Avoid these 6 foods before swimming to prevent gastrointestinal pain, bloating, and cramping.
Feel confused about what foods to leave off your plate before practice? Scroll down to learn the 5 types of foods and beverages that we recommend skipping within 60 minutes of your swim.
Table of Contents
High-fat foods to avoid before swimming
Fats should be a part of every swimmer’s diet! They help the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (K, A, D, E), improve mood, and even decrease inflammation (great for recovery!). However, we recommend limiting fat intake an hour before swimming to avoid gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort.
Fat is more calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein foods. Because of this, fats take longer to be broken down, digested, and absorbed by the body. Therefore, high-fat foods sit in the stomach for longer which can feel uncomfortable while swimming!
Before swimming, avoid high-fat foods such as fried foods, oils, heavy sauces and creams, full-fat dairy products, buttery foods, fatty meats, avocados, olives, and coconut.
Instead, aim to incorporate more simple and easy-to-digest carbohydrates such as fresh and dried fruits, low-fiber grains, potatoes, and low-fat dairy! Check out our blog post on What To Eat Before Swim Practice for more specific ideas!
Avoid spicy foods before swimming
Many spicy foods contain a chemical compound called capsaicin. This naturally occurring chemical can trigger the release of gastric acid in the stomach which may lead to increased reflux, indigestion, or heartburn.
Spicy foods can be even more difficult to tolerate before a swim for those with gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or irritable bowel disease.
To prevent an upset stomach, reflux, or indigestion while swimming avoid the following:
- Chili peppers: salsa, hot sauce, spicy kimchi
- Curry: spicy curries
- Buffalo sauce: typically on wings or pizza
- Wasabi: a green paste made from horseradish often paired with sushi
There are many more spicy foods to keep an eye out for. Be sure to enjoy foods with less of a kick before swimming.
Skip the carbonated beverages
Carbonated beverages contain bubbles made from carbon dioxide gas. While the bubbly mouth feel can be crisp and satisfying it may cause bloating, gas, or abdominal discomfort when consumed before swimming!
No one wants to spend a swim practice or race burping!
Additionally, some “diet” and “low calorie” carbonated beverages contain sugar alcohols such as sorbitol or mannitol. Sugar alcohol can cause bloating, cramping, and even diarrhea for some people.
Avoid kombucha, sparkling water, and sodas at least 1 hour before swimming. Instead opt for water, sports drinks, tea, or coffee. Checkout out our blog post the Ultimate Hydration Guide For Swimmers to learn more ways you can stay hydrated during your workouts, swim meets, and races!
Try dairy alternatives and low-fat dairy
According to the National Institutes of Health, about 65% of people have difficulties digesting lactose! (1) If you are a part of the 65% of adults that has trouble tolerating lactose, the sugar found in dairy products, then do not consume it before swimming!
If you can not tolerate dairy products without digestive discomfort we recommend trialing dairy alternatives such as soy milk which is rich in calcium, vitamin D, B12, and protein.
For those that can tolerate milk without digestive issues stick with low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese, low-fat cottage cheese, and low-fat milk prior to swimming to prevent digestive difficulties from consuming high-fat foods as mentioned above!
Skip the high-fiber foods before swimming
Similar to high-fat foods, high-fiber foods take longer to be digested. Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate that helps to feed the good bacteria in your gut, helps to keep you full, and can help regulate blood sugar levels.
However, when high-fiber foods Like beans, high-fiber grains, and cruciferous vegetables are eaten before practice they can cause bloating, gas, and abdominal discomfort.
Avoid eating these high-fiber foods 1 hour before swimming:
- Bran cereal
- Large amounts of vegetables >1 C- especially cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and cabbage.
- High-fiber grains, like bread containing >5 g fiber per slice
Avoid large meals right before swimming
How to set yourself up for a miserable practice? Eat too much before! Eating a heavy, high-fat, high-fiber meal right before swimming is a great way to make sure you haven’t fully digested your meal before you have to swim!
It is very uncomfortable to try and swim when you are bloated, burping up your meal, or having stomach cramps when swimming.
Instead, opt to eat your larger meal 3-4 hours before practice and stick with lighter snacks such as fruits, pretzels, or crackers the hour before swimming or competing.
To ensure you get the most out of your swim practice or perform well at a swim meet without burping, acid reflux, abdominal pain, cramping, or GI discomfort avoid the following foods and beverages:
- High-fat foods
- Spicy foods
- Carbonated beverages
- High-fat dairy, or all dairy if you are lactose intolerant!
- High-fiber foods
- Large, heavy meals
Keep in mind that a fueled swimmer is a fast swimmer! Fuel smart!
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Katie Schimmelpfenning RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, USA Swim Coach, and former Division 1 swimmer. She helps competitive swimmers fuel and train to optimize performance, recover faster, and prevent injury! She is passionate about spreading evidence-based nutrtion tips to help swimmers across the globe.