Information has been provided by British Swimming.

      Cereal Bars


Nutritional Advice for Swimmers.


A well-chosen diet that meets the specific needs of the swimmer can help:


  • Optimise gains from the training program
  • Enhance recovery between training sessions and competitions
  • Achieve and maintain ideal body weight and physique
  • Decrease risk of illness and injury
  • Increase confidence though being well-prepared and ready to face competition
  • Consistently achieve high levels of performance
  • Concentration in training and at school
  • Getting to and maintaining an appropriate weight


A Swimmer’s daily energy intake provides for immediate energy demands and influences body energy stores, playing an important role in performance by manipulating energy intake to achieve advantages in their sport. It is essential that energy intake is not restricted as this can interfere with metabolic and hormonal function. What you eat and drink will affect how you perform on a daily basis.


E - Energy – get yours from carbohydrates

A - Attitude – a positive attitude towards food choice is essential

T - Tasty – taste is important, always try to make food tasty


W - Water is essential for life and for swimming

E – Enjoy your food it puts you in a good mood when you enjoy it

L – Little and often is the best way to stay energised

L – Lots of fruits and vegetables benefits your immune system


S – Spend some time planning and organising your snacks and drinks

W – Worrying about food at competitions should be a thing of the past

I – Invest in good quality food not convenient fast food

M – Make breakfast an essential part of your preparations


W – Water bottles need cleaning regularly

E – Energise to survive the rigours of long hours training

L – Learn to rustle up some quick, tasty meals on your own

L – Lastly enjoy the occasional treat – you deserve it


When deciding what to eat and making snacks / meals consider the following:


Every meal should aim to contain quality protein source (lean medium/large portion), options include beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, milk, and cheese (soft-cottage). High Carbohydrate Content, options include breads, potato, rice, and pasta. Low Fat Content, try not to have fried food, high-fat

cheeses (hard-cheddar), add too much cooking oil to meals, cut off the fatty rinds off meat, and try not to eat a lot of cakes, biscuits, chocolates, and sweets (choose one of those as a treat once or twice a week only).




The main source of energy during training is derived from carbohydrate, therefore, it is not surprising that high carbohydrate meals and drinks are essential to provide energy and facilitate recovery. The timing of meals and snacks, however, is important. There is no difference in the glycogen synthesis of liquid and solid carbohydrates.


Moderate/High GI Carbohydrates.

  • Most breakfast cereals
  • Most forms of rice
  • White and brown bread
  • Sports drinks and soft drinks
  • Sugar, jam and honey
  • Potatoes
  • Tropical fruits and juices


Carbohydrates with a moderate/high Glycaemic Index (GI) provides readily available Carbohydrate for glycogen synthesis and are therefore very important in recovery meals, many are also rich in nutrients and protein. Proteins also assist in glycogen re-synthesis when Carbohydrate intake is not adequate.


The muscles are most susceptible to restoration of carbohydrate stores within the first 30 minutes after exercise. Thereafter, the process becomes progressively more difficult. The swimmer should eat 50 to 100 grams of carbohydrate (after high intensity training it may be appropriate to ingest protein mixed with high carbohydrate), whilst keeping fat ingestion low, as soon as training finishes, and definitely within the first 30 minutes after training.


Examples of appropriate snack foods and their approximate carbohydrate content:



An apple, banana or orange (other fruit also suitable)



Nutrigrain Elevenses bar



Muller rice        



Fruit smoothie  

25-30g per glass


1 thick Jam or Honey sandwich (minimal butter)



Malt Loaf (Soreen)

18g per slice


Fig rolls           

13g per biscuit



Other good snacks are other cereal bars, dried fruit & nuts (not sugared or coated) and rice cakes, scotch pancakes, jaffa cakes, bagels, muffins (not chocolate), flavoured milk.


When doing morning training, swimmers should have a glass of fruit juice and approx 30g of carbohydrate from the above list before training with breakfast after training.



Carbohydrates in competition


2-4 hours before a race: High Carbohydrate/Low Fat meal: breakfast cereals, porridge, bread, rolls, toast, fruit juice, fruit, rice cakes, plain crackers, boiled rice, potatoes, boiled pasta, dried fruit, oatmeal biscuits, plain wholemeal biscuits, muffins and carbohydrate drinks. These are all examples of complex carbohydrates as these release energy slowly. Avoid simple carbohydrates (the sugars) as these release energy quickly but trigger the release of insulin, which can have a negative impact on performance.


