Welcome to our comprehensive guide on swim meet snacks! As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Swim Coach, I understand the importance of nutrition in maximizing athletic performance.
Feeling confused about how much you can eat between events or what healthy snacks you should be eating? Then, keep reading to learn what foods to bring to a swim meet.
Whether you’re a competitive swimmer or a supportive parent, this blog will provide 40 delicious snack ideas specifically designed to fuel success in the pool.
In this swim meet snack guide, we will break down what snacks to eat depending on how much time you have before your race!
So, let’s dive in and discover the perfect snacks to enhance your performance at different stages of your swim meet.
Table of Contents
Eat the right foods at the right time
Some swim meets are short, some can last all day with a prelims and a finals session. Throw nerves into the mix and it can be even more difficult for swimmers to feel hunger and fuel properly.
The goal of swim meets snacks is to help competitive swimmers keep their energy levels high to achieve peak performance on race day without gastrointestinal (GI) upset.
Nutrient timing matters. The closer you get to swimming an event the less protein, fat, and fiber you will want to fuel with.
Between shorts burst of time between events rely on easily digestible carbohydrates to top off your glycogen stores, prevent hunger and regulate your blood sugar levels.
Does this sound confusing? Don’t worry we broke down 40 swim meet snacks with the best timing for each!
Swim meet snacks 15-30 minutes before racing
These snack ideas are for swimmers who are performing quick back-to-back events and need to recover and refuel their energy stores before their next big race.
We recommend swimmers keep quick digesting, simple carbohydrates on hand to snack on between swim meet events.
Aim for at least 10-15 g of carbohydrate snacks 15-30 minutes before swimming such as:
- Banana: eat ½ banana in between events or before a relay for a boost of potassium and carbs before swimming.
- Fruit snacks: Welch’s fruit snacks are easily digestible, non-perishable snacks you can keep in your parka and swim bag at all times.
- Dates: watch for the pit! 1-2 dates will boost energy stores and get you ready for your next big race.
- Raisins: half of a mini 1.5oz box will give swimmers a quick burst of energy.
- Pretzels: eat around 15-20 crunchy pretzels for a sodium and energy boost in between races.
- Goldfish crackers: gobble up a handful of goldfish crackers
- Apple sauce: have a cup or a squeeze pouch of apple sauce. This swim meets snack is easy to pack and consume.
- Honey: bring honey sticks for a quick boost of carbohydrates from natural sugars.
- Dried cereal: a handful of your favorite cereal is a great portable swim meet snack option for competitive swimmers.
- Dried apples: boost your energy stores with 4-5 dried apple rings between events!
- Honey stinger waffle: this is another snack that is easy to eat and requires no prep! The waffles come in many tasty flavors!
- Fruit cup: look for fruit cups packed in juice or water, rather than heavy syrup, for a carbohydrate-rich snack on the go.
- Sports gels: different sports gels such as Gu’s are concentrated sources of carbohydrates that provide a quick energy boost without the need to chew!
- Sports gummies: there are various brands of sports gummies available that are formulated with carbohydrates and electrolytes to provide energy for physical activity.
- Dried mango: these dried fruits are a chewier, carbohydrate-rich snack sure to boost your energy levels! Buy the ones covered in tajin for extra sodium before your race.
Have small sips of water as needed and tolerated before swimming. Fueling with simple sugar such as glucose, fructose (found in fruits), and sucrose (found in table sugar) quickly boosts your energy levels. Swimmers should not fear simple sugars!
Swim meet snacks 1 hour before racing
Competitive swimmers with 30-60 minutes before an event can consume more carbohydrates.
Up to one hour before a race, we recommend 0.5 g/lb of body weight. Use our Pre-Swim Carbohydrate Calculator to find out how much carbohydrates you need.
At a minimum, we recommend eating 45-60 grams of carbohydrates as a pre-race snack 1 hour before swimming. If your stomach can handle more protein pair any of the following snacks below with string cheese or hardboiled eggs to help you feel more satisfied.
