What To Eat Before & After Swim Practice

Ocean First   Jun 26, 2022


Swimming is cardiovascular conditioning known as aerobic exercise. Aerobic is quite literally “with oxygen”, meaning your heart, lungs, and circulatory system are engaged, which one usually sees with heavy breathing and a rapid heartbeat. Aerobic exercises are meant to be sustained over a longer period of time, and include building endurance and strength.

Since aerobic exercise like swimming requires fuel to sustain high intensity workouts for a long period of time, the best option before a swim practice is to eat a meal high in carbs, moderate in protein, and low in fat. Protein and fats take longer for the body to digest, so they will sit heavily in your stomach during practice which can get uncomfortable. Carbs on the other hand burn much quicker and are the most efficient source of energy for muscles that prevent a person from tiring out. It is recommended to have this meal 60-90 minutes before practice so you’re not swimming on a full stomach. If this isn’t possible or you forget, the next best option is to have a snack around 30 minutes before. This way you aren’t swimming on an empty stomach and you’re still providing your body with some fuel.

You’ve  just finished swim practice, and now it’s time to allow your body to recover. About 20-30 minutes after a workout there is something known as a “metabolic window.” During this window, your muscles absorb nutrients more efficiently than ever. Ideally after swim practice, you should have your post-workout meal within 20-30 minutes, during this metabolic window. It’s not a problem if you can’t have a full meal in time, but you should at least eat a snack until you can have a full meal, since swimming is a high-intensity workout. Your body just put in quite of bit of work, and since carbs burn very efficiently, your body will be running on low fuel towards the end. Replenish, replenish, replenish! Your post-practice meal should feature protein heavily, with moderate carbs. Protein is needed to maintain and repair muscle tissue, while carbs are needed to replenish and restore energy levels.

Below are some suggestions for snacks and meals that are great options to eat before and after swim practice!


1. Oatmeal

  • Very nutrient dense
  • High in carbs, but also has higher grams of protein compared to other grains
  • Filling, but not heavy
  • Can be paired nicely with fruits such as blueberries, bananas, strawberries, and more, for a sweetener!

2. Bagels with Peanut/Almond Butter

  • Bagels contain a high carb ratio, but also are higher in protein than most bread
  • Whole grain bagels are recommended to maximize nutritious value
  • Peanut butter (or almond butter as an alternative for allergy or taste preference) is a good add-on to include a little protein
  • High caloric food that will keep you satisfied for awhile

3. Bananas

  • These are great if you need a quick snack on the go
  • Great source of potassium and carbs that will give you an extra boost of energy



4. Wholegrain Pasta

  • Another great carb source
  • It can be eaten with vegetables or meats to add vitamins and protein
  • Wholegrain is recommended again to maximize the nutrients from minerals and fiber



5. Brown Rice

  • Rich in carbs and fiber
  • Promotes fullness so it will sustain you throughout practice
  • Whole grain rice retains the fiber, mineral rich layers stripped away in white rice



1. Lean Meat (Chicken, Turkey, Fish)

  • Great sources of protein that are filling, but don’t contain the high amounts of saturated fats normally found in red meat
  • All are easy to pair with wholegrain rice, pasta, or vegetables for a larger meal



2. Eggs and Vegetables

  • Just one egg contains a solid 6 grams of protein
  • Many different ways to prepare eggs, so you won’t get bored!
  • Great source for muscle recovery
  • Vegetables have been mentioned above – emphasis-carbs and proteins are very important but vegetables cannot be overlooked!
  • Vegetables are a good supply of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants

3. Protein Bar

  • Good snack idea if a full meal within 20-30 minutes post-workout is not possible
  • Make sure to look for high protein & low sugar protein bars to get the maximum benefit
  • “Think!” protein bars are great because they have 20-25 grams of protein



4. Yogurt

  • Opt for low-fat Greek yogurt, as it contains high amounts of protein with low amounts of added sugar
  • This can be eaten with carbs such as fruits and nuts as a healthy fat source



5. Sweet Potatoes

  • Rich source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals
  • High carb food
  • High in antioxidants that promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria

Your options are of course not limited to this list, but keep in mind that nutrient-dense foods will always be the better option over processed foods with low nutritional value.