Pre-Workout Nutrition for Swimming


Athletes, including swimmers, require a healthy diet plan to fuel their workouts and performances. Although one ideal diet for swimmers does not exist, a well-balanced diet that consists of complex carbs, lean proteins and healthy fats is essential. What you eat before a swimming workout is just as important as what you eat throughout the day. Your meals should be planned to suit your individual needs. Consult a healthcare professional before making any dietary changes that could affect your health.

Complex Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide the main source of fuel to the body and brain. Swimmers require carbs to fuel their workouts and aid muscle recovery post-exercise. Nancy Clark, M.S, R.D., author of "Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 4th Edition," suggests that carbs should form the foundation of each meal. Include a total of at least 200 to 300 calories worth of carbs in each meal. This could be the equivalent of a bowl of cereal, one-cup of brown rice, or two slices of whole-wheat bread. Incorporate these foods into your breakfast or lunch as they will help fuel a morning or afternoon workout.

When To Eat

Contrary to the commonly held belief that you should not eat before swimming, eating the proper foods at the right time can actually benefit your workout. Not eating enough before a workout may lead to lethargy, fatigue, weakness, nausea and dizziness. Ideally, meals should be eaten at regular intervals throughout the day. Eat snacks approximately forty-five minutes to one hour before your workout. However, how close you eat to a workout varies among individuals as some people may be able to eat a small snack, such as a piece of fruit, 10 minutes before a workout with no ill effects. Experiment with what works for you but, to reduce the chances of stomach upset, avoid eating foods that are too heavy or are unfamiliar to you before you swim.


Pre-workout nutrition before swimming should consist of foods that are low in fat. Foods that are high in fat delay gastric emptying as they take longer to digest. This can lead to stomach upsets including constipation, diarrhea, bloating and flatulence, which can slow down swimming performances, lead to sluggishness, cramping ,or the inability to complete a workout. Avoid eating a heavy meal a few hours before a workout by eating a light lunch, such as a tuna sandwich on whole-wheat with a salad and an apple, and snacking on a home-made oatmeal granola bar an hour before your workout. Small amounts of fat, such as a tablespoon of peanut butter spread on an apple, is less likely to irritate the stomach and thus can be consumed as a pre-workout snack.


Fruit makes an ideal pre-workout snack for swimming as they are portable, convenient and low in fat. Most fruits are low in calories, have no added refined sugars, and are a source of vitamins and minerals, which are essential for normal body processes and protection against diseases and certain cancers. Fruits are also high in water content, which can help keep you hydrated and satiated before your workout and thus prevent avoid hunger cravings that have you reaching for foods high in sugar and fat. Snack on a banana, strawberries, orange, or a handful of grapes served with whole-grain crackers and a small slice of low-fat cheese.