Nutrition is very important for swimming athletes, particularly prior to and during competitions. What you eat leading up to your race can have a big impact on your performance, and if you are like many and need to race several times during a competition, your nutritional recovery between races is also very important. The information below is based on a standard competition that has swimming heats in the morning session, and finals later in the day.
Some Tips for Preparation
- Get day-to-day eating right in the weeks and days leading up to the competition.
- Eat yogurt/yakhult daily to correct gut bacteria.
- Ensure adequate carbohydrate intake (to keep fuel stores up).
- Keep your fluid levels up (water mainly) in the days preceding competition.
- Take a multivitamin during the competition (as a safety net).
- Timing of fuel intake is important.
- Parents/helpers to consider where the local shop is. Take a shopping list with you. Consider what is available at the venue, and whether you can utilize foods there, otherwise take all snacks with you for the whole day. Consider creating a bulk food pack for all athletes.
Morning of Competition
- Breakfast – use your regular cereal or breakfast choices. Eat as much as can be tolerated, plus fluids.
- Warm up at Pool – What should they consume after finishing warm up? – Water.
- Before Swimming Heat – Do they need additional carbohydrate (sports bars, liquid meal replacement) or just a sports drink? Timing is the key here; what time are heats; how many races for the individual. Better to eat small amounts more frequently.
- After heat and warm down? Fluids. If it was an exhausting heat, then possibly sports drinks, otherwise water. Be aware that lunch is coming up as the "recovery meal".
What should swimmers eat if they have to return for a final that night? An ideal lunch is a carbohydrate-based meal, with protein optional. The meal should not be too large, as the swimmer should be relying on smaller snacks to top up fuel stores.
- Sandwiches/rolls with meat/cheese + fruit
- Sushi (min 6 pieces) + fruit
- Leftover pasta, noodles or rice from the night before
- Fruit bread, hot x bun with a glass of milk and fruit
- Baked beans on toast
- Baked potatoes with cheese or baked beans
More snack ideas
Fresh fruit, dried fruit, fruit tubs, cereal bars, milk drinks, low-fat yogurt tubs, low-fat custard tubs, pikelets, pancakes, dry crackers like vitawheats, cruskits, rice crackers with jam/jelly, or low-fat dips.
- What should they consume after rest and before heading back to the pool for the evening final session? Water, and a snack 1/2 to 1 hour pre warm up.
- What should they consume after their warm-up, before racing finals? just fluids, maybe sports drink if a longer race
- What should they consume after the final and warm down? Having a snack or sports drink within half an hour after racing, before the long ride home is ideal to start replenishing fuel stores. For example, cereal bars, sports bars, fruit bars and fruit tubs.
Dinner (at end of day)
Evening meals can be prepared earlier at the lunchtime break, so athletes can eat immediately on returning. Eat as much as can be tolerated with bedtime close. A balance of carbohydrates (2/4) and protein (1/4 - 100-150g) with the rest vegetables (hopefully). Quantity can be slightly less than their usual meal size, as the swimmers will have eaten more snacks during the day to cover total energy needs. The amount consumed will also depend on the athlete's energy expenditure over the competition day, and their basal energy needs which vary between individuals.