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What To Eat Before, During and After a Swim Meet

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

As someone who has worked closely with elite athletes in the International Swimming League, I'm often asked for advice on what to eat before, during, and after competitions. While I'm not a sports nutritionist, I've had the unique opportunity to observe what works for some of the world's best swimmers. As the team manager for the New York Breakers, I got an inside look at what foods top athletes turn to for optimal performance in the pool. So, whether you're a competitive swimmer or just looking to up your game in the water, here are some tips and tricks from the pros to help you fuel your body like a champion.


Breakfast: Before a competition, it's important for swimmers to eat a breakfast that is high in carbohydrates and protein to fuel their bodies and provide energy for their events. Examples of good breakfast choices include:

  • Whole grain toast with peanut butter and banana slices

  • Greek yogurt with granola and berries

  • Oatmeal with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit

  • Eggs with whole grain toast and avocado (YUM, my favorite!)

I know it's tempting to indulge in a big ol' plate of pancakes with whipped cream and syrup before a big swim meet, but trust me, your stomach will not thank you. Avoiding high-fat, high-sugar, and high-fiber foods before competition is key to avoiding digestive issues and feeling sluggish. So instead of loading up on processed and fried foods, opt for something that will make you feel like a champion. Think nutrient-dense foods like the ones above.


Snacks: During competitions, swimmers often have multiple events spread throughout the day. To keep their energy levels up and maintain their focus, it's important to snack on foods that are easy to digest and provide quick energy. Examples of good snack choices include:

  • Fresh fruit like bananas, oranges, or grapes

  • Energy bars or granola bars

  • Rice cakes with peanut butter or hummus

  • Trail mix with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit

Admittedly, the male pro swimmers devoured the Smukers Uncrustables during the meet. They also enjoyed beet juice, ginger shots, organic protein bars and fruit. We made lots of Costco runs to keep the supply high. They also enjoyed the benefits of sports electrolyte drinks provided by sponsors.


Electrolyte drinks can be a valuable addition to an athlete's diet, particularly during intense training or competition. These drinks are designed to replenish the body's electrolytes, which can become depleted through sweating. Electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium play a crucial role in regulating muscle function, maintaining proper hydration, and supporting overall athletic performance. While water is always a good choice for staying hydrated, adding an electrolyte drink to your routine can help you stay energized and focused throughout your workout or race. Just be sure to choose a product that's low in sugar and doesn't contain any artificial additives or ingredients that could negatively impact your swimmer.


Recovery: After a long day of competing, it's important for swimmers to refuel and replenish their bodies with the nutrients they need for recovery and do it in a timely fashion. Do not wait too long to eat. Try to eat within :30-45mins after competition is over. A combination of carbohydrates and protein to help repair muscles and restore energy levels. Examples of good post-competition meals include:

  • Grilled chicken with brown rice and steamed vegetables

  • Salmon with quinoa and roasted sweet potatoes.

  • Black bean and vegetable stir fry with whole grain noodles.

  • Turkey chili with whole grain crackers and avocado.

We also had a couple of pro swimmers following a strict Keto diet. If you're following a ketogenic diet, you may be looking for high-fat options to help fuel your body. Foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon are great options for getting healthy fats into your diet. You can also try adding coconut oil or MCT oil to your smoothies or coffee for an extra boost of healthy fats. Just be sure to balance your high-fat intake with plenty of leafy greens and other non-starchy veggies to keep your body properly nourished. Protein and good fats are key.


Now, it would be awesome if all our nutrients could be supplied by our food source; however, most of the pro swimmers take supplements. I'll leave that topic for another blog post. Comment below if you have a fun nutrition tip to share or a question.

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