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When preparing to compete at a swimming competition you need to pay careful attention to what you eat. Read on to find out what to eat the day before the event and during the day. Please find a presentation around Nutrition for more information.

The Day Before

When competition time comes round, you’ll have plenty on your mind already. So the day before the event, keep exercise to a minimum – if anything at all – and eat meals and snacks high in complex carbohydrates. These include things such as wholegrains (wholegrain bread, brown rice, oats), vegetables, legumes, nuts and fruit. These are foods that contain carbohydrates that will be released into your blood stream at a steady rate. Simple carbohydrates should be avoided (eg. sweets, sugar, cereal, chocolate, crisps etc.) as these will send your blood sugar levels through the roof and build you up for a drop in energy levels.

  • Drink fluids little and often to stay properly hydrated – water is best but if you need a little flavour add a little fruit juice or squash.

  • Eat little and often – every two to four hours to keep your blood sugar levels steady and fuel your muscles in preparation for your event.

  • Avoid big meals or over-eating in the evening – this will almost certainly make you feel uncomfortable and lethargic the next day.

  • Try to stick to familiar foods. Curries, spicy foods, baked beans and pulses (unless you are used to eating them) can cause gas and bloating, so avoid eating anything that may cause stomach discomfort the next day. It’s best to stick to foods that you are familiar and compatible with!


The Morning of the Event

  • Don’t swim on empty. Even if you feel nervous, make breakfast happen. Stick to easily digested foods – porridge, banana with yoghurt, some fruit – all the berries are good.

  • If you’re really struggling, try liquid meals such as milkshakes, yoghurt drinks or a smoothie.

  • It’s a good idea to rehearse your competition meal routine in training so you know exactly what agrees with you.

Snacks Between Heats

  • Try to eat as soon as possible after your swim to give yourself as long as possible to recover if you have to swim again. Within 20 minutes is a good guide.

  • High fat and simple sugar foods will do you no favours in competition (as outline above) – instead search out the complex carbohydrates again – fruit smoothies for example.

  • If you can’t stomach anything solid try flavoured milk or diluted juice that will help replenish your energy supplies and assist the recovery of aching muscles.


The list below offers great food options to be snacking on in and around training for a competition. Remember to keep eating healthy foods from your regular diet though, such as fresh vegetables, nuts and fruits. (Please be aware nuts should not be bought to competitions but can be eaten away from poolside).


Here are some more you can try

  • Water, diluted fruit juice.

  • Pasta salad

  • Plain sandwiches e.g. chicken, tuna, cheese with salad, banana, peanut butter

  • Bananas, grapes, apples, plums, pears

  • Any berry fruits

  • Dried fruit e.g. raisins, apricots, mango

  • Smoothies

  • Crackers and rice cakes with bananas and/or honey

  • Mini-pancakes, fruit buns

  • Cereal bars, fruit bars, sesame snaps

  • Yoghurt and yoghurt drinks

  • Prepared vegetable crudités e.g. carrots, peppers, cucumber and celery

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