Nutrition is an important part of your training programme.

Eating the right types and amounts of food, as well as drinking enough Fluid before, during and after each training session will help you perform better, and recover faster between training sessions. It will also help to keep you healthy and reduce your chances of getting colds and other illnesses. Here are some nutritional strategies that can be used to improve your training sessions.

Swimmers  need a high carbohydrate diet to fuel their bodies during training, as well as adequate protein for growth and muscle repair, and (mainly unsaturated) far for fuel and overall health. A general guideline is to have one third of the plate cards (pasta, bread, rice, potatoes, or cereal), one third protein (fish, chicken, lean meat, eggs, bean, lentils, tofu) and one third vegetables (or salad). You should also include health fats (olive oil, oily fish, nuts) and at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day to ensure you get the omega-3 fats, vitamins, minerals, fibre and other protective nutrients needed to stay healthy and promote recovery.

How much energy do swimmers need?

Your calories intake depends on your calorie expenditure, body size, weight, and how much muscle you have. On top of this you need extra calories for growth (60-100 calories a day) as well as extra calories to fuel your training sessions (approx 1000 calories / 2 hours). So a typical 60Kg male swimmer would need about 3400 – 3600 calories a day, a 55kg female about 2800 – 3000 calories.  if you’re doing circuits, land training or other sports, add an extra 300-400 calories/hour.

When to eat before training?

If you train in the evening, your earlier meals and snacks will help to fuel your workout.  Make sure you eat at regular intervals and never skip meals.  The optimal time for the pre-exercise meal is 2-4 hours before training. If you training session starts at 7pm, have dinner at 4 or 5pm. Aim for ‘comfortably full’, not stuffed. If there isn’t time for a meal then have a smaller meal or healthy snack 30 mins or 1 hour before training, with a drink.

What to eat before training?

Of all the foods you could have before a workout prioritise ones rich in carbohydrates, especially if you will be training for 2 hours or longer. This is the body’s preferred energy source during exercise.  Opt for wholegrain carbs wherever possible, together with a spruce of protein and some veg – this will provide sustained energy and improve performance.

…and before training?

Start refuelling within 30 mins after training, even if it’s late in the evening. This will help your muscles recover faster. Your recovering snack should contain carbohydrates to replenish depleted fuel (glycogen) stores, as well as protein to repair and rebuild the muscles. It can be similar to the pre-training snack, perhaps with a little extra protein. Good choices include milk and milk-based drinks, yoghurt, oat-based bars, cereal with milk, or nuts.

How much to drink?

Dehydration slows you down and makes your swimming feel much harder. The most important hing is that you arrive at your training session properly hydrated, (you can check for dehydration with the pee test). Drink plenty during the day, little an often. Have around 250-300ml 2 hours before the session. During training have 3-4 gulps every 15 mins (or at convenient intervals), rather than a large volume in one go. Generally, the rule is to drink about 125ml of fluid for every km swum. Drink plenty after training to aid recovery. 

How to avoid fatigue during training?

Early fatigue during training can be caused by:


Avoid this by making sure you drink enough before and during the session. 

Low blood sugar levels

void this by choosing diluted squash. One part squash six part water or any ready-made drink containing around 5g sugar / 100ml

Depleted reserves of carbohydrate in muscles (glycogen)

Avoid this by eating a balanced meal containing carbs and protein (and some fat) about 2-3 hours before training; eat consistently during day; do not skip meals

Training on an empty stomach may result in low blood glucose levels, light headedness, nauseous and poor performance. If a meal is out of the question, try to have nutrition high carb snacks, such as toast with honey, dried fruit or banana. Alternatively, try a nutritious drink such as milk, milkshake or a smoothie. Some fuel is better than no fuel at all.

Sugar. Good or bad for swimmers performance?

I frequently see swimmers eating sweets and drinking sugary drinks before training session or at galas under the belief that sugar will aid their performance. In fact, the opposite has been shown to hold true – consuming sugar before exercise does NOT improve performance or stamina. Eating lots of sugar triggers high levels of insulin in the blood stream, which takes sugar out of the bloodstream rapidly, resulting in a sharp drop in blood sugar. This rebound effect can make  you feel tired, weak and light headed. Instead eat a healthy a pre-training meal that include wholegrain carbs and protein. If you need a pre-training energy boost, its safer to choose foods such as bananas, dried fruit, and oat (granola) bars that wont play havoc with blood sugar levels.