Choosing the right food to eat before and after swimming can have a massive effect on both your performance in the pool and your body's ability to recover faster.
It doesn't matter whether you're a competitive swimmer or you're just swimming for fitness or leisure. Being smart about what you eat - and when you eat it - is extremely important.
Selecting the right food to eat will depend on your goals. Do you need to release energy progressively to keep you going at full steam for longer, or do you require an easy-to-digest low fat meal that will help you feel more comfortable during your swim?
To prepare for optimum performance, you'll need to understand what to eat before and after your swim to enhance your training.
Learn about which energy rich foods can help you to swim longer, and which foods to avoid! Check out these top tips for smart eating before and after your swim sessions.
EATING BEFORE SWIMMING
What is the best food to eat before swimming?
Look for foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates. A decent-sized meal that contains these slow-release carbs will act as a prolonged energy source to keep you swimming for longer.
Excellent pre-swim foods for a consistent energy supply include:
- Wholegrain pasta
- Wholegrain bread
- Brown rice
- Sweet potatoes
- Peas and beans
- Unsalted nuts
- Porridge oats
You could also try yoghurts or smoothies, which are a fantastic way of fuelling your body without putting pressure on your digestive system. The trusty banana is always a reliable choice of fruit, too.
When should you eat before swimming?
Many experts recommending eating the right foods at least one hour before you plan to swim.
Meals containing slow-release carbs can take time to digest. If you get into the pool too soon after eating, you could feel bloated and won't get the full refuelling benefits.
When you eat, your body will send your blood supply to the digestive system to help break down and process the foods you are eating. During exercise, the blood supply is directed towards your muscles.
Swimming too soon after eating your pre-swim meal will result in both your digestive system and your muscles not getting the blood supply they need to function efficiently.
I have to swim early in the morning. What snacks for swimmers are there?
Eating wisely before swimming depends largely on what time you're planning to hit the pool. It's a lot easier to eat the right food if you're swimming in the daytime or evening.
But what if your only chance to swim is first thing in the morning, before work or school? Many swimmers head straight to the pool after waking up, and don't have one or two hours spare to eat and digest a proper breakfast.
Whenever possible, you should eat something before swimming. If you train on an empty stomach, you'll find you will tire out a lot faster and won't have the energy to make the most of your session.
Quick energy-boosting snacks for swimmers are available for those who need to get out of bed and head straight to the pool. Try a large banana, or dates. They are high in natural sugars and are easy to digest, so shouldn't feel heavy in your stomach. Other recommendations include:
- Large banana
- Energy bar or cereal bar
- Energy gels
- Jellied sweets
- 500ml bottle of sports drink
If you really suffer from nausea or extreme discomfort when swimming after eating, you can also try to plan ahead the previous night.
Choose a meal that is high in carbohydrates - these will be stored in your muscles as glycogen overnight, and will give you some fuel for your swim the next morning.
How to stay hydrated during swimming
Because you're in the water, you won't notice if you're sweating as much as you would when exercising on dry land.
But swimming is no different to any other form of exercise. It is vital to keep your body well hydrated so you can maintain your energy levels and performance.
Becoming dehydrated while swimming can also leave you feeling unwell, both in the water and for the rest of the day. Common symptoms include swimmer's headache.
Take a water bottle with you and leave it poolside. Take regular sips in between lengths or drills. It's also important to drink enough water before and after swimming too.
It's not just hydration levels you need to remember either. When you exercise and sweat, your body loses vital electrolytes including sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Replenishing these electrolytes is also important for sustained energy during exercise.
An extensive range of sports energy bars, gels and electrolyte drink tabs are available to provide you with such boosts during exercise. Click the button below for our recommended products.
EATING AFTER SWIMMING
When should you eat after swimming?
It is just as important to choose the right food to eat after your swimming session. You know have to consider refuelling your body and helping it to recover quickly.
Instant recovery foods are available that can be eaten within 20-30 minutes of finishing your swim. Protein helps to repair the muscles, while carbohydrates help to restore your body's glycogen levels.
If you're able to eat a healthy meal after swimming, aim to do so within an hour or so after finishing your session.
What is the best food to eat after swimming
For swimmers on the go, instant recovery foods are extremely useful. Recovery drinks or recovery bars will provide protein to start repairing muscle fibres and recharge energy levels.
For your main after-swim meal, you should also be looking for good sources of lean proteins. Tasty options include lean chicken, turkey or oily fish with a baked sweet potato or brown rice.
Adam Peaty discussed the importance of protein in a recent interview with The Telegraph. During the interview, he advised the below:
"During a tough winter training block I can eat 6,000 to 8,000 calories a day to fuel all my training and recovery. I have to get through a heck of a lot of food but I try to keep things interesting by eating my protein on a cycle – for example, steak on Monday, chicken on Tuesday, and fish on Wednesday. I get through a lot of scrambled egg and piles of veg and rice too."
While protein is important, make sure you don't overlook other food sources. Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables for a good supply of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
If the main goal of your swimming is to lose weight, you should also choose post-swim foods that have a low Glycaemic Index (GI) score. After a lot of exercise, you're bound to feel hungry. But choosing food with a low GI score will help you feel fuller for longer, making it easier to resist the temptation to snack.
FOOD TO AVOID BEFORE OR AFTER SWIMMING
It may sound obvious, but avoid fatty foods. These are harder for your body to digest, and can lead to indigestion and discomfort while swimming. Also avoid excessively spicy food, excess caffeine and alcohol.