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What To Eat After Swimming To Refuel and Recover

When swimming ends, recovery begins! Join us as we walk you through what to eat after swimming, whether after swim practice, a swim meet, or even swimming lessons!

Discover how our specialized recovery nutrition tips can elevate your swimming performance. Say goodbye to muscle fatigue and soreness as we help you build muscle faster, leaving you stronger, refreshed, and ready to conquer the pool every time.

Dive into post-swimming nutrition tips to refuel, repair, and rehydrate your body after swimming! Read on to learn what to eat after swimming, how soon to eat after swimming, and explore our grab-and-go bites to expedite your recovery.

Grab our Swimmers Snack Guide created by a Registered Dietitian and Swim Coach. This guide tells you how to make the best post-swim snack and includes our favorite recovery snacks. This complete snack guide also gives specific examples of what to eat before and during swim practice to help you swim faster starting today!

what to eat after swimming to swim faster! Pictured are healthy post practice snacks.

What to Eat After Swimming 

To improve your recovery between practices and swim meet sessions focus on consuming 3 things– carbohydrates, protein, and fluids. 

Pictured is a venn diagram with what swimmers should eat after swimming to improve recovery. The first circle says refuel with carbohydrates, the second says refuel muscle with protein, and the third circle says rehydrate with fluids and electrolytes. Where the three circles intersect is a star that says "recovery!".

Refuel With Carbohydrates After Swimming 

After swimming refuel with carbs to replenish your glycogen stores. Glycogen is the energy kept in your muscles that gets used up during swim meets and practice. 

Aim to consume a ratio of 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrates to protein—or at least 0.5 g of carbohydrates per pound of body weight (1).

And keep in mind some nutrition is better than no nutrition! 

Post-workout Carbohydrates For Swimmers

Most swimmers we work with are not fueling with enough carbs after a workout to refuel energy stores! So, swimmers see huge performance improvements when they eat more. 🙂

Competitive swimmers need at least 5 grams of carbohydrates per kg of body weight per day. That is ~340 grams of carbs per day for a 150 lb athlete who should aim for at least 75 g carbs post-swim. 

Carbohydrates are found in foods such as:

  • Grains: pasta, bread, tortillas, granola bars, brown rice
  • Dairy: yogurt, milk
  • Fruits: bananas, apples, grapes
  • Starchy vegetables: sweet potatoes, corn

Check out our swim meet snacking guide, pre-swim snack guide, and ultimate swimmer’s diet guide for more carbohydrate-boosting tips. 

Repair With Protein After Swimming 

Protein is made up of amino acids which are the building blocks of muscle. Therefore, eating protein after swimming helps to repair and rebuild your muscles, and it also helps reduce muscle breakdown! 

Protein needs will vary per athlete,  A general guideline for athletes is to eat 20-30 g of protein within an hour after exercise. However, recent research supports that closer to 30 grams may be superior for muscle protein synthesis (2).

Post-swim Protein Options For Swimmers 

Protein is key for rebuilding and repairing muscle. 

Protein is in foods such as: 

  • Meat: pork, chicken, beef
  • Fish: salmon, cod, sardines 
  • Dairy: cottage cheese, cheddar cheese
  • Nuts: pecans, peanut butter, almonds 
  • Legumes: lentils, peas, black beans 

Grab our High Protein Foods List, High-Protein meal plan for swimmers, and Protein Playbook for athletes to help increase your protein intake after a workout. 

Rehydrate With Fluids and Electrolytes After Swimming 

After completing your swim, replace your fluids and electrolytes because you sweat when you swim!

Rehydrate with 16-24 oz of fluid for every pound of body weight lost during exercise! Try our sweat rate calculator to see how much fluids you should hydrate with after a workout.

In sweat, you also lose electrolytes like sodium, calcium, and magnesium. Thankfully, electrolytes can be restored through food and electrolyte beverages. 

Don’t be afraid to rely on beverages aside from water post-workout to hydrate you and help you refuel your muscle glycogen and repair muscle. 

Lean On Liquid Energy Post Workout 

Liquid energy sources are great for athletes who suffer from digestive issues or poor appetites after practice.

If that’s you or your swimmer, don’t be afraid to rely more heavily on beverages like chocolate milk, fruit smoothies, and protein shakes post-workout. 

Check out the ultimate hydration guide for swimmers to learn more about post-workout hydration. 

When To Eat After Swimming 

We recommend swimmers eat a meal or snack within 60 minutes of completing a workout. More research is needed to determine if a perfect post-workout timing exists. 

The International Society of Sports Nutrition supports eating within two hours of completing a workout is ideal for muscle repair and recovery (3).

Regardless, research does show improved muscle gains and recovery from increased overall daily protein intakes which often occurs when swimmers eat more frequently, including right after a workout (4).

In our dream world, every swimmer walks off the pool deck after practice with a recovery snack in hand! Plus, a meal or snack every 3-4 hours. 

