Swimmer's Diet Plan

Competitive swimming varies in lengths, but it would still be seen as an endurance sport in respect of nutrition and training. However, unlike other endurance sports where power : weight ratio is of less importance, swimmers do desire a small amount of body fat surrounding the muscles to aid buoyancy; although a swimmer should be by no means 'fat', he/she may not have an exceptionally low bodyfat.

Typically, a keen swimmer would train four times per week in the pool with a varied training range of lengths from short speed distances to multiple lengths. Also, the swimmer may do some cardiovascular training and light weight training in the gym 2-3 times per week to further strength and endurance.

The diet should be based around low glycaemic carbohydrates for sustained energy, but with a reasonable amount of protein too, along with good amounts of essential fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Swimmers can be prone to muscle cramps, so, in addition to appropriate rest, ensure a good intake of electrolytes available from fruits.

Following a meal plan like the one below will be ideal for a typical swimmer to fuel training. If there's an event coming up then both pre- and post-event carbohydrate loading is recommended in order to maximise the muscle and liver carbohydrate stores.

Porridge: 100g oats + tbsp ground linseeds + 300ml skimmed milk + tsp sugar
2 slices granary bread, toasted + olive oil based spread + natural crunchy peanut butter
250ml fresh fruit juice
6 oatcakes or 3-4 rye crispbread + 200g cottage cheese or quark
Handful mixed nuts
Item fruit
Mug green tea
2 sandwiches made with granary bread + olive oil based spread with lean ham/chicken or large mackerel fillet or smoked salmon
Tbsp sunflower seeds
Mixed salad
Low fat, low sugar yoghurt
2 squares Easy Flapjacks
100g mixed nuts, seeds & dried fruit
Large banana + 200g low fat natural yoghurt
Mug green tea
30 minutes pre-training
6 oatcakes
20g whey protein powder in water
During training
Sip plenty of water or isotonic drink where possible
Immediately post training
20g whey protein powder + 20g maltodextrin / dextrose in water
Evening meal
(45 mins later)
Lean red meat or chicken / turkey breast or fish + herbs to taste
Boiled new potatoes or basmati rice or dry roasted sweet potatoes or wholewheat pasta
Loads of vegetables
Low fat, no added sugar yoghurt
100g unsweetened muesli + 250ml skimmed milk
Item fruit
1 hour pre-bed
2-3 satsumas
Small handful mixed nuts & seeds

The above plan provides sufficient levels of all nutrients, however do bear in mind that the plan is merely a general guide, you should adapt it to suit yourself; remember men will generally require larger portions than women. You must eat a variety of different meats/fish, complex carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables every day, and drink plenty of water. This plan is based around sustained slow released low glycaemic carbohydrates to help provide energy for exercise sessions. Oatcakes and granary bread will top up this slow released energy through the daytime. See our Glycaemic Index Tables for GI values of foods.

Plans for people with illness or medical conditions in no way should override advice provided specifically for you by your doctor, clinical dietitian or other clinician. We advise that you seek the advice of a suitably qualified physician before commencing any exercise regime, following any dietary or nutritional regimen or beginning the use of any dietary supplements, legal or otherwise. The information provided on the Website is intended as information only and does not constitute advice. Therefore, it must not be relied on to assist in making or refraining from making a decision, or to assist in deciding on a course of action.