Here are some good snack ideas with 45-60 grams of carbohydrates:
- Fig bar + apple slices: this combination pairs the natural sweetness of a fig bar with the crispness of apple slices for a satisfying and balanced snack.
- Granola bar + grapes: enjoy the chewy and crunchy texture of granola bars along with the refreshing sweetness of grapes for a combination of carbohydrates and hydration.
- Instant oatmeal packets (usually the snack bar has hot water!): if you have access to hot water, instant oatmeal packets can be a quick and easy snack. They provide carbohydrates and can be flavored with various options like fruit, nuts, or honey.
- Bagel with PB + jam: a classic combination, the bagel provides carbohydrates while peanut butter adds protein and healthy fats. The addition of jam adds a touch of sweetness and extra carbs to fuel your next race.
- English Muffin with jelly + fruit cup: similar to the bagel combination, an English muffin paired with jelly offers carbohydrates, and a side of fruit cup provides additional vitamins and minerals.
- Cliff bar + orange slices: the Cliff bar is a convenient source of carbohydrates and protein, and the citrusy sweetness of orange slices adds a refreshing element to the snack with extra carbs to boost your glycogen stores.
- Homemade energy mix: 1 cup dry cereal + ½ cup dried fruits + 1 cup pretzels, this customizable mix combines the crunch of dry cereal and pretzels with the natural sweetness and chewiness of dried fruits for a well-rounded snack.
- BelVita breakfast biscuit pack + blueberries: BelVita biscuits are made with whole grains and provide carbohydrates, while pairing them with antioxidant-rich blueberries adds a burst of flavor and nutritional benefits.
- Waffles + strawberries: enjoy the delightful combination of fluffy waffles and juicy strawberries. The waffles provide carbohydrates, while the strawberries add natural sweetness and vitamin C.
- Tortilla roll-up: roll up a tortilla with almond butter (or your favorite type of nut butter), banana slices, and a drizzle of honey for a delicious blend of carbohydrates, healthy fats, and natural sugars.
These snack combinations offer a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats, and natural sugars to help fuel your activities and keep you satisfied throughout the day.
Swim meet snacks 2 hours before racing
Two hours before racing swimmers are able to eat more balanced snacks that could also be considered mini meals. Aim for 1 g of carbohydrates per body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds aim to consume 150 g of carbohydrates two hours before your race.
Some swimmers prefer to eat larger meals hours before competing versus snacks right before a race. If this works for you, prioritize a large meal hours before the swim meet and larger snacks when you have time between events or swim meet sessions.
This is a good time to incorporate more complex carbohydrates such as whole grains that take more time to be broken down to give you longer-lasting energy.
Snack ideas for 2 hours before your swim:
- Greek yogurt bowl: a satisfying and protein-rich snack, combine ½ cup of Greek yogurt with granola for crunch, a drizzle of honey for sweetness, trail mix, and fresh berries for added flavor and antioxidants.
- Overnight oats: prepare a delicious and nutritious snack by combining oats with dried fruit, nuts, fresh fruit, milk of your choice, and a touch of honey. Let it sit overnight in the fridge for a convenient grab-and-go snack the next day.
- PB + J sandwich: make a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain bread for a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. Pair it with pretzels for extra crunch and a fruit cup for added refreshment.
- Orzo pasta salad: cook orzo pasta or any pasta of your choice, then toss it with vinaigrette, olive oil, vegetables (such as cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers), chickpeas for added protein, and low-fat feta cheese for a burst of flavor.
- Pancake breakfast: enjoy a hearty breakfast by making pancakes topped with syrup for carbohydrates. Add eggs for lean protein and amino acids for muscle recovery.
Swim meet snacks 3-4 hours before racing
If you have a long time between races, skip the smaller quantities and aim for small meals to satisfy your hungry swimmer.