A 50-60kg athlete would need to eat 100-200g carbohydrate. Below are seven different meals each providing 100g of carbohydrate:


60g cereal with 200ml milk + large banana


3 thick slice of bread with honey/jam and 250ml juice


Bagel, large Banana and 500ml sports drink


Baked Potato with 135g baked beans and 200ml juice


200g pasta with broccoli and tomato + large apple


100g cous cous with 1/3 can sweetcorn, 100g juice


180g rice with 150g chick peas and medium banana



Other good meals:


  • Sandwich/roll/bagel/wrap filled with chicken, fish, egg or peanut butter and salad
  • Small jacket potato with tuna, coleslaw or chicken
  • Pasta with tomato-based pasta sauce and cheese and vegetables
  • Chicken with rice and salad
  • Vegetable and prawn or tofu stir-fry with noodles or rice
  • Pilaff or rice salad



If the interval between races is less than 30 minutes: The swimmer should drink fluids/juices or a sport drink.


30 minutes before a race: A small snack (examples above) may be eaten.


If the interval between races is up to 1 hour: The swimmer should have a snack from the below list, with plenty of fluid, up to 30 minutes before the next race.


Below are ten healthy options to snack on. These are here to help you understand what can affect your performance; we are looking for high standards so let’s start with what we are putting into our bodies.


Fruit (Any)


Rice Pudding (Also in flavours)


Nuts (Not sugar coated)


Jelly (cubes/or Jelly babies)


Dried Fruit


Cereal Bars


Bagel (Lean meat/Jam etc)


Friji / Flavoured Milk


Muffin (Not Chocolate)


Jaffa Cakes


Hot cross bun / fruit scone


Rice cakes (top with honey / jam)




If the race interval is 1 to 2 hours: The swimmer should have a small high carbohydrate/low fat meal similar to those listed in the 2-4 hours before a race section.



Amino acids from protein help form new tissue such as muscle and repair old tissue; they also help build hormones and enzymes to regulate metabolism and body functions. Most athletes consume enough protein without the use of supplements, even during high-levels of training, however athletes who restrict their energy intake are at risk of failing to satisfy their protein needs. An increased protein balance combined with Carbohydrate is desirable during recovery from endurance and resistance training to balance the faster rate of protein breakdown during exercise, and then to promote muscle growth, repair and adaptation.



Essential vitamins and minerals.


Iron – deficiencies will impair performance and un-explained fatigue should be investigated as supplementation may not address the real cause of fatigue.

Copper                         Manganese

Magnesium                   Selenium

Sodium                         Zinc

Calcium – very important in adolescents and females for healthy bones, all athletes should try to consume 3 portions of calcium rich foods a day.

Vitamins A, C, D, E, B6 and B12

Vitamins & Minerals



Long periods of strenuous exercise stress the body, therefore adequate energy, protein, vitamins and minerals are essential to health and performance, most athletes can meet Recommended Daily Intakes (RDI) through their diet. 


You should consume 5 portions of different fruit and vegetables a day

1 portion = 1 large piece (apple) or a handful of smaller types (peas). Good

Options to eat:

  • Fruit – bananas, apples, pears, oranges, kiwi fruits, grapes, raisins, and sultanas.
  • Vegetables – carrots, peas, sweetcorn, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, tomatoes, swede, parsnips, onions, cucumber, lettuce, leeks, spinach, brussel-sprouts, and green beans.




Before, during and after exercise, it is important to optimise CHO, water and salt. No more than 2% of body weight should be lost during exercise therefore it is necessary to drink as close to sweating rate as possible.


Water is stored with carbohydrate it is essential that substantial amounts of fluids are drunk with meals and snacks.


As a general rule everyone should drink 2 litres (8 glasses) of water a day. For every hour of training / moderate-high intensity completed during the day another litre of water should be consumed. Therefore a swimmer doing 2 hours of training a day should drink 4 litres of water a day.


Monitoring your “pee” If you are hydrated it should be pale in colour and lots of it. If it is bright yellow and a small amount you are probably dehydrated and need to drink more.


Hydration in Competition: In hot and humid indoor conditions dehydration can occur quickly. Fluid intake should be matched with fluid lost during competition. If properly hydrated prior to event a swimmer should need 200-500mls per hour to prevent dehydration.


Dietary supplements


There are many dietary supplements on the market and some can be useful in helping to increase carbohydrate energy in the form of sports drinks, bars and gels. Be aware of the potential risk of contamination with substances which can produce a positive drugs test – it is very difficult to tell!