Swimming blog - TRAINING and HEALTH What to eat before and after swimming?

Do you ever feel powerless and slow during a swim workout? Chances are that you haven’t fuelled your body properly before you dove in the water. Whether you’re training for a triathlon or a novice that swims for fun, it’s highly recommended to fuel your workouts. What you should eat around your swimming workout is very dependent on the type of training you're doing. If you're training for an Ironman, you’re pre and post workout meals would look considerably different than a recreational swimmer that swims twice a week for fun. Here is a guide to what to eat before and after any type of training. 

Pre Workout
There seems to be quite some discussion whether a pre workout meal is necessary. However if you’ll ask any sport dietician the answer will be clear, the pre workout meal is the most important meal of the day. Optimizing the pre workout meal will ensure that you are properly fueled to perform at your very best. The pre workout meal should especially contain carbs, which will provide you with sustainable energy throughout your workout. Meanwhile a moderate intake of fiber and fat is advised, to avoid an upset stomach. It should also contain an easy digestible protein to help your body perform better and recover faster after each workout.

How much and what to eat before swimming
The closer your pre workout meal is to hitting the pool the smaller it must be. A meal 1 to 2 hours before your workout, should contain 300-400 calories. And a meal 3 to 4 hours before your workout, contains 400-800 calories. The heavier or longer the workout, the bigger the meal. The meal is balanced around carbs and proteins, however for endurance athlete’s the pre workout meal is based around mostly carbs, since they need the carbs for prolonged energy for their longer workouts.

If you're short on time or you’re about to swim just a few laps, a pick-me-up snack (of 100-300 calories) 30 to 60 minutes before your workout is sufficient. To make it simple we have listed a few pre-workout meals and snack ideas, let’s dive in.  

Pre workout meals
Oatmeal with banana (endurance athlete)
Whole wheat bread with turkey, egg, cheese, hummus, or spread
Wrap with chicken, tuna or falafel
Potato with salmon and vegetables
Rice bowl with chicken and vegetables

Pre workout snacks 
Rice crackers with spreads
Peanut butter jelly
Fruit and greek yogurt
Banana or some other fruit
Cereal with some low fat milk
Granola bar

Post Workout
An entire post workout meal is usually not necessary, unless you're an (endurance) athlete doing multiple sessions a day. For most swimmers having a post workout snack while waiting until their next meal is sufficient. The primary goal of the post workout nutrition is to start the recovery process. The most important is therefore protein, since protein will provide the building blocks to repair the muscles that were damaged during training. An equally important objective of post-workout nutrition is to replenish depleted energy stores, therefore eating carbs post-workout is suggested. Mirroring the suggestions for the pre-workout meal, post workout nutrition should contain moderate amounts of fat and fiber. However since the workout is already complete, there is more room for flexibility with fats and fiber post workout. 

How much and what to eat after swimming
Pre- and post-workout nutrition is quite similar, usually the biggest difference is that post workout nutrition has a bit more protein and is flexible with fats and fiber. A post-workout snack (of 150-300 calories) should be consumed within 1 hour after practise. This snack is usually sufficient for the recreational swimmer. However for the (endurance) athlete this snack should be followed by a complete post workout meal (of 400-800 calories) 2 to 3 hours after the workout. The size of the meal depends on the length and intensity of the swim and on other workouts planned that day. Following is a list of post-workout nutrition ideas. 

Post-workout snacks
Protein Smoothie
Turkey sandwich
Protein Bar
Trail Mix
Chocolate Milk
Yogurt Parfait

Post-workout meals 
Salmon Cream Cheese Bagels
Oatmeal (with protein powder) and toppings
Quinoa bean salad
Chicken curry with rice.   
Rice bowl with chicken and vegetables
Omelet with whole wheat bread

Adjust the portion sizes of your pre and post workout meals according to the length and intensity of your swim workout. It will take some trial and error to figure out what works best for you, but eventually your performance and energy during and after your workout will fly through the roof. Don’t forget that, in addition to choosing the right fuel, it’s also important to hydrate before, during and after your workout. We recommend you to take 2 cups of water 2 hours before swimming, and at least 1 cup of water every hour of swimming. If you're curious to know why swimmers should hydrate and you're not done reading just yet, read this blog in which we explain exactly that.

Written by Saskia Postma

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