Meal Plan For Swimmers- How to easily create a meal plan for swimmers

food for swimmers

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Swimming is easily one of the hardest and most energy-consuming sports on the planet. Professional competitive swimmers train up to 35-40 hours per week and can consume up to 6000 – 10000 calories per day. That’s why we will be looking at how to create a meal plan for swimmers.

Michael Phelps was consuming up to 12 000 calories per day leading up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing-

Many swimmers don’t fully understand how much energy their bodies are burning during swim practice. This can become a problem since many swimmers aren’t consuming enough calories to fuel their training and keep their body’s healthy. However, a meal plan for swimmers can counter this problem.

That is why a lot of swimmers are more on the skinny side, especially in the younger age groups. They don’t understand their calorie needs and aren’t consuming enough energy from the foods they eat.


How to create a meal plan for swimmersLet’s quickly look at a few reasons why consuming enough calories is an important factor in competitive swimming-


  • It fuels your body for maximum performance

Food equals calories and calories mean energy. In order for you as a competitive swimmer to train and perform at optimal levels, you need enough energy.

Your body uses energy, when you engage in physical activity, like swimming for example. If you are not consuming enough energy, your body won’t be able to function at optimal levels, since there simply isn’t enough energy for it to use.

This can affect your training negatively. When you aren’t able to perform at optimal levels, you won’t be able to make progress as fast as you should in the pool.

This can lead to your opponents gaining an advantage over you and ultimately beating you next time you race.

You may also start to feel tired and fatigued throughout the day, since your body is saving energy for when you need to train, cutting back on other energy expenditures.


  • Your body won’t be able to recover properly if you don’t consume enough.

Foods don’t only contain energy, they contain essential macro and micronutrients that your body requires for recovering.

One of the most important macro-nutrients for recovery is protein. Your body needs protein to repair damaged muscle fibers. Your body also requires protein to grow and become stronger.

That is why if you aren’t consuming enough protein, your body won’t be able to fully recover in time for your next training session, leaving you even more sore and tired, than you were the day before.


  • You won’t be consuming all of the necessary macro and micronutrient your body needs, this can lead to you becoming sick

Like we just mentioned, macro and micronutrients play an important role in helping you to recover properly, but they also play many other roles in your body.

One of those is keeping your body healthy and protecting it from germs, illnesses, and infections.

In order for your body to do this effectively, it requires the right amount of macro and micronutrients. Micronutrients are a bit more important for this than macro-nutrients though.

Micronutrients contain all sorts of vitamins and minerals. You can easily obtain your daily micronutrient requirements by consuming a couple of fruits and vegetables throughout the day.

Now that we have discussed some of the reasons why consuming the right amounts of calories, macro and micronutrients are important, let’s get to actually creating our meal plan.

Below I will list the steps you need to follow, here we go-


How to create a meal plan for swimmers-

Step 1- Determine the number of calories your body will need to consume on a daily basis.

Before you can go any further, you first need to calculate how many calories your body requires every day.

To do this you will need to calculate the number of calories your body burns during swim practice and other physical activities throughout the day, afterward you will add it to your BMR (basal metabolic rate)

Your basal metabolic rate or resting metabolic rate is the rate at which your body uses energy when you are not doing anything, like sleeping for example. The energy used during your basal metabolic rate comes from things like breathing and maintaining a warm body temperature.

To determine how much energy your body burns throughout the day, you will need to look at all of the physical activities you participate in, this includes- swimming, walking and other possible training sessions like a core workout for example.

(Check out my article on the 10 best core exercises for swimmers at home).

The amount of calories swimming burn varies by person, but there are rough estimates that we can follow-


  • a 130-pound person swimming freestyle at a fast pace for 1 hour will burn 590 calories and 413 calories when swimming at a slower pace.
  • a 205-pound person swimming freestyle at a fast pace for 1 hour will burn 931 calories and 651 calories when swimming at a slower pace.

To estimate how many calories you burn during swim practice, you can use this free online swimming calorie calculator- just click HERE to visit it.

Remember to also calculate the calories you burn during other physical activities. Next, calculate your basal metabolic rate and add it to the other calories your body burns. There is another free online calculator you can use to do this- click HERE to visit it.

Now that you have done this, you have successfully calculated how calories your body requires per day and we can move on to step 2.


Step 2- Choose your list of foods.

The next step in creating your meal plan as a swimmer is deciding on what foods you want to incorporate into your meal plan.

Before you can do this you need to have a bit of a better understanding, regarding the different macronutrients. Allow me to briefly explain them-


  • Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the basic source of energy. Your body prefers to use carbohydrates as energy before it uses anything else as energy.

