,Just like any other athlete, what your swimmer eats can make a huge impact on their success! Even though I swam myself, was a swim coach and a swim mom, I am not a nutritionist so I don't want to give advice without researching......oh my goodness.....the amount of information out there on swimmer's nutrition is quite extensive and confusing. So, in order to keep this blog to a managable size, I am going to defer to my most trusted coaches and swim mom friends. At the end, I will share with you what my daughter's late coach used to say about this subject! Smile......

EAT HEALTHY ALL THE TIME The time to change eating habits is not the night before a meet. If you or your swimmer is on a team, their diet should be important all of the time. So, keep a healthy diet in mind when you are planning meals and snacks. As parents, we spend lots of money on equipment, travel, training, but often forget the fuel for that athlete!! It is a great time to teach the lesson of what goes in your body can greatly affect the outcome! If you want to perform like a champion, fuel yourself like a champion all the time!

HYDRATE!!! The first thing we should tackle is dehydration. It is vitally important to remain hydrated. Your best friends here are water with an occasional sports drink. Don't forget that swimmers sweat quite a bit during practice, warm up and meets. Swimmers who stay hydrated during workouts bounce back faster. So....keep pushing water and electrolytes!!

THE NIGHT BEFORE When I swam at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock....a LONG time ago, our coach always wanted us to eat massive amounts of carbohydrates the night before a meet. When we traveled for a meet, we routinely went out for a delicious Italian meal full of pasta, bread and salad. In my research, that seems to be true even now. Lots of coaches encourage a diet high in carbs to fuel the body and get it ready for optimal performance. Of course, everything in moderation and a pasta dinner should be coupled with healthy vegetables and grains! But, some research suggests that eating lots of carbs the night before can actually hinder performance, by making you feel sluggish. They, instead, suggest complex carbohydrates such as beans, legumes, peas, whole grains and vegetables, along with a healthy protein. One thing everyone agrees on is that protein should not be fried. So, it seems carbs are important, but not the only thing the body needs the night before a meet.

MEET DAY BREAKFAST The morning of the meet is very important. Even if your swimmer is nervous and doesn't feel like eating, they need something in the tank.....the body needs fuel to perform at it's highest level. Your breakfast should be about 3 hours before your race with a healthy snack about 30 minutes before your race.
“Eat a balanced breakfast the morning of the meet. A balanced breakfast should include carbohydrates, protein, fluids, and a small portion of healthy fat,” says Auburn Weisensale, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, Director of Nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh. Another great suggestion is to eat what you know sits well on your stomach. You will want to try different foods to see how they affect you BEFORE race day. Try different options that you like to see how you handle them. Race day is not the time to try a new breakfast food or snack! Stick with what you know! Some great breakfast options are eggs, lean meat, yogurt and fruit or avocado toast....always with big glass of water!

MEET DAY SNACKS Snacks during the meet are important too. About 30 minutes before your swim, have a high carbohydrate snack for a quick energy boost. Some parents swear by those electrolyte candies or gels that runners use, but they are not necessary. Just have a healthy snack rich in carbs with a bottle of water or sports drink.... Something easy on your stomach. High carbohydrate snack ideas are:

  • Bananas
  • Apple sauce
  • Pita chips with hummus
  • Bagels with a variety of toppings - peanut butter would be great
  • Fig newtons (We love Fig Energy bars)
  • Dried dates
  • PB&J sandwich
  • Electrolyte drinks and WATER
  • Grapes or other fruit
  • Energy bars - there are so many to choose from. Find one you or swimmer likes, high in carbs!
  • Pretzels
  • Raisins and Peanuts or other trail mix
  • Beef Jerky

POST SWIM SNACK AND DINNER After your swim, a healthy carbohydrate and protein rich mini meal is a must to help you recover. You should try to get something in your body within 30 minutes of your final warm down. A great option is a protein bar and banana. For dinner, again, you want healthy carbs and especially protein.
“It is extremely important to get a protein-rich recovery meal after the day is done so you can replenish energy stores and rebuild muscle,” says Amy Connell, Director of Sports Nutrition at Columbia University.

ERIC VOGAN - HEAD COACH OF THE TEXARKANA HIGH SCHOOL SWIM TEAM RECOMMENDS: When asked what he wants his swimmers to eat, he responded..... "My swimmers like to "carb load" the day before a meet. Usually they have pasta chicken alfredo, lasagna or spaghetti. On the morning of the meet, we go with some protein and oatmeal. Then during the meet we have more protein in the form of bars or peanuts/nuts, water or Gatorade type drinks to keep energy levels up." Yup....that sounds about right!!!

VOICE OF THE SWIM MOM Splashwear sponsors Swim Moms Unite! A swim moms group on Facebook......I asked them what they feed their swimmers and here are some of their suggestions:

  • Cindy Wells suggests Trail Mix or chopped dates for snacking and for breakfast they typically love fruit and oatmeal.
  • Aneta Ed says her kids snack on beef jerkey, apple sauce and protein bars
  • Shauna Osborne McClung says her son like Garden of Life protein drink the morning of the meet.
  • Heather Wight says "some people swear by carbs all day until after the meet. My daughter needs a mix of carbs and protein or she hits a major slump around 12-2pm." For breakfast she has homemade egg sandwich, apple juice, shot of honey. For snacks they like raisins, fruit, honey, crackers, beef jerky, hot soups/drinks in cold months, pickles and hummus
  • Clarissa Encino feeds her swimmer over easy eggs with bacon for breakfast and during the meet she eats Rice Krispy treats for carbs, granola bars, beef jerky and electrolyte drinks.

THE FINAL WORD...... When my daughter was swimming, I wanted to make sure I was feeding her the proper fuel to help her perform at her optimum.......Her coach, the late Paul Blair, was a very well known and highly respected and successful coach. He had coached several national teams and won a National Championship. I was just sure he would have a very regimented diet that he to my surprise, the answer to my question about what she should be eating was........"Whatever she wants." I just stood there looking at him with a surprised, puzzled look on my face......he went on to say. "I just think her body will tell her what she needs.....just feed her that!"

So there you go......lots of advice and a little non advice.....I think your best bet is to follow what your coach and team recommend! Happy eating and Happy Swimming!!!____ data/