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by Chris Ritter

January 5, 2015

When and what to eat for training

There are many different ways to be successful in your swim training, and what and when you eat contributes to that success. When it comes to maximizing the effectiveness of your nutrition, it’s often a matter of timing.

The Whole Picture First

If you don’t have a regular intake of quality whole food, nothing you do right before or after your workout will really make a difference. Eating whole and real food should be your first priority. If you aren’t currently doing that on a regular basis. Check out Nutrition, Simply for more on general nutrition guidelines. The fewer processed foods you consume, the better you’ll feel and your swimming will show it.

Hydration is just as important as eating whole foods. Drinking a glass of water as soon as you wake up is a great start to your day. Plus, the greater the amount of water that constitutes your liquid consumption, the better your body will perform.

The same is true for food. You wouldn’t go all day after breakfast not eating or drinking water and then have a great evening practice. But this is exactly what you’re doing to your body if you don’t eat something when you wake up in the morning before heading to the pool for your early practice.


When planning what to eat before a workout, consider the type of workout you’ll be doing. The type of activity influences which resource your body will tap for energy. If it’s a longer workout, go for something with a higher fat content, such as peanut butter. If you’re expecting a more intense workout, choose something that consists of more carbohydrates for your fuel, such as a banana.

Timing the intake of that meal is also important. Make sure you provide at least 30 minutes prior to exercise or longer to be sure that your food is digested and ready to use as fuel for your body. You won’t have as much time before your morning workout to digest than you would if your workout were in the afternoon, so it’s important to have something light and quick.

A good example of a quick meal in the morning, suitable for either an endurance or high intensity workout, is a smoothie consisting of light, easily digested protein powder, blueberries, avocado, Greek yogurt, and a little water to thin it out. An even simpler option is some nuts and a piece of fruit.

During Workout

Try to drink 8 to 16 ounces of water per hour depending on the intensity of your training. Many swimmers don’t realize how much they’re sweating in the pool and that those fluids need to be replaced to prevent performance drop-off.


Protein is the last source of fuel your body wants to use while exercising. Your body is craving protein to rebuild your muscles from the workout that you just finished. It’s not during the actual training that your body improves, but rather in the recovery portion. This is why it’s so important to have a post-workout fuel plan. A good rule of thumb is the have 10-20 grams in a mixed recovery meal or as part of a snack if a meal will be a few hours off.

Although the emphasis should be on protein content, carbs and fat can help bring up your energy levels after a workout. If you’re trying to watch your weight, this is the most optimal time to consume carbs for the day because your body will immediately put them to use repairing and restoring your muscles instead of storing them as fat.

In addition to eating healthy foods al the time, paying attention to what and when you eat is a great way to improve your swimming performance.


  • Technique and Training
  • Health and Nutrition