Here are good options that include complex carbs,
- Pasta: whole wheat pasta with ground turkey, marinara sauce, and vegetables is a good option before a swim meet because it provides a balance of carbohydrates for sustained energy, protein from the turkey for muscle support and repair, and nutrients from vegetables.
- Wrap: a whole grain tortilla or spinach tortilla filled with avocado, filled with lean meats (chicken, turkey, etc.), and veggies, served with a side of hummus and pita chips is a great pre-race snack. It offers a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats from the avocado.
- Omelet: an omelet made with eggs, your choice of vegetables, two slices of whole-grain bread, and a piece of fruit is a balanced snack option. Eggs provide high-quality protein, while vegetables and whole-grain bread contribute additional carbohydrates and fiber.
- Stuffed potato: a baked potato or sweet potato stuffed with your choice of protein, cheese, sour cream, and veggies is a satisfying snack hours before your next swim. You can choose a protein option based on your preference (such as chicken, beef, or beans).
- Fried rice: fried rice made with white or brown rice, vegetables of your choice, and protein of choice (tofu, chicken, pork, etc.) is a versatile and convenient pre-race snack.
Hydrating and energy-boosting swim meet snacks
If you are a swimmer that struggles to properly hydrate these ideas are for you! Make sure to bring a water bottle to the swim meet.
Below are great options for drinkable snacks.
- Chocolate milk: chocolate and strawberry milk are great options as post-race snacks when you have several hours before your next swim. They provide a combination of carbohydrates and proteins that are essential for muscle recovery.
- Fruit smoothies: fruit smoothies made with a blend of fruits and either fruit juice for extra carbohydrates or coconut water for extra potassium are excellent choices. They offer a refreshing and hydrating snack option.
- Coconut water: coconut water is a natural and hydrating beverage choice. It contains electrolytes such as potassium. However, it is important to note that coconut water alone may not provide enough carbohydrates for sustained energy, so it can be combined with other snacks or consumed alongside a carbohydrate-rich option.
- Fruit juice: fruit juice is a quick source of carbohydrates, providing a natural boost of energy. Choose 100% fruit juice without added sugars for a healthier option. Mixing fruit juice with water can help make it easier on the gut.
- Sports drink: Sports drinks such as Gatorade are formulated to provide hydration and replenish electrolytes during prolonged physical activity. They contain carbohydrates and electrolytes, which can help maintain energy levels and prevent dehydration during a swim meet.
Swim meet snack tips
- Most swimmers are not eating enough, aim for progress, not perfection, a light snack is better than no snack.
- Sports dietitians would rather you eat something even if is not considered a “healthy snack.” Just like a car, athletes have energy in the tank to perform especially for high-intensity work like swimming! Make sure you are fueling with enough energy.
- If you struggle to eat during swim meets try eating larger meals the night before and the morning before your competition. You can also try sticking with more drinkable snacks that require less chewing and digestion.
- Right before racing the best fuel is simple carbs! Avoid carbonated beverages, spicy foods, heavy foods, and high-fiber foods right before swimming.
- Don’t forget a water bottle, nailing swim meet snacks can not make up for dehydration.
- Stick with your tried and true foods. It is a good idea to try snacks before and during practice before a swim meet.
No New Foods
Rather than rely on nachos, french fries, and candies found at most swim meet snack bars, stick with healthy swim meet snacks that you know will help you swim faster!
Try to limit new foods at swim meets. Stick with your tried and true foods that you have had before swim practice, during swim practice, and after swim practice that you know you can tolerate.
Fuel well and swim fast!
Most male and female swimmers do not eat enough during full-day swim meets.
Try these swim meet snacks at your next big meet to ensure you are getting the most out of your intense training.
Whether you are a club swimmer, high school swimmer, or collegiate student-athlete, packing your favorite foods for a swim meet is the best advice we have for boosting performance to support best times.
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.