Good Carbs to Eat Before a Swim Meet

Eat the right things before the big meet.
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To succeed in a swim meet, you need training and good nutrition. Starting fast off the blocks and lasting through the race requires quick access to energy as well as endurance you gain from months of training. Eating too much before a meet or eating the wrong thing can harm your performance in the pool.

Race Energy

The energy you get for the big race comes primarily from carbohydrates.
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When you participate in a swim meet, the energy you rely on for speed in the water comes primarily from carbohydrates. Long endurance swims might burn some fat, but your body turns first to glycogen stores for quick and efficient fuel. You digest the food you eat in the hours leading up to the race and the component nutrients stored in your liver or circulating in your bloodstream travel to your muscles, where they provide energy for contraction and resulting motion.


Carb Types

You should focus on eating complex carbohydrates such as whole grain breads and oatmeal.
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Carbohydrates meet your energy demands best for swimming meets, but simple carbs break down too quickly. They relieve an acute energy crisis well, but simple carbs will not last through a long meet. Examples of simple carbohydrates include white bread, white rice, and pastas. Your digestive system breaks down complex carbohydrates more slowly so your energy levels stay stable throughout the competition. Foods containing complex carbs include whole grain breads and pasta, oatmeal and sweet potatoes and yams.


Timing and Selections

Eat breakfast four hours before your meet if you can.
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When you eat is as important as what you eat before a swim meet. Eating breakfast is important, preferably four hours before you swim in a race. Slow-cooked oatmeal cereals with low fat yogurt or eggs with whole grain toast provide some protein along with complex carbohydrates to help fuel your energy needs. Avoid white flour bagels or pastries such as croissants or donuts. Snacks consisting of lower-sugar fruits such as blueberries or nuts tide you over during the competition.



Carbo loading can be counterproductive.
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Eating a large amounts of carbohydrates or "carbo loading" before a race can be counterproductive for swimmers. Large portions of starches and sugars might result in cramps and sluggish performance. You rely on long-term nutrition as well as training for good performance at swim meets. USA Swimming coach Mike Mejia says what you eat in the months and weeks leading up to the meet is most important. Mejia says that a well-balanced diet for a competitive swimmer should consist mostly of complex carbohydrates, between 50 and 60 percent of total calories consumed. The rest of your diet should consist of lean protein, some unsaturated fats and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.