Looking to enhance your swimming performance and take your training to the next level? Look no further! The secret lies in eating before swim practice.
Often we hear swimmers say they “swim to eat.” In this blog, we will teach you the importance of eating to enhance your swim!
What should you eat before swim practice? Join us as we explore the benefits of pre-swim nutrition and provide you with a valuable resource—a list of 20 shelf-stable, grab-and-go before-practice snack ideas perfect for swimmers.
Additionally, to help you determine your ideal carbohydrate intake timing, we offer a FREE calculator that assists in calculating your carbohydrate needs before swim practice. Plus grab our PRE-PRACTICE SNACK GUIDE!
Get ready to fuel your swim practice for success!
Table of Contents
Why should swimmers eat before swim practice?
A car cannot run without fuel. The same is true for you! A swimmer cannot run on empty. You must put food in your tank.
Ensure you are fueling with carbohydrates. Carbs are your brain and muscles’ preferred energy source!
Eating before practice helps swimmers to:
- Train harder!
- Avoid low blood sugar which can make you feel dizzy, lightheaded, and fatigued, and negatively impact your performance.
- Fuel your muscles and brain with the energy to swim.
- Settle your stomach: no hunger pains or gastric juices floating around in an empty stomach for you.
What nutrients do swimmers need for energy?
As the time for your workout approaches eat less fat and protein and eat more easily digestible carbohydrates. Doing so will help you to avoid gastrointestinal upset. Check out our blog post on 6 Foods To Avoid Before Swimming to learn more.
Carbohydrates are the most important nutrient before practice.
Not eating enough carbohydrates before practice can impact your ability to perform and recover for swim practice the next day. (1)
Whether you are squeezing in a quick snack 30 minutes before practice or juggling a hectic school schedule, make it a priority to include a carbohydrate-rich snack.
Eating pre-practice will provide the fuel your body needs to power through your workout and maximize your swimming potential.
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are found in foods such as grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products and are the muscle’s primary source of fuel during intense exercise.
When you eat carbohydrates such as rice, bread, and yogurt, they break down into glucose. Then, the body packs up this glucose and stores it away in the liver and the muscles for energy called glycogen. Glycogen is the energy used during your workout!
How many carbohydrates should swimmers eat before practice?
A swimmer should aim for 0.5-2 g of carbohydrate per pound of body weight 1-4 hours before swim practice.
Weekend warriors swimming for shorter periods of time will likely need fewer carbohydrates before training. High-level competitive swimmers with longer and more intense training sessions need more carbs!
Use our FREE Pre-Swim Carbohydrate Calculator to calculate how many carbohydrates you need to optimize your performance!
Carbohydrate timing before practice
Carbohydrates Per Hour Before Exercise Table
|Time Before Exercise||Carbohydrate Intakes (g/lb)|
|One hour before||0.5|
|Two hours before||1|
|Three hours before||1.5|
|For hours before||2|
For a 150 lb athlete, carbohydrate needs look like this:
|Time Before Exercise||Carbohydrate Intakes (g/lb)||Carbohydrate intake (grams)|
|One hour before||0.5||75|
|Two hours before||1||150|
|Three hours before||1.5||225|
|Four hours before||2||300|
For example, if it’s 2 pm and a 150lb athlete is sitting down for a meal or snack before their practice that is at 5 pm they should aim to consume 225 grams of carbs since the meal is 3 hours out from their practice.
Do swimmers really need to eat before practice?
If the number of carbohydrates needed feels too daunting, start slow and work to train your gut. Aim for a minimum of 30 grams of carbohydrates 1 hour before your swim practice.
It is essential to practice your fueling plan to find what works best for you.
It is worth noting that a carbohydrate-rich meal 2-3 hours before practice has been shown to improve performance (2). If you have the time, try to eat a larger carbohydrate meal pre-practice.
We know firsthand that having morning practice at 5 am does not leave time for a large carbohydrate meal at 2 or 3 am, at least for most swimmers!
So, we put together a list of 10 grab-and-go snacks with at least 30 grams of carbohydrates. These snack ideas are great for swimmers new to eating before morning practice!
10 Pre-Practice Snacks For Swimmers
Most swimmers do not eat enough carbohydrates before practice. Try adding a pre-practice energy-rich snack. Research has shown athletes who eat before exercise have improved performance (3)!
Here are ten quick and easy grab-and-go snacks you can try before your next swim!
Dates are sweet and delicious, depending on the size 2-3 provide a whopping 30-35 grams of carbohydrates! These fruits are small in volume and nutrient-dense. Make sure to remove the pit before eating.
1 cup of dried Honey Nut Cheerios will give you an easy-to-digest 30 grams of carbs. This is a great grab-and-go snack on the way to a workout.
One medium banana is about 27-30 grams of carbohydrates and is loaded with potassium to help prevent muscle cramps before swim practice.
We find many swimmers tend to enjoy goldfish crackers! Roughly 1 cup of goldfish is ~30g of carbohydrates and an energy-boosting snack for salty sweaters to load up with sodium beforehand.
Half of a bagel is around ~25-28 g of carbohydrates depending on the brand. Spread some jelly on top to add more carbohydrates to your snack before you swim!
One gogo squeeze has 15g of carbohydrates! Bring 2 different flavors to hit your minimum 30 grabs of carbohydrates before a swim. We find apple sauce to be an easier-on-the-stomach snack for swimmers who have a hard time eating in the morning.
Fruit snacks such as Welch’s provide 17 grams of carbohydrates in one pack, eat two small (0.8oz) packs before your workout for 32 grams of carbs! These are easy snacks to keep in your swim bag or backpack at all times.
Eat 20-25 hard mini pretzels for about 30 g of carbohydrates before swim practice! This is a great pre-practice snack for swimmers who prefer crunchy foods.
One fruit cup in juice is ~16 g of carbohydrates. Eat two for 30 grams of carbs or pair one fruit cup with a fruit snack or apple sauce to hit your 30 grams of carbohydrates before practice!
Raisins are great to eat before practice, one small box (1.5 oz) gives you 34 grams of carbohydrates before swimming!
Eating before swim practice is key to optimizing both your performance and recovery!
It can feel daunting to eat before swim practice, but it doesn’t have to be that hard since we’ve taken the guesswork out for you. Using our Carbohydrates Per Hour Before Exercise Table above can help you plan your carb intake in advance or on the go.
Grab our list of 20 shelf-stable, grab-and-go pre-practice swim snacks to carry snack ideas with you or post on your fridge!
If this feels overwhelming or you are struggling to implement these tips on your own, we recommend working with a sports dietitian!
Embrace the power of pre-swim nutrition, optimize your fueling strategy, and elevate your swimming performance. Dive in, fuel up, and make every swim practice count.
Other Posts You May Like
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.