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Before the competition

This is a complex area and in some respect swimmers will need to experiment. This will also depend on the types of food eaten, metabolism of the swimmer, other exercise and sports being undertaken to name a few.

Swimmers need to start fueling for races 3 to 4 days before the race. A large portion of pasta the night before is too much too late. As a rule the body takes 48-72 hours to assimilate foods such as white pasta or rice. So if you are competing on a Saturday/Sunday then you need to be fueling on Tuesday and Wednesday. Rice and Pasta are the easiest foods to work with because the size of portions is more easily managed (cous-cous is also a good food for this).

For those two meals double the amount of pasta or rice (not the sauce). If you like wholemeal pasta or brown rice then you need to allow another day for the body to assimilate this. So far swimmers that have followed this method have reported finding races easier at galas and have maintained energy levels throughout the weekend.

It is also important that some basic rules are followed all the time. Swimmers and other athletes must have a snack and drink within the first 30 minutes following training. Keeping hydrated and re-fueling quickly prevents swimmers from catching infections.

It is still worth taking on a little extra carbohydrate the day before a competition but be aware that this aids recovery more than it does performance.

At the competition

It is a good idea to have food at competitions – food is fuel and swimmers get hungry quickly. However, before food it is very important for swimmers to hydrate so make sure they have plenty of water with them (open meets and championships 2 x one litre bottles, in training swimmers should drink 1 litre per hour so please invest in water bottles of 1 litre capacity).

Swimmers should have a couple of bottles of “isotonic” drinks (e.g. Lucosade or Powerade) and need to take a few swigs of this AFTER a race to replenish sugar supplies. Definite no-nos are: fizzy drinks – coffee – tea - slushies.

Foods at galas needs to be easily digestible. Swimmers should eat foods that they usually eat – so in some respects their daily diet needs to accommodate the types of foods that are good to eat at competition. Types of food swimmers eat are cold pasta and rice mixed with small amounts of tuna/beans/salad/chicken etc, bread-sticks, fruit (grapes are good), flapjacks, dry cereal, mini bread and honey sandwiches, cereal bars, popcorn (not toffee), dried fruit and nuts; sandwiches (with healthy fillings) and rice or pasta dishes are good for lunch along with fruit juices, fruit and milkshakes.

It is important that the swimmer has their food for each session as at many meets they cannot come back to the parents during a session (so please give your swimmer the bag with the food in – it is not much good to them in the spectators area!).

Definite no-nos anything fried or deep fried, e.g. crisps, burgers, fried breakfast, high fat pastries, and chocolate. What about sweets? these are more likely to impair performance than improve it so steer clear – go for fruit or dried fruit instead.

Never take food supplements without discussing it with a coach first! – who will then tell you not to.