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  • Jun

    Quick Nutrition Tips for Summer Swimming

    by Elle Penner, MPH, Registered Dietitian

    When it comes to swimming, deciding what to eat before a rigorous training session or a big meet is a common dilemma.

    Dive right into the pool without eating or drinking beforehand and you may not have enough fuel in the tank to perform your best. On the other hand, eating too much, or the wrong types of foods, could lead to stomach cramping, indigestion–or worse.

    The good news is, it’s possible to be properly fueled for a morning workout without the unpleasant side effects. It’s all about what you eat, and when you eat it.

    Before Your Swim

    Eat a balanced meal 3-4 hours before. If your swim is later in the day, try to time your meal so you have adequate time to digest before getting wet. Including some protein will keep you satiated and may help reduce post-exercise soreness.

    Have a carbohydrate-rich snack 30-60 minutes before go-time. Doing so will top off muscle glycogen stores which provide you with that quick energy needed during exercise. A few good options include a piece of fruit, a jam sandwich, or low-fiber granola bar.

    Eat something, even if it’s early. Over the course of the night your carbohydrate stores, which your muscles rely on for energy during exercise, have been used to maintain your blood sugar and provide energy to your brain. Not eating beforehand could cause you to bonk midway through your swim. Sneak in a carbohydrate-rich snack when you wake up and follow up with a more substantial breakfast after.

    If eating early in the morning doesn’t agree with you, have some applesauce or a small glass of 100% fruit juice. Just stay away from the more acidic juices like orange or grapefruit since they can irritate your stomach.

    Wash those carbs down with water. Drink a tall glass of water to help digest your snack and hydrate before your workout.

    Avoid foods high in fiber and fat. Fiber and fat take more time and effort for you body to digest and can cause an upset stomach, so it’s best to hold off on these foods until after your swim.

    After Your Swim

    Eat within 1 hour. As soon as you get out of the pool, there’s a brief 15-60 minute window of opportunity to get a jump on refueling and rebuilding muscle tissue. During this time, your muscles are primed to take up nutrients, primarily carbohydrate and protein that stimulate muscle repair, growth and strength.

    To take advantage of this, have a healthy meal or substantial snack that contains both complex carbohydrates and protein within 1 hour.

    Here are a few great post-swim ideas that are great for refueling:
    • A yogurt parfait with granola, fruit, and a sprinkle of nuts or seeds
    • A smoothie made with yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit, and some avocado, peanut butter, flax, or chia seeds for a dose of healthy fats
    • Oatmeal made with milk for added protein, topped with dried or fresh fruit, nuts, or nut butter
    • Eggs with sautéed veggies, a slice or two of whole grain toast and a cup of reduced-fat (not fat-free!) milk. Grab a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts if you’re still hungry afterwards.

    Don’t sabotage your swim before you suit up. Eating the right foods before and after will keep you fueled for the big event and help your body recover afterwards!

    Elle Penner is a registered dietitian and blogger, earning her Masters in Public Health at the University of North Carolina. Her stories on food & fitness can be read on her blog at


    Do you eat energy food before, during or after competition? Tell us in the comments below by 11:59pm PT on July 1 and you'll be entered to win a one month supply of Honey Stinger product.

    Email Address Invalid. Please enter an email address in the format: xx@yy.zz
    6 years ago.
    I usually eat a bagel or eggs for breakfast before my competition. This usually also includes like a banana, apple, hot chocolate, or something similar to these. During my competition I will usually eat a granola or protein bar. After the competitiont I try to have like a chocolate milk or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or something similar as well.
    Sophia Murray
    6 years ago.
    Before swimming I eat a banana or a boiled egg and drink water. After swimming I eat a healthy green salad and vegetables or I may opt for a fruit smoothie and a protein granola bar.
    6 years ago.
    I always eat a granola bar to get me ready to swim. I follow it up with a protein bar after practice, they taste good and are great for you.
    6 years ago.
    Before & after; during if >2 hours!
    6 years ago.
    Before, during and after! Carbs and lots of protein...usually our farm fresh eggs.
    6 years ago.
    Always a little before, always a lot after.
    6 years ago.
    I always eat before a workout and always right after!...sometimes during, too! :)
    6 years ago.
    I eat before and after competition and some times during.
    6 years ago.
    Before water aerobics.
    6 years ago.
    After water aerobics.
    6 years ago.
    My daughter eats before, during and after. trying to focus on good healthy options. Love honey stingers would like to try the waffle.
    6 years ago.
    The morning of a swim meet, my son eats pizza with glass of milk. During swim meet, he has a banana and water.
    6 years ago.
    Before during and after. I swim at irregular times during the week so I usually grab something to eat before and after working out
    6 years ago.
    My daughters eat a light breakfast before swim team practice @ 7 am and then a bigger snack about 45 minutes after they finish.
    Kathryn Finn
    6 years ago.
    I eat energy foods at random times.
    Laurie Q
    6 years ago.
    A banana, sometimes energy beans, Tried the stingers the first time when I was a volunteer for a bike race. Would like to try them before a competition.
    6 years ago.
    I include Honey Stinger with my training nutrition plan prior to and during exercise training or race. This is the only dependable product that does not cause GI issue.....
    6 years ago.
    Honestly, I can't say I've ever tried Honey Stinger, but after reading all the awesome feedback on here, I gotta try it!
    6 years ago.
    I have a protein shake before, then hit the yummy energy snacks after (chocolate milk, stingers, whole food bars.) That is all usually easy on my stomach.
    6 years ago.
    Gotta stay on top of nutrition DURING the event. Anything over 45 minutes and I'm watching my intake close. Don't bonk!
    6 years ago.
    I eat Honey Stingers before, during and after swim competitions. They are extremely delicious. I also share them with my swim buddies.
    Jess Kurti
    6 years ago.
    Honey Stinger products are amazing fuel!
    6 years ago.
    I eat it before and after. I love honey stinger waffles when I am doing a tri on the bike.
    Scott S
    6 years ago.
    I usually do a banana and a cup of oatmeal with berries an hour before; then I drink Skratch labs mix during the workout and refuel with Honey Stinger Stingers gu or a waffle depending on the workout.
    6 years ago.
    I eat honey stinger chocolate waffles. Yum!
    Displaying   1 - 25 of 59
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