If you’re a Competitive swimmer, you will already be aware of the importance your diet plays on your performance in the pool. But assuming you’re a healthy eater, read on for information on how you can tune your eating habits to boost your swimming performance.


Nutritional needs change depending on whether you are in training or about to enter a competition. If you want to know what you should be eating the day before and during competition then click here.

But if it is general tips you want on fine tuning your eating habits to perform better then here is some advice from the experts at the ASA.

Exercise Meals

If you’re planning to go swimming or training later in the day try to eat an exercise-friendly meal two and three hours before you go. This means keeping your carbohydrate and protein levels high on roughly a 60:40 ratio and don’t pig out on sluggish unsaturated fats.

Here are some good examples:

  • Baked potatoes – fill them with beans, sweet corn or chilli, not too much cheese, and remember to eat the skin, 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 – they may be the signature of a student’s staple diet but low-sugar baked beans are actually really good for you. Bags of protein in the beans and whole meal toast has your complex carbohydrates. And if beans aren’t your thing, eggs will do a similar job.
  • Chilli con carne – beans, lean mince, and brown rice all should set you up perfectly for exercise in a few hours. Fatty, greasy mince, white rice and salty tortilla chips will not.

Pre-training Snacks

  • Unless you’re trying to lose body fat don’t train on an empty stomach, you’ll be running on empty and your performance will be impaired. Eat a small meal or snack between one and two hours before you start your training.
  • Great snacking foods are fruits (fresh is best but dried are still okay), energy foods (cereal bars, fruit shakes), yogurt (low fat if possible) or whole grain foods (whole wheat cereal or whole meal toast).
  • Snacking During the Day
  • Elite athletes keep their blood sugar level as constant as possible by snacking regularly (and healthily) during the day.
  • Only do this if you’re training enough not to add body weight from the increased food/calorie intake.
  • Target the same snacks you would as a pre-training boost – complex carbohydrates, fruits or fruit shakes.


  • If you’re putting in the metres in the pool, your body will need a boost when you finish your training.
  • Always try to refuel within 30 minutes of finishing and preferably within 15 minutes – your body immediately needs nutrients to repair muscles and replace energy.
  • Make sure you’re refueling with the ‘right’ foods though – something low in fat but high in carbohydrates and protein.

Nutritional Advice

  • Try to drink lots of water before and during your training.
  • 1 Litre of water for each hour of training is a good guide.
  • Remember to take your water bottle to every training session. It may seem that you never get thirsty, but you need liquid to stay hydrated.
  • Try to eat a light snack 40 minutes before training and eat within an hour of finishing training.
  • The main source of energy for exercise comes from carbohydrates. Most top swimmers eat meals that are high in carbohydrates and low in fat – rice or pasta with low fat sauces, noodles – chow mein, jacket potato, beans on toast, cereal and toast.
  • Before a competition, you should aim to eat a high carbohydrate, low fat meal 2 – 4 hours before the start time.
  • At all day open meets, a small snack can be eaten about 30 minutes before a race; bananas, dried fruit, jelly cubes, nutrigrain bar, malt loaf.
  • After a competition, eat a high carbohydrate snack or meal such as pizza, pasta, rice or noodles, jacket potato.
  • Just as for training, it is important before, at and after competitions to keep drinking plenty of fluids such as water, weak juices.
  • Avoid sugary and fizzy drinks.