Swimming practice can easily sometimes be the hardest part of our day- grueling butterfly sets, boring distance sets, and hard sprint sets. As competitive swimmers, we all know the drill by now. The fact of the matter is you need to know what to eat before swimming practice.
By consuming the right foods and the right nutrients in the right amounts you are setting your body up for success during training. Your body requires carbohydrates to fuel itself, it requires fat to regulate important processes and it requires protein to help your muscles rebuild and recover.
Quick answer: Consume a low-volume, calorie-dense meal before swimming practice. Make sure to include a lot of carbohydrates to fuel your body during swimming practice. Also, try to include some proteins and fats. It’s important to eat a light meal and not overload yourself with food.
The 3 Main Micro-Nutrients
Before I provide you with some ideas about what foods you can eat before swimming practice let’s have a look at the 3 main nutrient sources-
Carbs are the main source of energy that your body uses to fuel itself during swimming practice. It is important to consume carbohydrates because they will provide your body with the calories it needs to function at optimal levels.
Some good examples of healthy carbohydrates are things like rice, potatoes, pasta, fruits, and wholegrain bread.
Proteins are the building blocks in your body. They are vital for muscle recovery and growth. As a swimmer, you want to be consuming a good amount of protein. Your body is constantly being placed under resistance and it needs enough protein to recover optimally.
A good amount of protein for muscle recovery would generally be something around 0.8 – 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight or 1.7 – 2.2 grams per kg of body weight. Some good examples of healthy proteins would be foods like chicken, fish, and milk.
Fats play an important role in many of your body’s core functions. Unfortunately, the media gives them a bad wrap and some swimmers may avoid consuming them. It is in your best interest as a swimmer to consume a good amount of fats.
However, I recommend that you consume healthy fats. Some good examples of healthy fats would be nuts, peanut butter, avocados, yogurt, and milk. Remember, there are still certain types of unhealthy fats that you should avoid like trans fats and saturated fats.
Now that you have a better understanding of the type of nutrients that you should consume before swimming practice let’s have a more in-depth look at some meals and foods that you can eat before swimming practice to allow you to train at optimal levels.
12 Foods to Eat Before Swimming Practice
Rice is one of the best sources of natural carbohydrates. It is easy to digest and it’ll provide your body with a good amount of carbohydrates. Every 100 grams of rice contain roughly 130 calories, 28 grams of carbs, 2.7 grams of protein and 0.3 grams of fat.
It is important to note that this might be slightly different depending on what type of rice you decide to go with.
Pasta is another great source of carbohydrates. Unfortunately, pasta isn’t the most organic option, but in my opinion, it doesn’t matter too much if you consume it in moderation from time to time.
Pasta is much more nutrient dense than rice, making it a great option to include in a meal before swimming practice.
Every 100 grams of uncooked pasta has roughly 400 calories, 82 grams of carbs, 14 grams of protein and 2 grams of fat. Please keep in mind that there are hundreds of different types of pasta’s and this most likely won’t apply to all of them.
Bananas are not very nutrient dense when compared to some of the other carb sources. However, bananas will also provide your body with vitamins and minerals. One of these minerals is magnesium.
Magnesium can help to lower your chances of cramping during swim practice. Every 100 grams of bananas have roughly 89 calories, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 1.1 grams of protein and 0.3 grams of fat.
Rice cakes are another awesome source of carbohydrates. They are light and won’t cause you to bloat up before swim practice. Rice cakes are high in calories and they are nutrient dense making them an awesome food to eat before swimming practice.
Every 100 grams of rice cakes have roughly 387 calories, 82 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of protein, and 2.8 grams of fat.
Now that we have covered some good carb sources we can look at protein sources. First up we have chicken breast. Chicken breast is probably one of the best sources of protein. Every 100 grams contain roughly 165 calories, 0 grams of carbs, 31 grams of protein and 3,6 grams of fat.
Secondly, we have tuna. This is also another great option as a protein source. Tuna also doesn’t contain that many calories and it’s also a good source of healthy fatty acids. Every 100 grams of tuna contains roughly 130 calories, 0 grams of carbs, 29 grams of protein and 0.6 grams of fat.
Eggs are another excellent source of protein. They could also be seen as a healthy source of fat. Eggs are much more nutrient dense than some of the other protein sources if they are consumed in bulk.
