Healthy snacking is important for everyone, but especially for swimmers, who work their whole bodies intensely during training and competitions. Swimmers who want to keep their energy levels high need a well-balanced meal plan that reflects a normal, healthy diet plus additional snacks before and after training. If you need additional help with meal planning, ask your coach to recommend a registered dietitian.
Serious or competitive swimmers require lots of extra snacking -- much more so than non-athletes or casual, recreational swimmers. Swimmers begin to deplete their energy stores within 90 minutes of training, according to Alison Green, registered dietitian for TeamUnify. When this happens, it's time for a snack. Snacking after training matters, too, so you recover between sessions and are ready for competitions.
Swimmers require about 55 to 60 percent of carbohydrates in their diets, according to the Colorado Swimming website. Both simple and complex carbs are an important part of fueling training. Simple carbs are simple sugars with a chemical structure composed of one or two sugars. They give you a burst of energy. Complex carbohydrates consist of a chemical structure made up of three or more sugars, linked together to form a chain. These sugars are mostly rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals and take longer to digest. Complex carbs keep your energy steady before and after training and competition. Incorporate both into your snacking. Healthy snack choices with complex carbs include a bowl of breakfast cereal, rice cakes and popcorn. For bursts of energy, try a bagel with honey for a mix of complex and simple carbs.
Protein helps your body to build and maintain muscle tissue and the enzymes that help your muscles recover and strengthen. The bad news is that if you eat more protein than what you really need, your body will convert it to fat, but, when you're training, it's unlikely that you'll overdo it. About 15 to 20 percent of your calories should come from protein. Yogurt is a healthy high-protein snack for swimmers, but be sure to make a choice that's low in sugar. Nuts are a good choice, too, but they are high in fat, so don't consume them in excess.
Fat should be a sparing part of anyone's diet, but especially when you train for speed and agility in the water. Stay away from unhealthy snack choices like chips or doughnuts, even if the carbohydrates feel like they fuel you temporarily. You need some fat to help your body circulate vitamins, so look to healthy sources. Fig bars are a good choices, as are oatmeal raisin cookies, especially if you can find reduced-fat varieties.