Diet and nutrition tips for swimmers

Correct nutrition is critical for getting the most out of your time in the water. Eat smart with these simple tips from endurance coach Steve Whittle.

Load up on liquid

You won’t be able to drink anything while you’re in the water, so it’s crucial to get your hydration right the day before. Try and drink three litres of water in total. Ideally you should be peeing every four hours and your urine should be straw coloured rather than too dark or clear.

Carb up in advance

A quality, balanced dinner will help to top up your energy levels the night before a big swim. Aim to eat a fistful of cooked, wholemeal carbohydrate such as pasta with a lean protein source such as chicken breast and some nutrient-rich green veggies or a salad on the side.

Keep breakfast light

Ideally you want to eat an easily-digestible combo of good carbs and protein – think half a wholemeal bagel with peanut butter – a couple of hours before you hit the water.

Drink sparingly

Have a glass of water with breakfast, and then keep sipping occasionally throughout the morning. If you’ve hydrated correctly the day before this will be more than enough. The last thing you want to have to do is down pints of water immediately before hitting the water, as you’ll feel bloated and your body will struggle to process it.

Refuel afterwards

Once you’ve finished your swim, replenish your glycogen stores with plenty of quality slow release carbohydrates such as wholemeal rice, along with a decent serving of protein such as salmon to help your muscles recover.

Steve Whittle is an endurance and nutrition coach with over a decade’s experience. For more information, contact him at or via Twitter @coach_whittle

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