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Nutrition Fact Sheet

In order to live we need energy to perform basic tasks. As athletes swimmers require more energy to enable them to train and compete.

Energy comes from the intake of food.

A young athlete needs a diet of 60-70% carbohydrates, 10-15% protein and 20-25% from fat.

It is essential to keep up the intake of food to fuel the bodies energy systems. A diet high in carbohydrates increases stores of muscle glycogen and this improves performance and recovery when we exercise.

It is important to take regular amounts of carbohydrates during the day and replace the stores quickly following training (within half an hour). Starchy carbohydrate is better for us than sugar based carbohydrate.

Try having something in your bag to eat on the way home such as a cereal bar, banana or some dried fruit. Use an isotonic drink to replace carbohydrate if eating is difficult directly after the session, and then have a meal 1-2 hours later.

So remember keep up your stores of energy foods. Make sure the main food on your plate is carbohydrate. Eat plenty of cereal and grains such as rice, pasta, bread, and breakfast cereals and include some wholegrain foods.

Stock up with pulses (peas, beans, lentils), sweet corn and potatoes.

Protein rich foods should include lean meats and fish or your vegetarian replacement. Try to use low fat dairy products.

Don’t forget to include the 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day and your diet will be complete. A swimmer should gain all the necessary minerals and vitamins but if unsure a multivitamin can be taken daily.

Fluid intake is equally important in order for the athlete to perform at their best. Dehydration causes a reduction in blood flow (the blood gets thicker) and stops oxygen and food reaching the working muscles. The body is slower to remove waste and heat. This causes early fatigue affecting the ability to train and compete.

Weighing the swimmer before and after the session can give an indication of fluid loss. A loss of 1kg is equivalent to the loss of 1 litre of fluid. Being aware of toilet visits can be another check. Urine that is clear and passed frequently indicates a good level of hydration.

Drinks should be taken little and often throughout the day with extra fluid taken (150-500ml) before a long training session.

Top up during the session is very important. Use well diluted fruit juice and squashes, avoid fizzy drinks and those with high sugar content. Some carbohydrate in the drink will aid hydration but too much is not a good idea.

Keep the level down to approximately 50-80g per litre. Commercially available isotonic drinks are .expensive but can be made at home. Use squash or diluted fruit juice with a pinch of salt. Our diet does contain plenty of salt as it is added to foods such as cereals and processed products.


For two or three days prior to competition be more aware of what you are eating. The amount of carbohydrate in your diet needs to be increased to keep your energy stores full. Remember to reduce fat intake if training is lighter to reduce the possibility of an increase in weight.
Always take a high carbohydrate meal the night before a competition, and make sure you have a good breakfast.

For swimmers with “nerves” it may be wise to reduce the intake of fibre!!

It takes 3-4 hours to digest a large meal and 1-2 hours to digest a light meal so timing is important. If eating is difficult before competition use a carbohydrate supplement drink or a sports drink.

Between races the swimmer needs to replace the fuel again so if there is a 1 hour interval eat a chocolate or cereal bar, dried fruit, jelly or take an isotonic drink.

If the interval between events is 2 hours or longer consume a light meal high in carbohydrate.

Remember to include fluids little and often.

After the competition

Proper refuelling must begin as soon as the last race is over, ideally within half an hour. Include plenty of carbohydrate food and replacement fluid at this time.

High carbohydrate foods

Breakfast cereals All types of bread
Oatcakes, rice cakes, crispbreads Pasta, rice, noodles
Pizza bases Potatoes and potato products
Sweetcorn and popcorn Pop tarts
Fruit-all types Beans, peas, lentils, and barley
Chocolate bars, Cereal bars Root vegetables
Puddings and fruit yoghurts Cakes

Light meals & snacks

Light pasta meal Jacket potato with low fat filling
Breakfast cereal and skimmed milk Sandwiches
Bagels, currant buns, tea cakes Pizza (deep pan)
Beans on toast Toast and honey/jam
Porridge with syrup and raisins Indian with rice and breads
Chinese meals (avoid battered dishes) Soya based foods