3 Nutrition Tips for Peak Swimming Performance

Nutrition for Peak Swimming Performance

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Good nutrition is an important component of an elite athlete’s training, so it should be equally vital during championship meets. You can’t win the race by making sure to eat your broccoli, but you can lose it by eating terrible foods that don’t give your body the energy it needs to perform. How you eat is not about calories, “super foods”, or special tricks. It is entirely about how you can best refuel your muscles for the next race while accelerating recovery from the previous one. Let’s discuss the essential habits you should adopt in preparation for peak performance.


Drink water like it’s your job. Staying hydrated can be especially difficult when you travel for competitions unless you make it a priority. A study in the Journal of Nutrition found a 1.5% loss of normal water volume in the body is enough to make you feel fatigue, anxiety, tension, and headaches. By the time you feel thirsty, you have already lost about 1-2% of body fluid1. During a meet, make it your goal to steadily drink water and never reach a thirsty state. This will also help you recover faster from a previous race, and flush out any harmful germs in your system from traveling. For more information on the impact of hydration on athletic performance, please visit my blog post.

Stick with what you know

Swimmers know to pay attention to how they eat during taper, but on the flipside do not make so many changes in your nutrition that your body is unprepared for. Training volume is down, but that does not mean you have to eat salad. Make sure your meals have substance to them and give you energy—that means still eating a balance of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats.

Drop any fast food or nightly dessert habits

It will be there for you when you’re done with season in a few weeks. When out to restaurants during travel meets, opt for grilled items over fried, meals that include vegetables, and pastas without cream sauce. Pack snacks like fruit, nuts, and bars for the plane and your hotel room. If you find it hard to skip dessert, think of how many morning practices you’ve woken up for this year and how much training you’ve put in to make these few weeks great. Everything you eat can help you fuel up for a great performance if you make smart decisions.

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  1. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/02/20/mild-dehydration-causes-a_n_1288964.html

bridgeathleticAbout BridgeAthletic:   BridgeAthletic works with elite professional, collegiate, and club swimming programs to provide a turnkey solution for dryland training.  Led by Nick Folker, the top swimming strength and conditioning coach in the world, our team builds stroke-specific, custom-optimized dryland programs for each of our clients. The individualized workouts are delivered directly to athletes via our state of the art technology platform and mobile applications. Check Nick and BridgeAthletic out as recently featured in SwimSwam.

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nutrition expert
7 years ago

Eat Meat & Vegetables, Nuts & Seeds, Some Fruit, Little Starch, No Sugar

wave rider
Reply to  nutrition expert
6 years ago

If you are interested in balancing your omega 3/6 ratio, nuts have an enormous amount of omega 6. Most nuts contain high amounts of phytic acid which bind to some nutrients like calcium, zinc, and iron making them impossible to absorb. Nuts are something to be eaten in moderation.

Reply to  nutrition expert
6 years ago

I will agree with the first two and last two words there. 🙂

6 years ago

Would love to hear your opinion on “The Screaming Viking’s” manifesto on ketosis.

6 years ago

This is off topic, but I was wondering if someone knew how much an Arena Carbon Reflex would benefit my breaststroke races? I’ve never worn a tech suit before, and I really want to know before my big meet.

Reply to  AConfusedSwimmer
6 years ago

I have the Arena Carbon Pro and personally I love it and I do think that it helped me drop time.

6 years ago

Can you explain how eating dessert/sugar/fast food actually impacts athletic performance? I am genuinely curious about this. My coach always says not to eat junk food/candy/sugar, especially before a meet (as does every coach and nutrition expert out there, I’d imagine)–but no one really explains why. I’m interested to know how consuming these foods actually translates to reduced performance in the pool?

Reply to  Iris
6 years ago

Search for ‘rebound hypoglycemia’

Basically high sugar foods are good for a quick spike (maybe one race if you are lucky enough to time it perfectly) and will then lead to sub-optimal performance due to the sugar crash thereafter.

6 years ago

Many Thanks, Coach Ben..

6 years ago

yep, its how i got ma national record on 800 free


6 years ago


6 years ago

It was kind of funny but i was at a masters meet in Las Vegas and i was pounding some gatorade between my races. Towards the end of the meet she pointed out a swimmer who had been dominating every race and said ” that guy only drinks water before his races not that s— you are drinking”.