What to Eat Before a Swim Meet

January 22, 2024

Eat Before a Swim Meet

When you're getting ready for a swim meet, it can be easy to get caught up in the nerves and excitement of it all. But that does not mean that you should neglect your bodily needs as well. Just like how a car can't drive without fuel, you cannot swim with food either!

But what food should you eat before the swim? You might not put it at the top of your mind, but the food you eat before and leading up to the meet can make or break your performance. Fortunately, we're here to help! We'll go through what you should be eating and taking in to make sure that you're at your peak performance when it comes to race time.

Day Before

You may be surprised to learn that swimmers should not "Carbo-load" in the same way that many runners do before a big race. Having too many carbs the night or day before can cause some trouble for swimmers, such as cramps and a sluggish feeling and performance. Instead, you should focus more on having a good diet weeks and even months before the swim meet, as this will go a lot further in improving performance.

Your diet before a meet should consist primarily of complex carbohydrates, such as peas, beans, whole grains and vegetables. These types of foods should make up somewhere between 50 and 60 percent of your diet. When not eating complex carbs, you should eat lean protein, some unsaturday fats, and plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. 

Hours Before

On the day of the swim meet, it is important that you have a hearty breakfast. This is the food that's going to be giving you your steady energy throughout the day as well as part of your swim meet preparation. Eating carbohydrates such as a plain bagel, English muffin or anything similar will be the key to keeping that steady energy going. Along with your carbs, adding in protein is just as important. Add a side of scrambled eggs for instant protein the morning of a meet--both delicious and easy to digest. Lastly, finish your meal off with a side of fruit and sugar-free orange juice. Both of these are a great way to give yourself extra nutrients like potassium and vitamin C. This will be the best fuel for you to last until the afternoon.

Have an early morning meet? Make sure that you have a very light meal before you head off to the pool. Even if it's a slice of whole wheat toast and an orange, you're better off making sure that you have the fuel to compete.

    Some food that you might want to stay away from is anything that’s high in sugar and fat content. This will weigh your body down and you will feel sluggish throughout the time you are swimming in the pool. You should also avoid drinking any sugary drinks like soda. While you may get a quick spike in energy you won’t gain any other benefits from the drink. Your body will spend too much energy trying to process the junk food that you’re putting in your body when it should be focused on your athletic activity.

      During Your Swim Meet

      In between your race or between heats and finals, be sure to have something to munch on. Generally you want to keep things light, so an energy bar or a piece of fruit is the best option. Having your body digest heavy foods while swimming can be uncomfortable and cause physical troubles like cramps or a stomachache. When you’re in the middle of a race, the last thing you want to be worrying about is your stomach.

      Something else to keep in mind is what your own body can handle. Some people can drink sports drinks and eat more food than another person, but it might be the exact opposite of what you need. Test things out and see what your body tells you. Although we give you examples of foods that will help you perform your best, how much/how often a swimmer eats is personal and up to someone individually. Some swimmers prefer to race on a full stomach while others like to remain a perfect balance between full and hungry. If you're ever worried about what you should and shouldn't eat, then keep it simple with water and light snacks like pretzels or nuts.

      Staying Hydrated

      Water will be your best friend during a swim meet. Make sure you have plenty of water before, during and after your meet. This is vital to successful swimming. Other alternatives to water if you prefer more flavor are sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade. These drinks provide energy spikes if you need a quick kick before you hop in the water. Whatever drink you prefer, you'll want to have an ample amount of hydration before you begin your warm up for the session.

      After the Meet

      Even after your meet it's important to keep track of what you eat because your body will be in recovery mode. Always stick with carbohydrates like whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta. This will keep giving you steady energy even after you've left the pool. Another thing that’s a great post-workout thing to down is to drink some chocolate milk. With double the protein and carbohydrates as regular milk, it’ll help give you leaner muscle and shed pounds if you’re on the way to a slimmer you.

        Food is as much of a priority as a reliable suit is. When you have the right fuel then you'll have the right amount of energy to compete. As a last tip to keep in mind, eliminate any kind of fast food; that type of food will only bring your energy down and fill your body with empty calories. As long as you keep it healthy and make the right choices, you’ll always have the confidence to perform your best, in and out of the water.

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