What To Eat After Swimming

Below we share our expert nutrition advice on some of the best foods to eat after swimming to help begin the recovery process! 

Each of the post-workout swim snacks, meals, and dining-out options below provides about 20 grams of protein and ~60 grams of carbohydrates to meet the 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. 

For more personalized recovery nutrition tips connect with a Registered Dietitian For Swimmers

Best Recovery Snacks For Swimmers:

Aim to leave practice with one of these snacks in hand. To help improve your recovery, refuel immediately after training sessions.

Post-workout snacks are great, but we recommend eating a complete meal at least 2-3 hours after a workout. Don’t forget to hydrate, aim for at least 1 cup of fluids. 

Check out some of the best snacks for swimmers after training below:

  • Core Power protein shake and pretzels
  • Chocolate milk and a large banana
  • Berry fruit smoothie with protein powder
  • 8oz Cheribundi tart cherry juice and a Cliff Builders protein bar
  • Peanut butter and jelly or banana sandwich 
  • Low-fat yogurt or Greek with fruit and granola
  • Hummus and pita: download more easy pita recipes for swimmers here
  • Tuna salad and crackers
  • Beef jerky, string cheese, goldfish 
  • Instant oatmeal with a scoop of protein powder 
  • DIY trail mix: dry cereal, dried fruits, nuts 
  • Dates and a nut butter packet 
  • Cottage cheese and fruit: grab more cottage cheese recipes for swimmers here
  • Turkey-cheese sandwich and sports drink

Grab our Swimmers Snack Guide for a complete list of the best snacks to eat before swim practice, during swim practice, and after swim practice. 

What To Eat After Swimming When Dining Out

Each of these dine-out options provides at least 20 grams of protein and ~60 grams of carbohydrates so they can serve as a quick recovery snack immediately after your workout.  

Or use this to help craft your recovery meal. Don’t be afraid to order more, to refuel those muscles if this is your post-workout meal. These are examples of what to eat after swimming at a minimum.

Often swimmers and parents express guilt around eating fast food or takeout. We want to remind you that all food is fuel and it is absolutely better to eat McDonalds than no recovery food at all!

From Starbucks 

  • Spinach, feta, & egg white wrap, coffee, and a piece of fruit 
  • Kale and mushroom egg bites and a plain bagel – great option for vegetarian athletes 
  • Berry trio parfait & grande hot latte with 2% milk 

From Chick-fil-A

  • Grilled chicken sandwich and fruit cup
  • 8 ct grilled nuggets and medium lemonade- a great option for gluten-free athletes 
  • Egg white grilled, hashbrowns, and apple juice

Plus, check out this guide to high-protein choices at Chick-fil-A for athletes from Sports Dietitian Mandy Tyler.

What To Eat After Swimming From Chipotle

  • Steak burrito bowl with choice rice, choice beans, salsa, and grilled vegetables 
  • Cheese quesadilla with choice sides- great option for vegetarian athletes 
  • 3 carnitas taco meal with a soft flour tortilla and black beans 

Post-Swim Recovery Snacks From McDonald’s 

  • Sausage McMuffin with Egg + small OJ 
  • 2 Sausage burritos + 1% low-fat milk 
  • 10-piece chicken nuggets and a small strawberry banana smoothie 

Post-Workout Fuel From Panera

  • Avocado, egg white, spinach, and cheese on multigrain bagel flat and seasonal fruit cup 
  • Large mac and cheese 
  • Half Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich and a cup of turkey chili soup 

Then, dive into a guide to high-protein Panera options for athletes from Sports Specialized Dietitian Steph Magill. 

Post-Workout Meal Ideas

Suppose you will be home within one hour of completing practice, then head straight for a meal. If not, and you already ate a snack aim to consume one of these full meals within 2-3 hours of completing your workout.

After a swim meet or swim practice aim to fill a 10” dining plate with 50% grains or starches, 25% protein, and 25% color. Aim to also include fats which boost flavor and increase meal satisfaction. 

Incorporate dairy or milk alternatives for calcium and vitamin D! 

Check out this complete guide to creating a recovery-boosting post-workout meal below.

Read more tips on building a swimmer’s performance plate here! 

Conclusion: Some Food Is Better Than No Food

We hope these post-swim recovery nutrition tips are helpful for you and help you recharge faster before your next workout.  

Refuel with carbohydrates, repair your muscles with protein, and rehydrate with fluids and electrolytes. 

After swimming aim for a ratio of 3:1 or 4:1 grams of carbohydrates to protein. Aim for at least 60 grams of carbs and 20 grams of protein within one hour of swimming.

Most importantly, listen to your body! The snack and meal options above are general guidelines and minimums. Competitive swimmers are endurance athletes who use a lot of energy and need a lot of carbohydrates, protein, and fluids to recover!

If you are still hungry after a snack, don’t be afraid to eat more to recover well! Don’t forget to download our Swimmers Snack Guide to level up your performance today.

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