Importance of nutrition in swimmers: recommendations for a balanced diet

The swimmer’s performance is highly dependent on proper nutrition. How should your diet be? Discover some tips.

Written and verified by the nutritionist Anna Vilarrasa on October 10, 2021.

Last update: October 10, 2021

Training and nutrition in swimmers They are two determining factors for your performance and recovery. In fact, both things go hand in hand in all sports disciplines, both in the modalities amateur as in the professionals.

And it is that, due to its activity, the demands of energy and nutrients in the athletes are increased. In the case of swimming, the demand is even higher. Therefore, if they are not fulfilled in a satisfactory way, it is very likely to suffer problems at the sports and health level.

Thus, the diet plan in these cases must be adjusted to the individual needs of each swimmer. In any case, There are some basic tips that everyone can keep in mind. Here are the most important ones and highlight their benefits.

Recommendations for optimal nutrition in swimmers

Ensure the intake of adequate calories, in a balanced way and with the right foods; These are some of the goals of nutrition in swimmers and other athletes. In this way, neither athletic performance nor general health are compromised. To put it into practice, the following tips are worth applying.

Divide the intakes into 5 doses

The caloric and nutritional requirements of these athletes are high. For this reason, it is recommended to fragment the intake (which is more voluminous than usual) in 4 or 5 daily intakes to avoid digestive problems.

The way these foods are presented is also of special interest. Good tolerance and digestion are necessary to avoid discomfort during training or competition. To this end it is necessary to avoid the following:

  • Large meals.
  • Very fatty fries and sauces.
  • Spicy foods
  • High amounts of fiber.
To avoid digestive discomfort during training or competition, swimmers should divide their intakes into 5 or more servings per day.

Ensure the presence of carbohydrates

Foods that provide carbohydrates are necessary to obtain energy and store it in the form of glycogen. The latter is used in those moments of high demand, which prevents fatigue and decreased performance.

Swimmers’ workouts can be long-lasting; there an oxidation of this reserve glycogen takes place. For this reason, it is appropriate to eat foods that provide carbohydrates about 2 hours before training.

The most recommended sources are those of slow absorption, like the following:

  • Wholemeal bread.
  • Oatmeal.
  • Pasta.
  • Rice.
  • Cereals (quinoa, millet, spelled, etc.).
  • Potatoes.
  • Whole fruits.

Take the appropriate protein

The daily amounts should be calculated between 1.2 and 1.4 grams of protein per kilo of weight per day. These can come from suitable sources, such as white meat, fish, legumes, eggs, dairy, or tofu.

After intense training or competition, taking in about 20 to 40 grams of protein is necessary to promote muscle growth and repair.

It is preferable that these come from food and not from isolated protein sources. Some studies, such as one reported in Sports Medicine, they determined that thus the use of amino acids for the synthesis of muscle protein is enhanced.

Prioritize monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats

Following the advice of the general population, fats are necessary in the diet of athletes and should represent between 25 and 30% of total daily calories. These play a key role in the absorption of vitamins. In addition, they participate in the production of hormones and are also a source of energy.

The most suitable are those that come from nuts, blue fish, seeds, avocados and olive oil. Increase the consumption of this type of lipids and decrease the presence of saturated fat and simple sugars is positive for improving metabolism.

This is related to a decrease in inflammation and better vascular function. This, together, has a positive impact on performance.

Eating nutrient-dense, nutrient-dense foods

The requirements are high in swimmers. For this reason, it is necessary to use food that provide the greatest number of nutrients and energy in a small volume. On the other hand, you have to avoid sweets, snacks Salty and sugary drinks that provide calories but are poor in nutrients.

Nutrition of competitive swimmers

The pre-competition meal should be taken between 2 and 4 hours before. At this point the presence of carbohydrates is important. It is even possible to add a small snack 1 hour before, depending on the requirement of the test. When it is not possible to eat solid food, it can be presented in liquid form (milk shakes and fruit or oatmeal).

If the competition has double sessions with less than 60 minutes between them, it’s good to choose snacks light and easy to digest to replenish energy. If the interval is longer, a normal meal can be made.

The pre-competition meals must be the same as those eaten daily. It is advisable that they are planned and tested during workouts to avoid digestive problems and bad sensations.

TO posteriori, it is recommended to eat a recovery meal as soon as possible. This point is of special interest in the case of competing or training on consecutive days. As discussed above, it should contain both carbohydrates and protein.

Some suitable examples are:

  • Rolls or sandwich Ham and cheese.
  • Fruit smoothies with yogurt or milk.
  • Omelettes or scrambled eggs with potatoes or toast.
  • Fresh fruit and rice cakes with peanut butter.
Shakes that contain protein and carbohydrates are ideal for energy during competition or swimming workouts.

Hydrate often

Hydration is essential in sports performance, also in the case of swimmers. It is necessary to secure it before, during and after competition and training. According to the Canadian Dietitian Collective, This helps prevent dehydration, muscle ramps and early fatigue.

The best option to drink on a regular basis is water. Sports drinks may be suitable for longer or high intensity exercise.

Nutrition benefits and impact on swimmers

Following a regular diet plan and taking these recommendations into account has some benefits for swimmers. The most notable are the following:

  • Provide the necessary energy to train and compete at the highest level without compromising the health, normal functioning, concentration and mental abilities of the athlete on a day-to-day basis.
  • Ensure good sports performance. In the case of swimmers, this can translate into improving their marks, increasing speed and endurance. In addition, in some modalities the benefits are also focused on improving explosiveness and muscular power.
  • Optimize recovery after training or competition. This is essential both to recharge the energy stores and to synthesize proteins and avoid the appearance of injuries.
  • Maintain the appropriate weight and body composition for the practice of this sport.
  • In the case of young or adolescent athletes, avoid putting their normal growth and development at risk.

Training and nutrition in swimmers are two of the keys to success

Swimming is a very complete, healthy sport suitable for almost everyone. It can be practiced in different intensities, from a level of daily physical activity, to an athlete amateur or professional.

In all cases, it is interesting to pay attention to the nutrition of swimmers, as this is key to optimal performance, recovery and injury prevention. However, in the case of professional athletes it is essential to be more careful, especially during competitions or if there are double training sessions.

The best thing to do is to obtain a personalized nutrition plan to best respond to sports needs. Even so, applying the aforementioned tips is of great help to ensure well-being.

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