What Should Your Child Eat At Swim Meets?

by SwimSwam Contributors 21

January 17th, 2017 Lifestyle, Opinion

By Elizabeth Wickham

In a recent story, someone commented, When and what should swimmers eat during meets?I discussed this question with several swim moms from a variety of backgrounds, including two nurses, former swimmers, athletes, a dietitian and parents of Olympians, to find out their advice about nutrition at meets.

Although none of them claim to be experts, they have years of experience and have learned what things do and do not work for their kids. They provided five practical tips and a list of foods their swimmers eat at meets.


Know your child.

Each swimmer is different and they can tolerate different things. One swimmer was sensitive to certain foods like a hamburger. She would be in pain after eating one but had no problem with rice and a hard boiled egg. Other swimmers can eat a hamburger the day of a race and get best times. Also, make sure swimmers know its important to drink liquids and stay hydrated.



Swimmers need a recovery drink or food within 30 minutes after they race. When theyre young, parents need to be in charge of this. Chocolate milk is the preferred drink of each mom I interviewed. It has a good ratio of carbohydrates to protein to replenish needed nutrients after practice or a race. Boost, Ensure and other protein drinks are great because they are fortified with protein and vitamins, but your kids have to like the taste.


Don’t try something new.

If your child got a best time eating a certain meal such as sushi or cheese pizza, dont mess with it. You dont want to try a completely new food, because it might not agree with your child. Also, give them plenty of time to digest. One swim mom suggested eating at least two hours before they race. Another mom, who is a nurse, said her kids snack on healthy fruits and nuts throughout meets. Many swimmers like the same food for every meet.


Keep a consistent diet.

One swim mom, whos an athlete herself, made the comment that you dont eat healthy only during a meet. Swimmers need to have a healthy diet all the time as part of their lifestyle. Its just as important to eat well every day of the weeknot just at meetsfor optimum performance.


Read and research.

There are many great articles and books about nutrition and sports. Read the many articles on SwimSwam written by registered dietitians and experts. Youll learn so much about nutrition and the role it has in your swimmers health, growth and development.

Heres a list of suggested swim meet meals and snacks from swim moms:

Chocolate Milk

Carnation Instant Breakfast

Breakfast burrito

Egg and bagel sandwich

Rice with eggs


Coachs Oats



Almond butter and apples

Fresh fruit


Protein bars

Beef jerky

Homemade granola: nuts, honey, coconut oil, salt, shredded coconut and raisins

What is your swimmer’s favorite food at swim meets?

Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug.You can read more parenting tips on her blog.

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6 years ago

I have a 9 year old swimmer and she refuses to eat during the race and if it is early morning she wont eat before. She gets a nervous stomach and is afraid she will get sick. I try to get her to drink water, chocolate milk and recently tried nuun in her water. She will sometimes accept a smoothie. It is hard because I know she should eat, but she knows how she is feeling better then I do. We have decided to focus on a good healthy meal the night before….in hopes that will help fuel the next day (this may be an out of date way of thinking?) Any advice for a young swimmer that wont eat?… Read more »

Reply to  shanon
5 years ago

Similar issues. Smoothies tend to be too sweet. I can get mine to have maybe 3 swallows of chocolate milk in a.m. and maybe bite of buttered toast. Terrible I know but also no desire to eat. We also like you have carb load night before but curious if that works?

6 years ago

Being completely gluten and dairy free most foods on this list I couldn’t eat. I have found that fruit and Gatorade with some starburst are great fuel for most meets also a black coffee or green tea before the meet are great for me and my teammate who is also gluten free.

6 years ago

My child ate McRib for every meal of a three day meet and went all best times! Eat McRib™.

6 years ago

During an actual big meet session, it was light stuff. A clementine or two, rice krispie treat (store-bought), a few of the mini Ritz crackers with peanut butter, gatorade. Nothing big. You have the rest of the day to eat up and eat something more satisfying and filling. Not worth blowing a big race you trained 8 months for just because your friend ate some pizza and you wanted to fit in.

6 years ago

As a kid I would get nervous on race day and struggle to eat anything but found having smoothies throughout the day and snacking on small snacks I.e. Carrot sticks or apple slices helped a lot 🙂

The Race Club
6 years ago

We recommend Platinum Bars that are easy to digest and great, quality nutrition. http://shop.theraceclub.com/store/supplements/platinum-lifestyle-bar-in-sunflower-chocolate-chip.html

Crooked Hillary
6 years ago

A sprite or 7-up before a race to settle their stomach.

6 years ago