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Did you know that swimming freestyle for 30 minutes will burn 158 calories more than walking for the same amount of time? Theoretically, that means swimming can assist you in losing body fat roughly 2.6 times faster when compared to walking, assuming you are following a proper diet or nutrition plan.
There is also a big list of other benefits that swimming holds.
Benefits such as- a full-body workout developing almost every single muscle in your body, a low impact way of exercising, increased cardiovascular fitness, muscle tone, and strength, just to name a few.
In this article, I will cover exactly how to lose weight swimming. I will also provide you with some tips to lose weight through swimming and answer some of the most common questions regarding the topic. Additionally, we will look at some scientific studies concerning swimming for weight loss.
Is swimming good for weight loss?
In short– swimming is one of the best activities for weight loss. Swimming engages a large range of muscles in the body and is good for enhancing general health and cardiovascular fitness. Ultimately, this means swimming is good for losing weight since it can assist individuals in burning extra calories.
When it comes to losing weight with swimming there have been numerous suggestions that it isn’t as effective as other popular methods of losing weight, such as walking. This may leave you wondering- “can you lose weight by swimming?” Fortunately, there are many scientific studies that have proven these statements as false.
One such study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness compared swimming to walking for weight loss. In the study 38 obese participants conducted a 13-week experiment where subjects were assigned to random groups, who were either swimming, walking or doing other water aerobics activities.
At the end of the study, it was concluded that there were no significant differences in weight loss between the groups, ultimately proving the statement that swimming isn’t effective for losing weight as false.
In another study coordinated by researcher Kay. Cox a group of inactive healthy women were split up. One group started swimming and the other group started walking at roughly the same level of intensity. (Intensity was measured using a heart rate monitor).
After about a year the group who swam lost 1.1kg more weight on average when compared to the group that was walking. Once again proving that swimming is an excellent method of weight loss for those individuals who will prefer it over other activities.
So to summarize this question- yes, swimming is certainly good for losing weight, especially considering it is one of the most energy-demanding physical activities that you can do.
How to lose weight swimming- the 4 essential steps.
When it comes to losing weight with swimming, there are 4 critical steps that you’ll need to follow if you want to reach your weight loss goals. If you follow these steps correctly and consistently, you will start to see some tiny results within your first few weeks.
Note- Remember losing weight takes time, you have to stay patient and trust the process if you ever want to make it to the finish line.
Here is a quick summary of the 4 steps you’ll need to follow to lose weight swimming-
- Consume fewer calories than your body burns.
- Set up a planned swimming schedule with dedicated swim workouts for weight loss.
- Follow a proper nutrition or diet plan to assist yourself in losing weight.
- Stay consistent with your training to reach your weight loss goals.
1. Understanding the relationship between caloric intake and weight loss.
When it comes to losing weight, one of the most critical pieces of information you can ever learn is to understand the correlation between the number of calories you consume and weight loss.
The basics of this are that you need to be consuming fewer calories than what your body burns if you want to lose weight. On the other hand of the spectrum, if you were underweight you would want to consume more calories than your body burns to gain weight.
It is commonly believed that you will lose one pound of weight for every 3500 calories you burn. This means that if you wanted to lose 10 pounds you would have to burn 35000 extra calories to reach your goal.
In some cases, it could be a good idea to track the number of calories you consume on a daily basis. It is also advised that you use a tool, like this BMR calculator to determine the number of calories your body naturally burns on a daily basis.
Once you know how many calories your body burns every day, you can decide how many calories you want to deduct (meaning to eat slightly under that number or to swim slightly more), in order to kick start the weight loss process.
2. Setting up your swimming schedule to reach your weight loss goals.
Now that you know how many calories you should be consuming in a day, we can move onto the next step- deciding on a swim schedule.
It is important to understand that additional exercise such as swimming, running or walking isn’t actually required in the weight loss process since you could still theoretically eat under your maintenance calorie level and in doing so- lose weight.
