember to keep on topping up
  • Set simple nutrition and hydration goals and to self monitor
    These could include:
    • Eating a good breakfast every day
    • Counting up how many portions from each food group you have eaten
    • Monitoring your "pee" If you are hydrated it should be pale in colour and lots of it. If it is bright yellow and a small amount you are probably dehydrated and need to drink more
    • Planning your snacks and always having the right ones in your bag


Your main challenges are:

Taking responsibility for your own

  • pre, during and post competition eating and drinking strategy
    pre, during and post competition eating and drinking strategy
  • nutrition and hydration plan for travelling
    A few snacks that travel well
    Dried fruit sultanas/currants/raisins/apricots/dates/prunes/ cranberries/bananas
    Juices cartons of orange/apple/pineapple
    Plain biscuits Ginger nuts/fig rolls/jaffa cakes
    Bakery goods Scotch pancakes/sultana and lemon pancakes/ malt loaf (sliced)/ cinnamon and raisin bagels/ fruit cake/ teacakes/hot cross buns
    Bars Nutrigrain bars/Kellogg's elevenses or special K bars/ Krispie squares
  • acclimatization strategies when competing in extremes of temperatures, humidity and altitude
    In hot and humid indoor conditions dehydration can occur quickly. Fluid intake should be matched with fluid lost during competition. If properly hydrated prior to event no more than 200-500mls per hour should be sufficient to prevent dehydration
  • eating high but non nutritious carbohydrates appropriately
    There are occasions when sugary snacks can be consumed. These times are when you need to refuel your glycogen (energy) stores as quickly as possible such as immediately after training or competition. Such snacks should be limited to these times if possible and should not replace more nutritious carbohydrate foods


Your main challenges are:

  • To be able to manipulate the diet for different periods of training and competition
    During periods of rest and rehabilitation from injury cut down on portion size of meals and cut out sugary snacks but maintain a balance, varied diet to avoid weight gain
  • Be able to choose suitable meals and snacks whilst abroad using local food
    Local food can often provide a swimmer with the right nutrients needed. Choose local fruits, vegetables, breads, rice, potatoes, pasta or other grains to provide the carbohydrate energy. Choose grilled, roasted meat, poached, baked or grilled fish. Avoid deep fried dishes, however tempting and do not try anything you do not recognise near to a competition.
  • Maintain an appropriate body composition throughout the year depending on training
  • Be knowledgeable about the use and potential risks and benefits of dietary supplements
    There are many dietary supplements on the market and some can be useful in helping to increase carbohydrate energy in the form of sports drinks, bars and gels. Be aware of the potential risk of contamination with substances which can produce a positive drugs test it is very difficult to tell!

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