What to Eat Before Swimming

Children jumping into swimming pool
Young children jumping into a swimming pool. (Image: Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

What you should eat before swimming depends on whether you are swimming recreationally or competitively. The food you eat before a swim meet will make a difference in your energy levels and athletic performance. Your body type also influences what type of food will be best for you to eat before swimming in competition. In both cases, it is imperative to avoid eating right before entering the water, to allow your digestive system time to assimilate your food.

Easy-to-Digest Foods

Eat easy-to-digest foods, especially if you are preparing for a swim meet, to avoid needing to use the restroom when you least expect it. Such easy-to-digest foods include steamed vegetables, fruit and greens. Avoid breads and heavy grains, such as brown rice and pasta. Other easy-to-digest foods that will provide your body with enough fuel for swimming are lean proteins, such as fish, lean red meat and low-fat dairy products. These foods are recommended by strength and conditioning specialist Mike Mejia. Mejia writes for USA Swimming, the sport's governing body in the United States. It takes a long time for your body to digest fiber, so it is best to avoid foods such as whole-grain cereals.

Liquid Food

Smoothies are a convenient alternative to solid food that will nourish your body with needed vitamins and minerals before you swim, but which will also be easy on your digestive tract. You can make your smoothies with nut milks, juices or water. Add protein powder and different fruits to give you a mix of carbohydrates and protein.

Choose Low-Fat

Even though you will burn fat as you swim, you should avoid eating foods heavy in fats before swimming, Mejia advises, because they will be difficult for your stomach to assimilate and digest and may cause you to experience indigestion. If you have a balanced diet, your body will be able to store glucose. This stored glucose can be used as a source of fuel for swimming, and it can be replenished after swimming.

Protein Bars

If you are very hungry and it is almost time for you to swim, you can reach for a protein bar. Protein bars have a balance of carbs, protein, and fats. This nutritional combination helps to fill you up and provides the nutrients you need to fuel your swim, which allows you to focus on swimming instead of your hunger.

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