But as you’ve probably guessed- exercise such as swimming is a great way to significantly speed up the weight loss process. And as a bonus, there are a ton of other benefits that also come along with exercising on a regular basis.
Anyway, back to setting up your swim schedule. Ideally, you’ll want to swim a minimum of 3 times per week for at least 30 minutes. This will allow you to burn an additional 771 calories each week if you were only swimming freestyle, ultimately bringing you closer to your weight loss goals.
If you wanted to lose weight faster and more efficiently you should preferably swim more than 3 times per week and make the sessions even longer. This will allow you to burn even more calories.
Additionally, you could also incorporate some of the other swimming strokes as well as some fun kicking, pulling and sprinting sets to spice things up.
3. Nutrition- making the right decisions when it comes to losing weight with swimming.
As we mentioned in the first step- if you want to lose weight you have to consume fewer calories than your body burns. This is largely going to be dependant on the types of food you eat.
Ideally, you are going to want to consume wholesome and filling foods as well as foods with low caloric values. To make life easier for yourself just stick with the basic no-brainers like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, eggs, oats and all of the other healthy options you can think of.
It is also important to remember to stick to moderate portions and not to overeat since this will bring a halt to your weight loss (yes, even with healthy foods).
Tip- if you are unsure and require additional assistance, I recommend using a calorie tracking app or visiting a certified dietician to assist you in setting up your nutrition plan.
4. Sticking to your swimming plan long enough to reach your weight loss goals.
Now that you have covered all of the critical steps in kick-starting your swimming weight loss journey, you need to accept the fact that it is going to take time and a bit of will power here and there not to walk into the nearest pizza store.
If you want to lose weight you are going to have to stay consistent. Consistent in going to the pool or gym when it is time to swim and consistent when it comes to sticking to your nutrition plan and eating healthy and controlled.
Important– Stick to these steps and you are garunteed to reach your weight loss goals
6 Tips to lose weight with swimming
The following are some additional tips that can speed up the weight loss process through swimming. These tips are also great for spicing up your swimming workouts and making them more enjoyable on those tough days.
Here is a quick list of 6 tips to lose weight with swimming-
- Take a couple of swimming classes to learn basic swim technique.
- Add interval swimming to your swim workouts in order to burn more calories.
- Hit the swimming pool before breakfast.
- Increase the number of laps in each swim workout to burn extra calories.
- Alternate your swimming workouts with weight training.
- Follow proper nutrition to control the swimmer’s appetite.
1. Take a few swimming classes
To lose weight with swimming you are actually going to need to complete a few swim workouts each week to burn those calories. If you can’t swim very well, meaning being able to swim freestyle with basic technique, then it isn’t going to be very easy to complete your swimming workouts and it is going to take far longer than needed.
That’s why I recommend taking a swim class or two, just to get the basic technique of swimming freestyle down, additionally, you can also spend some time learning backstroke swim technique.
Even if you think you are a decent swimmer, I would still recommend going to a class just once or at least watching a couple of swimming technique videos online.
You might not think so, but there is an absolute ton of little details that go into swimming good freestyle and even most elite swimmers still work on improving their technique day in and day out.
2. Incorporate interval swim training.
Interval swimming is a great way to get your heart rate up and burn some extra calories during your swimming workouts. It essentially means to set intervals or times for specific swim distances.
For example, if you enjoy more long-distance swimming type workouts, you could decide to try and swim a mile in 30 minutes or less. If you prefer shorter sprinting distances you might choose to do 10x50s on 50 seconds per 50.
This is going to force you to swim that extra bit faster to make the timed intervals, ultimately resulting in additional calories being burned. And as we know by now, the more calories you burn, the faster you will lose weight.
3. Swim in the morning before eating
For those of you who can manage a morning swim before work or school, I highly recommend it. Not only will you feel more productive and accomplished throughout your day, but you will also have burned some extra calories.
