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Sports Nutrition: Nutrition for Swim Meets

Updated: Mar 8, 2020

How to be well fuelled for your upcoming swim meet or swim competition!

Give yourself the best chance at achieving your next PB!

Swimming requires a dedicated commitment to training, with some elite swimmers training 6 to 12 times per week. Depending on the race distance, training sessions can cover up to 10km and include 1-2km of high-intensity sprints.

Swimming competitions may last for 1 to 7 days depending on the level of competition. Over shorter distances, swimming is a very anaerobic sport with aerobic metabolism increasing with longer distances. In some competitions swimmers may compete 2 to 3 times per day and have as little as 20 minutes to recover between races while in other situations there may be several hours between races.

Many high-level swimmers are in their teens, this means that swimmers are often completing high volumes of training during periods of growth and muscular development. This can lead to high energy and nutritional requirements to meet needs and can make it a challenge to ‘get enough in’.

Training diet for swimming

Individual nutrition requirements will be determined by training load, specific athlete needs, training goals, body composition goals, health and adjustment for growth in younger athletes.

Typically, training sessions are held early in the morning and as a result some swimmers skip breakfast before training for stomach comfort, lack of appetite or to sneak in an extra 10 minutes sleep!

Ideally, swimmers should aim to eat breakfast or a light snack prior to training to maximise performance – especially for key training sessions. Liquid meal drinks or milk tetra packs can be useful for fuelling and stomach comfort, especially when appetite is poor.

Nutrition is often based around lean proteins for muscle repair and recovery, carbohydrate appropriately timed for fuel. In addition, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrains provide important vitamins and minerals, along with some healthy fats.

Hydration needs

In order to stay hydrated, swimmers should drink fluids should before, during and after training and events.. Water bottles should be taken to training and competitions and placed in an easily accessible location to ensure fluids are consumed regularly.

For most training sessions water is sufficient to meet hydration needs. However, if training for maximum performance, or during very long training sessions, sports drinks can be useful as they provide carbohydrate for fuel and electrolytes (recipe here) and fluid for hydration goals.

In my sports nutrition consultations, I provide a comprehensive individualised plans for not only training sessions, but also for your swim competition days.

So that you know EXACTLY what to eat and when!!

You plan will include:

Body Composition Analysis

What to eat before warm ups

What to eat after warm ups

What to eat pre-event

What to eat between events

Post-race recovery

Nutrition fuelling tips

Recipes for snacks and meals

Cooking session and Meal Preparation advice and workshops.

  • Be organised Players should have snacks ready to go at the venue as it can be difficult to rely on the venue to provide appropriate choices.

  • Competition eating should be practiced during training sessions or intra-club lead up competitions before major events to help identify food choices that will suit best.

Body composition goals can be a challenge for adolescent swimmers despite the heavy training loads, as adolescence brings hormonal changes e.g. natural increase in body fat for females; and huge growth spurts & weight maintenance. It is important that athletes, particularly adolescents going through puberty, seek the advice of an Sports Dietitian to find the balance between body composition goals, health and wellbeing and of course, performance in the pool.

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