Preparing for a swimming event in which you’ll be racing several times in one day requires a well-planned nutrition strategy. Ensuring your fuel (glycogen) stores are fully stocked and your body properly hydrated will help you put in your best performance.
2 weeks before
- If you will be racing early in the morning, change your eating times to reflect this.
- Practice your competition-day eating strategy in training prior to putting it in place.
- As your training volume drops, you should also adjust your food (calorie) intake to match your energy expenditure – otherwise you may end up with unwanted last minute weight gain
The Week before
- Eating a balanced diet is really all you need to do during the last week: protein, carbs, fats, fruit + veg
- Focus on the nutritional quality (nutrient-density) of your diet by minimising sugar and refined carbohydrates.
- Carbohydrate loading is not relevant for most swimming competitions unless you plan to swim continuously for more than 2 – 3 hours
The day before
You need to plan your meals and snacks carefully, and keep properly hydrated. Take your own food and drink for the journey.
- Stick to plain and familiar foods! Avoid anything you don’t normally eat; spicy foods, beans, fibrous veg (unless you are used to eating them) as they may cause gas and bloating
- Make sure that you keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Your urine should be pale yellow.
- Have small meals every 2 – 4 hours for efficient glycogen fuelling. Avoid big meals or over-eating during the evening otherwise you may feel lethargic the next day.
2 – 4 hours pre-event:
- Drink 350 – 500 ml of water, cordial, squash or diluted fruit juice, then another 125–250 ml just before the race.
- Schedule your pre-race meal approximately 2 – 4 hours before the race start time.
- Porridge with honey
- Banana and yoghurt
- Toast with honey, plus milk
- Eggs on toast
- Cereal (low fibre) with fruit and milk
- Remember: don’t eat anything that you haven’t tried during training.
- Try to eat and drink as soon as possible after your heat, allowing a couple of hours between eating and swimming.
- Take frequent drinks of water or, if you cannot face solid food, have sports drinks or diluted cordial so at least you’ll get the carbohydrate you need.
- Bananas, fruit, dried fruit, rice cakes, energy or granola bars, yoghurt
If you will be racing later in the day, schedule a mini meal or lunch 2 – 4 hours before the start. It should be rich in carbohydrate and also contain protein.
- Pasta or rice – add any combination of veg (peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, sweetcorn), nuts, tuna, chicken, cheese.
- Sandwiches, wraps, rolls, pitta with chicken; tuna; cheese; peanut butter.
After the event
Your preparation for your next day’s events starts the moment the previous one has finished. So you must re-fuel and rehydrate as soon as possible.
- Have at least 2 cups (250 – 500 ml) of water within 30 minutes of finishing your event. If you are dehydrated (check your urine), a sports drink or diluted juice with a pinch of added salt will help to rehydrate you faster.
- Kick-start your recovery by eating a carbohydrate-protein snack within 30 minutes after your event – this increases glycogen storage and helps muscles repair faster.
- Your dinner should be contain carbohydrate and protein as well as some fat. Try pasta with chicken and vegetables or a jacket potato with tuna and ratatouille. Avoid the temptation to feast on fast foods.
Fuelling and Hydration Race Day Strategy
|Hydration||Fuel needs||Suitable foods|
|2 – 4 h before the event||Drink 5 – 7 ml / kg
(approx 350 – 500ml water)
|Eat 2 – 4g carbs/ kg
(approx 100 – 200g)
|Eggs on toast ; Porridge with bananas, raisins and honey; Cereal with milk and bananas; Toast, fruit & milk|
|Post-warm up||100 – 200 ml||Eat 1 g carbs/ kg
(approx 50 – 70g)
|Water, squash, sports drink Bananas, fruit, dried fruit, rice cakes, energy or granola bars, yoghurt|
|Between events||Drink approx 100 – 250ml immediately after race, and then little and often||Eat 1 g carbs/ kg
(approx 50 – 70g)
|Water, squash or sports drink Bananas, fruit, dried fruit, rice cakes, energy or granola bars, yoghurt|
|After the event||Drink 750ml/ 0.5kg weight loss||Eat a small snack with a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein||Flavoured milk; milk & flapjack; recovery drink, sandwich & yoghurt|