If you go for a swim in the morning, before eating anything your body will be in a fasted state, meaning it will utilize fat stores for energy since it can’t pull energy from food that you have eaten throughout the day. Thus directly speeding up the weight loss process.
4. Crush the distance and grind out some laps in the pool.
Another simple and practical way to speed up the weight loss process through swimming is going to be to increase the number of laps you swim each workout.
As we said, naturally swimming burns a lot of calories due to its energy-intense nature. So if you are going to be swimming say 75 to 100 laps each workout you could burn a significant number of calories.
For 100 laps of freestyle swimming, you could burn up to 750 calories just by swimming at a moderate pace of about 40 seconds per lap.
This means if you swam for an hour a day five times a week, completing a 100 lap workout, you would be able to lose just over a pound per week since you will be burning 3750 calories from your swim workouts.
5. Alternate swimming with weight training
Lifting weights is also not a bad option for burning some calories, developing some extra muscle mass and toning up. Although swimming is superior when it comes to building cardiovascular fitness and burning calories, it could still be a good idea to combine the two in your training schedule.
You can do this by swimming and lifting light to moderate weights on alternate days. Or for those of you who are up for an even bigger challenge you can try to do both on the same day or even back to back.
This is going to allow you to get the most out of your training and receive the benefits from both training methods.
To learn a bit more about weight training and swimming you can check out my article- Should you lift weights before or after swimming, by clicking here. Also consider checking out my weight training guide for swimmers by clicking here.
6. Drink a lot of water and consume a fair amount of protein to keep the swimmer’s appetite under control.
Swimmers are known for their crazy appetites. We just love to eat a lot of food and the good thing is- we can afford to. For the most part, swimmers are toned and lean despite having the appetite of an elephant.
The famous Olympic swimmer, Michael Phelps, was eating up to 10000 calories per day in his younger years. This is largely due to his rough training schedule of multiple workouts per day and even training on Sundays.
However, when it comes to losing weight you aren’t going to want to follow in our swimmer footsteps. You see, swimmers eat to maintain their weight and to make sure their bodies are fueled and ready to perform.
But as we discussed, in order to lose weight you have to stay in a caloric deficit. Naturally, you might feel pretty hungry after a swimming workout and therefore it is important to control your appetite to avoid overeating and exiting the calorie deficit.
An easy way of doing this is by eating a lot of protein and drinking a lot of water. Naturally, if you have a high-protein breakfast and eat high-protein meals throughout the day you are going to feel less hungry. The same goes for drinking water.
You can carry a protein bar or two with you to snack on throughout the day and it might also be a good idea to keep a bottle of water nearby as a mental reminder to drink enough.
3 Awesome beginner swimming workouts for weight loss
Swimming workout 1
- Warmup: 300 easy swim
- Pre-set: 6x50s kicking with fins with 10 seconds rest in between
- Main-set: 2x500s freestyle swimming at a moderate pace
- Cool-down: 200 easy backstroke
- Total: 1800 meters/yards
Swimming workout 2
- Warmup: 500 easy swim
- Pre-set: 8x50s freestyle on 1 minute
- Main-set: 800 freestyle swim for time (try to get the fastest time you can), rest 2-3 minutes afterward.
- Cooldown: 300 easy backstroke swim
- Total: 2000 meters/yards
Swimming workout 3
- Warmup: 200 easy swim
- Pre-set: 10x50s choice swimming on 45 seconds with fins
- Main-set: 6x100s freestyle swimming at a fast pace with 20 seconds rest in between each 100.
- Cooldown: 200 easy choice swim
- Total: 1500 meters/yards
How long does it take to lose weight by swimming?
Now that we have covered all of the essentials we are going to move onto some additional questions you might have, the first of which being- how long does it take to lose weight swimming?