Incorporating enough and healthy carbohydrates should be an important part of your meal plan.

Therefore you should incorporate good and healthy carbohydrate foods. a Few examples would be foods like- rice, potatoes, and pasta.


  • Proteins

They are required for the structure and function of the body’s tissues. In a more simple way, this basically means proteins are important for recovery and growth.

As a swimmer you want to be consuming a good amount of protein, this will optimize your body’s ability to recover and build muscle.

a Good amount would be 0.7 – 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight or 1.4 – 1.6 grams per kg of body weight.

This is more than your average person’s protein intake, but at the same time, you aren’t average.

Try to consume your protein from good sources like- fish, other types of meat and milk.


  • Fats

Fats play an important role in many of your body’s essential functions and they should not be avoided.

Make sure you consume a good amount of fats, keep them healthy though. You should be getting your fats from foods like- nuts, yogurt, and avocados.

Remember to avoid trans fats at all costs, these fats can have a negative impact on your swim training and performance in the water.


  • Micro-nutrients

Micro-nutrients are essential vitamins and minerals, they are important for keeping your body healthy and protecting it from illnesses and infections.

Just make sure to consume 3-4 fruits or vegetable every day, this should be enough to cover your micro-nutrients and keep your body healthy, but more also won’t hurt.


Now that you have a good understanding of the different macro and micronutrients you can choose your list of foods.

Remember to incorporate all of the macro and micronutrients in your diet. You should be consuming the macronutrients at a ratio of something like this or similar, it all depends on you as an individual-

  • Carbohydrates- 50%
  • Protein- 30-35%
  • Fats- 15-20%

Here are 2 articles to help you decide what foods should be in your food list-


Step 3- Calculating the amount of every food you should consume.

Now that you have put together your list of foods that you are going to consume. You need to calculate the amount of each food you need to consume.

How you would go about doing this, is by simply searching the web for the number of calories, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in each of the foods you would like to consume on a daily basis.

For example, you can search something like- Pasta nutrition facts, and then google will provide you with the number of calories and macronutrients.

Simply do this for all of your foods until you have filled your calorie, carbohydrate, protein and fat requirements for that specific day.


Step 4- Testing your meal plan

body analyzer scale for swimmersCongratulations! You have successfully created your own meal plan as a swimmer. Now you will need to test it.

You can do this by tracking your weight, body fat percentage and muscle mass percentage on a body analyzer scale. Check out this cool one on Amazon HERE.

If you have done your meal plan correctly you should see that your body weight stays consistent and in some cases, you might notice that your muscle mass may have increased and your body fat decreased.


Pro Tip- Schedule your meals

I quickly wanted to throw this in here, because this is a mistake I made in the earlier stages of my competitive swimming career.

Schedule your meals! There is nothing worse than having to dish out a set of 8 × 200m butterfly on a full stomach.

I recommend that swimmers eat their big pre-practice or pre-training meal 1.5 – 3 hours before actually going to training.

This will give the food enough time to start digesting and turning into energy for your body to use as fuel during your training session.

It will also help to avoid having to train on a full stomach and feeling like you are sinking the entire time!



So there you have it, a step by step guide on how to create your own meal plan for swimmers. Food is a really important part of any athletes training, it fuels your training for optimal performance, keeps you healthy and helps your body to recover in time.

I highly recommend that you follow these steps and create your own meal plan as a swimmer. This will help you to become a better and faster swimmer over time.

Just remember, most of your opponents don’t have their own specific meal plans that they follow, you are gaining a direct competitive advantage by creating your own meal plan.

Here is a quick summary of the steps we cover in this article-

  1. Determine the number of calories your body requires on a daily basis.
  2. Choose the foods that you want to use in your meal plan.
  3. Calculate the amount of food that you should consume.
  4. Test your meal plan.



More swimming articles-

  • What should swimmers eat before a meet?– Wondering what foods you should eat before your next big meet? Well, consider checking out this article where I discuss what foods swimmers should consume before a meet!


  • 8 Best swimming goggles for competition– Need a new pair of racing goggles? Check out this article where I give you a complete list of the 8 best swimming goggles for racing. Did you know that there is a psychological benefit in having a pair of goggles specifically for racing?


  • What muscle groups should swimmers workout?– Nutrition is very important, but so is your training. They can’t function without each other! Check out this article where I discuss what muscle groups swimmers should workout to become faster, better and stronger!




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About the author



I am Benjamin, a competitive swimmer with many years of experience in the sport of swimming. I am very passionate about competitive swimming and love sharing everything I have learned about the sport. I specialize in swimming butterfly and my favorite event is the 100m butterfly with the 50m and 200m fly closely following.

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