Nutrition for swimmers


Nutrition is a top priority for young swimmers and endurance athletes who train regularly and compete. Its the million dollar question, “what are the best foods and hydration to help and boost performance whilst training and competing for our budding young Olympians?”
Whilst all children are different and may be picky about what they eat (some more than others), it is so important to get the fuel they eat right. The right food provides the fuel for exercising muscles and has important nutrients and vitamins for growth and recovery after training and weekend long galas.
Establishing good eating habits at a young age and managing hydration are essential especially in swimming as it is such a demanding sport, mentally and physically. Food and hydration contribute to performing well both in training and on gala days.
Carbohydrate rich foods include:
porridge, whole grain breakfast cereals, bread and rolls, pitta bread and naan breads, wraps, tortillas, crisp breads, rice cakes, crumpets, fruit bread, soreen, scones, pancakes, muffins, fruit cakes, oat based biscuits rice, cous cous, quinoa, noodles fresh fruits, dried fruits, fruit and grain bars, 100% fruit juices lentils, chick peas, baked beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, are all fantastic energy rich foods which should be incorporated into swimmers diet for maximum energy and nutrient intake for an active and healthy lifestyle.
Proteins- for recovery, growth and development lean chicken, turkey, lamb, pork, beef, veal,
fish, most seafoods, tuna, etc eggs, yoghurt, milk baked beans, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, peanuts, etc
Foods rich in protein eaten in small servings throughout the day and after training aid muscle growth and recovery.


Bad tempered, lethargic, no interest in training usually adds up to dehydration. As parents and coaches we need to constantly remind young athletes the importance of fluid intake, especially when training and competing. Swimming is totally unique in the sense that swimmers are submerged in water and therefore is it often difficult to gauge how much they are sweating and losing fluid. We take it for granted that we don’t sweat because we are surrounded by water. Doing long hours of high intensity training in water dehydrates all swimmers and therefore fluid that the body has lost needs replacing. As a rule of thumb we should be drinking about 800ml of fluid per hour during training. If not, the loss of performance can be quite significant, as much as 15%!

Pre Competition Day

A good carbohydrate based meal (noodles, pasta, rice, quinoa) will ensure maximum energy.
Stir fry with noodles and lean chicken
Lasagne made with lean meat and veggies
Pasta in a tomato based sauce with tuna and salad
Curry with chick peas, veggies and steamed rice.

Competition Day

Realistically a good breakfast should be eaten 2 hours before competition and topped up with smaller portions frequently during the day and don’t forget to stay hydrated.

porridge oats with milk, raisins and banana 

scrambled eggs on toast with cheese and tomato

fruit salad with yoghurt and nuts
beans on toast with some fruit and a glass of milk
peanut butter and jam on toast or muffins with a fruit smoothie
rice pudding with honey or cinnamon
100% fruit juice
During competition small amounts of food and drink are essential to keep energy levels topped up depending how much time your swimmer has between events. Avoid soft drinks and fizzy drinks. Choose small snacks such as :
sultanas, currents, dates
fruit or grain bar
small slices of screen
pieces of fresh fruit
nut selection
If you have more time between events of 1 hour or over you may be able to include a sports drink
Banana sandwich
some rice or pasta dish
fruit bread with jam
rice cakes
canned fruit or snack pack
choice of filling wrap or muffin
Don’t forget the more you eat, the more energy your body uses to digest it- keep it small!

Post Competition Day

Recovery foods and fluids should be started within 30 minutes of finishing competition.
Baked potatoes and tuna
scrambled aggs on toast
cheese and tomato on toast
chicken or tuna pasta
wholegrain cereal with milk
fruit smoothie
fresh fruit
milk drink
Depending how far you have to travel after the event, always make sure you pack a
healthy recovery snack and plenty of fluids