In short- to lose weight by swimming you need to burn enough calories to support the weight loss process. If you swam for an hour five times a week you would be able to lose roughly 1 pound per week by swimming. Therefore it would take you 10 weeks to lose 10 pounds.
As we know, you need to burn 3500 calories in order to lose 1 pound of body fat. So the rate at which you lose weight is going to depend on how many calories extra you burn in a day.
Swimming a 100 laps will burn roughly 750 calories at a moderate pace, therefore you would have to swim 5 times a week to lose 1 pound each week.
If your goal is to lose 10 pounds it would take you 10 weeks to reach that goal. Keeping in mind that you are following a proper nutrition plan.
What to eat after swimming to lose weight?
Nutrition is very important for losing weight. It is recommended to eat filling and low-calorie foods after swimming to lose weight such as salads, fruits, eggs, and oats. You should also try to eat high protein foods after swimming to speed up the weight loss process since these foods suppress appetite.
This section almost goes hand in hand with weight loss tip number 3 given above. You should preferably be eating filling and low-calorie foods. As mentioned earlier, incorporating high protein foods in your diet is also a good idea since it is going to help to slightly suppress appetite.
Here is a quick list of filling and low-calorie food to eat after swimming to lose weight-
- Chicken breast
- Cottage cheese
- Fish (cod)
- Chia Seeds
( <–scroll to view full table on mobile –>)
|Food to eat after swimming||Calories||Fiber||Protein|
|Watermelon||46 calories/ cup||0,4 grams||0.9 grams|
|Legumes||230 calories/ cup||15,6 grams||18 grams|
|Chicken breast||185 calories/ 112 grams||0 grams||35 grams|
|Potatoes||77 calories/ 100 grams||2,2 grams||2 grams|
|Cottage cheese||163 calories/ cup||0 grams||28 grams|
|Cod||82 calories/ 100 grams||0 grams||18 grams|
|Chia seeds||137 calories/ 28 grams||10,6 grams||4,4 grams|
|Pop Corn||31 calories/ cup||1,2 grams||1 gram|
|Eggs||72 calories/ large egg||0 grams||6 grams|
|Oats||55 calories / 1/2-cup||3,8 grams||5,5 grams|
What is the best swimming stroke to lose weight?
You might be wondering what is the best swimming stroke to lose weight. Naturally, people assume the best stroke is going to be the swimming stroke that burns the most calories. Well, not exactly.
Butterfly is the swimming stroke that burns the most calories. It can burn up to 450 calories for 30 minutes of swimming, but unfortunately, it is also quite difficult to learn and even many elite swimmers will have trouble swimming it for 30 minutes straight.
When it comes to losing weight by swimming you are going to need a stroke that burns a decent amount of calories and is maintainable for extended periods of time. Thus freestyle will be your best option since it is one of the easiest strokes to learn and it’s quite easy to swim freestyle for up to an hour once you get the basic technique down and build up some fitness.
Backstroke is also a good option since it is highly maintainable with basic technique and fitness. Keep in mind, backstroke isn’t quite as effective as freestyle in burning calories. Freestyle will burn around 85 calories for 10 minutes of swimming, while backstroke will burn 80 calories in the same amount of time.
I do, however, think it is a good idea to incorporate some backstroke into your weight loss swimming workouts since it is good for developing other muscle groups, helping with posture and lower back pain, and it’s generally just a nice way to spice things up.
It is clear that swimming is an awesome and effective way to lose weight. It is a great full-body workout, it burns a massive amount of calories, it is refreshing, and it will help you to tone up and reach your fitness goals.
As I mentioned if you want the best results, you will have to stay consistent and patient. Don’t worry if you have a set back here and there, the most important thing is not to give up. Stick to your swimming schedule and eat healthy, before you know it you’ll be in the best shape of your life. I wish you all the luck in your weight loss journey.
More swimming related articles-
Source 1– Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness
Source 2– Researcher Kay. Cox
Source 3– Healthline