What to eat before and after swimming

Swimming provides a good workout for the whole body and is a great way to keep fit and healthy. If you are just starting to swim in one of our courses, eating properly and at the right times can help you develop your strength and cardio fitness all the more quickly. It doesn’t matter if you want to swim just for fitness or leisure. Being smart about what you eat – and when you eat it – is extremely important.

The main fuel for exercise is carbohydrate, which is then stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen. The body is only able to store a relatively small amount of carbohydrate, which is why keeping it topped up is so important. Let’s see the most popular questions of  our beginners.

How long after eating a meal should you wait before going swimming?

Everyone has different levels of comfort regarding eating around swimming, so it is important to trial what works for you. In general, allow 2-4 hours before your swim, following a larger meal to allow for digestion, and 30 minutes – two hours for a smaller snack.

Consider the Glycaemic Index (GI) of carbohydrate – A food’s GI measures how quickly it is digested and broken down into glucose. Lower GI foods, give a slower release of energy and should be the focus of main meals during training. High GI foods are quickly broken down to glucose and thus are more readily available for energy. These make great options for quick snacks, before, during, or after training.

In general, main meals should include foods with low-GI carbohydrates and be moderate in protein and fats.

Excellent pre-swim foods for a consistent energy supply include:

  • Wholegrain pasta
  • Wholegrain bread
  • Brown rice
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Peas and beans
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Porridge oats

For energy boosting snacks before a swim, try to focus on smaller, higher GI carbohydrates, which will be quickly absorbed and place less strain on the gut.

Should I eat before an early morning swim?

If  your swim training schedule starts very early in the morning, fuelling your body for the task ahead can be a challenge. The horizontal body position in the pool, makes gastric influx more of an issue as well. It is therefore impractical to consume large amounts of food close to training, which otherwise may be more tolerable in cycling or running.

Quick energy-boosting snacks for swimmers are available for those who need to get out of bed and head straight to the pool. Try a large banana, or dates. They are high in natural sugars and are easy to digest, so shouldn’t feel heavy in your stomach. Other recommendations include:

  • Large banana
  • Dates
  • Raisins
  • Energy bar or cereal bar
  • Energy gels
  • Honey
  • Sports drink

The best food to eat after swimming

It is just as important to choose the right food to eat after your swimming session.

Instant recovery foods are available that can be eaten within 20-30 minutes of finishing your swim. Protein helps to repair the muscles, while carbohydrates help to restore your body’s glycogen levels.

If you’re able to eat a healthy meal after swimming, try to do so within an hour or so after finishing your session.

While protein is important, make sure you don’t overlook other food sources. Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables for a good supply of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

If the main goal of your swimming is to lose weight, you should also choose post-swim foods that have a low Glycaemic Index (GI) score. After a lot of exercise, you’re bound to feel hungry. But choosing food with a low GI score will help you feel fuller for longer, making it easier to resist the temptation to snack.

To avoid before or after swimming

It may sound obvious, but avoid fatty foods. These are harder for your body to digest, and can lead to indigestion and discomfort while swimming. Also avoid excessively spicy food, excess caffeine and alcohol.

Just curiosity (please, don’t follow his example 🙂


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