Each large boiled egg contains roughly 78 calories, 0,6 grams of carbs, 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat.
I know most swimmers never consume enough protein on a daily basis. Thus for our last protein source, we have Whey Protein. Whey Protein, makes it really easy for swimmers to consume enough protein on a daily basis. I recommend most swimmers to take at least 1 scoop of whey protein per day.
There are many different whey protein powders out there, but I really like the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein. Whey is much easier to consume since you drink it in liquid form.
One scoop of whey protein (30 grams) has roughly 120 calories, 3 grams of carbohydrates, 24 grams of protein, and 1 gram of fat.
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Now that we have covered some good protein sources, we are ready to move onto some healthy fat sources. Firstly, we have peanut butter. Peanut butter is an extremely nutrient dense food and it’s a great source of some healthy fats.
Each 100grams of peanut butter contains roughly 588 calories, 20 grams of carbs, 25 grams of protein and 50 grams of fat. However, I don’t recommend that you consume 100 grams of peanut butter in one meal. It’s best to consume it in smaller amounts on something like rice cakes.
Secondly, we have nuts. Almost all nuts are a great source of healthy fats. Nuts can be an awesome pre-swimming practice snack to get in some quick energy. Every 100 grams of nuts contain roughly 607 calories, 21 grams of carbs, 20 grams of protein and 54 grams of fat.
Thirdly, we have olive oil. Olive oil could be a nice way of adding some fat to your meals before swimming practice by cooking your chicken in it or frying your eggs in it. Every 100 grams of olive oil contains roughly 884 calories, 0 grams of carbs, 0 grams of protein and 100 grams of fat.
Lastly, we have cheese. Cheese is a great source of fat and it also has a decent amount of protein in it. Cheese can be a nice way to add some extra calories and fat by eating it with your pre-swim practice meals.
Every 100 grams of cheese contains roughly 402 calories, 1,3 grams of carbs, 25 grams of protein, and 33 grams of fat.
Some Quick Meals Ideas for Before Swimming Practice:
- Chicken and rice
- Chicken and pasta salad with cheese
- Tuna salad
- Banana shake with milk, whey protein, and peanut butter
- Scrambled eggs with whole-grain bread and a bit of cheese on top
- Rice cakes with peanut butter
- Tuna and rice
- Mixed nuts and raisins
- A small bowl of cereal with milk
- Peanut butter energy bar and a banana
- Yogurt with mixed nuts and muesli
- Mashed avocado on whole-grain toast
- A Protein shake with a banana
Quick heads up! You might want to consider checking out my article where I explain how to create a meal plan for swimmers. I provide you with step by step instructions on how to create your own meal plan and ultimately optimize your swimming practices. I also talk about how many calories swimmers should consume.
Why You Should Eat Before Swimming Practice
Provides Energy for Optimal Swimming Performance
When you are consuming enough calories every day it allows your body to train at optimal levels. If you’re not providing your body with enough food, it won’t be able to perform at its maximum ability since it will be lacking energy.
Many swimmers under eat, because swimming is one of the most energy entensive sports out there and they lack the understanding of how much food their bodies actually require.
Your Muscles Will Be Able to Recover Faster
If you are consuming high amounts of protein and the right amount of fat and carbohydrates, your body will be optimized to recover faster during and after swimming practice. The nutrients will be consumed in your blood after you have eaten the food.
Then while you are at swimming practice your body will effectively be able to provide your muscles with those nutrients as it circulates throughout your body. This will ultimately allow your body to recover faster.
You Will Be Able to Train Harder for Longer at Swimming Practice
Just think about it if you are not consuming the right amounts of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Then your body will be lacking the necessary nutrients and it won’t be able to operate at its full potential.
You should treat your body like a racing car. Provide it with good, high-quality fuel and it will deliver good, high-quality performances. Provide it with bad, low-quality fuel, and it will deliver bad, low-quality performances.
It’s Important to Eat Before Swimming Practice
I think it’s quite clear that you should be paying attention to what you eat before swimming practice. It will allow your body to function at optimal levels, allowing you to train as hard as you possibly can.
There is a quote by the lines of:
“You earn your trophies in practice, you just collect them at competitions.”
This is very true. I can tell you those swimmers who train the hardest are the ones who perform the best when it’s time to race. Thus it is important to provide your body with the fuel it needs before swimming practice, but also when you are away from the pool.