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Nutrition & Healthy Eating

Nutrition is really important for maximising training performance and growth. Swimmers should eat a variety of foods and a diet which is high in fruit and vegetables and low in fat and sugar. Remember that carbohydrate produces energy, protein builds and repairs muscles. Loss of fluid and a reduction in carbohydrate stores are two major causes of fatigue in a swimmer.


In Training:

  • Heavy legs
  • Can’t keep up
  • Tired

Whilst Racing:

  • Feel tired at the end of a gala
  • General feelings of fatigue
  • Longer recovery


  • Reduction in muscular strength
  • Perception of effort is increased
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced skill
  • Inability to concentrate

Always drink before, during and after exercise.


The purpose of a recovery snack or drink is to replace the energy that has been used and the sweat that has been lost during a training session. Think about the timing of your recovery snack – the sooner you eat after training, the better your recovery will be.


The muscles are most susceptible to restoration of carbohydrate stores within the first 30 minutes after exercise. Thereafter, the process becomes progressively more difficult.
A swimmer should eat 50 to 100 grams of carbohydrate, whilst keeping fat ingestion low, as soon as training finishes, and definitely within the first 30 minutes after training.

Some examples of snack foods and approximate carbohydrate content:

  • An apple, banana or orange: 15-20g
  • Muller rice: 20g
  • Nutrigrain Elevenses bar: 25-30g
  • Fruit Shake or Smoothie: 25-30g per 1 glass
  • Thick Jam or Honey sandwich (no or minimal butter) 50g
  • Malt Loaf (Soreen): 18g per eighth of a loaf

Other Ideas:

  • Chicken salad sandwich
  • Peanut butter sandwich
  • Egg sandwich
  • Bagel
  • Yogurt
  • Fruit
  • Dried fruit, nuts and seeds
  • Rice cakes
  • Low fat cereal bar

Don’t Forget to Drink:

Make sure that you drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated. It is important that you are replacing the water lost by sweating in training.

  • Water
  • Diluted Squash
  • Fruit juice

After high intensity training it may be appropriate to ingest protein mixed with high carbohydrates. This may be achieved using known brand formulated drinks.

Morning Training – Have a snack item (examples above) with fruit juice 30 minutes before training with breakfast after training.

Training later in the day – try to eat an exercise-friendly meal two or three hours before you go. This means keeping your carbohydrate and protein levels high on roughly a 60:40 ratio and not lots of slow unsaturated fats.

Some examples:

  • Baked potatoes – fill them with beans, sweet corn or chilli, not too much cheese, and remember to eat the skin, as it’s the healthiest bit!
  • Pasta meals or bakes – again go light on the cheese, throw in plenty of vegetables. Tuna is also a great energy source.
  • Beans on toast – low-sugar baked beans are good for you. Bags of protein in the beans and wholemeal toast. And if beans aren’t your thing, eggs will do a similar job.
  • Chilli-con-carne, beans, lean mince, and brown rice should set you up perfectly for exercise in a few hours. Fatty, greasy mince, white rice and salty tortilla chips will not.

Advice & Tips

>> British Swimming Nutrition Advice
>> Breakfast ideas for young competitive swimmers - swimming.org
>> Healthy lunchbox ideas for young swimmers - swimming.org
>> Dinner ideas for young competitive swimmers - swimming.org
>> How Many Calories Do I Need? - NHS 
(REMEMBER - it will be higher on days swimmers are training, so could be closer to 3000 a day!)

Further Reading Resources

>> Beating Eating Disorders - BEAT

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