To enable you to make the most of your developing swimming skills you need to ensure that you provide your body with the necessary energy. The following is a simple guide to help you plan.


The main aim is to ensure that enough fluids are being taken to keep the body hydrated. One way of checking is to ensure that your urine is plentiful and clear.  Correct fluids to take are water, preferably with cordial or juice added. The low calorie varieties are better as these will hydrate the body faster than the sugar varieties.

Diet drinks are better to be consumed after training sessions to help with the hydration. Full fat drinks provide more sugars to the body but also dehydrate it at the same time therefore these are better to have during training sessions as they provide sugars and glycogen to the body.

Energy Needs

Food is your fuel. What you eat will significantly affect the way that you train. Therefore, you must take in the same amount of fuel that you will use. Training programmes are planned in cycles. The week of the cycle will determine the type and quantity of different food stuffs required.

As the training duration and intensity increases through the cycles this should be reflected in your eating habits. For example, more carbohydrates need to be eaten when the training is predominantly aerobic endurance/threshold.

The key is to start every day with a fully stocked energy store and avoid running out of steam half way through the day or in the middle of a session. Therefore, breakfast should never be avoided.

No Dieting

If weight loss is needed do not try and achieve it by reducing the amount of food intake. The same amount of food should be eaten just lower fat alternatives. However, as the training duration and intensity increases through the cycle and programme a reduction in weight will be seen, especially in females.

A well balanced diet alongside a well planned swimming programme should provide ultimate performance in the pool, both at training and competitions.

Do not use supplements to mask a poor diet. Nothing beats a well planned nutritional Progamme.

Food Suggestions

  • Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • High Complex Carbohydrate intake eg pasta, potatoes, bread, rice
  • Consume small quantities of fat on a regular basis
  • Consume a mixture of different protein containing foods on a daily basis eg fish, eggs, meat as part of a meal, not as an expense of a carbohydrate meal.


A swimmers THREE major nutritional aims when preparing for a competition should be:

To ensure maximum store of Glycogen (Carbohydrate): Failure to do so may result in fatigue. Although a one off swim may not severely deplete these stores in reality, swimmers often compete in several races, heats and finals, over one or successive days. Several bouts of exercise a day have been shown to reduce glycogen stores considerably leaving the athlete feeling jaded, lethargic and tired.

To ensure hydration: Swimming pools are extremely hot and humid places. Sweat losses can be high in such conditions. It is particularly easy to neglect your fluid requirements in the excitement and nervousness of the event. Dehydration will occur if fluid losses are not replaced.

To maintain a familiar nutrition programme: Food is often different to “home cooking” in unfamiliar surroundings of a hotel or Guest House. No matter how tempting, the key to successful preparation is to stick to the foods that are familiar. Always pack an emergency bag of food and drinks so that you never get caught short. A little prior investigation is a wise precaution to find out what type of foods will be available in the hotel and pool and plan accordingly.

Night before the competition

Continue to focus on a high carbohydrate/low fat diet with plenty of fluid. Some suggestions are:

  • Rice or pasta with a low fat sauce
  • A noodle dish eg Chow Mein
  • Jacket potato with a low fat filling
  • Deep pan pizza (watch the fatty toppings)
  • Beans on Toast

Between Races

The length of time between races an individual preferences will determine your food selection. As a general rule if there is less than an hour between races your choice will be limited to drinks rather than food. If you have longer and are sure that you are able to tolerate food then select carbohydrate rich food or snacks to boost your energy levels. Some suggestions are:

  • Sports drinks
  • Sandwiches and rolls eg banana sandwiches.
  • Energy Bars/ Cereal Bars
  • Pop Corn/Pop Tarts
  • Jelly cubes/sweets

Post Competition

Whilst temptation is to tuck into burgers to celebrate, such choices may not meet your fuel or fluid requirements if you are competing the following day. Since many galas finish late at night treat yourself to a sensible takeaway or restaurant meal. Some suggestions are:

  • Chinese Meals – focus on rice and noodle dishes
  • Pizza – focus on deep pan varieties
  • Pasta dishes with tomato based sauces
  • Jacket potato and salad with a low fat filling
  • Indian food – focus on rice and breads