The body of an athlete is similar to a high performance sports car and you must treat it as such. Athletes need to take special care of their nutritional needs in order to fuel their high performance lifestyles. Meals should be a balance of lean protein, whole grain carbohydrates, low-fat dairy, fruits, and vegetables.


Young athletes should drink 6 ml per pound of body weight per hour. For example, a young swimmer who weights 100 lbs needs 600 ml or 20 oz, per hour. There are many options to look at when choosing your pre and post workout beverages. Water is, hands down, the best option for general hydration. Try carrying a reusable water bottle with you, everywhere you go. If you have it with you, you will be more likely to sip it throughout the day. Most importantly, the choice of fluid should be something the swimmer likes to drink, as drinking adequate amounts is critical. For instance, you can add a splash of fruit juice or a wedge of lemon in regular water to make it a little more exciting.

During Workouts: Water can help satisfy the hydration needs of many young swimmers but those who train longer than 1 hour should consider something more. Sports drinks are good for longer workouts (greater than 1 hour in duration). They provide sugar, fluid and electrolytes to help replenish what is lost during the workout. Because they are flavored, they encourage drinking. However, it is best to keep their role limited to the pool as the extra sugar can be detrimental to an athlete's overall diet.

After Workouts: Low fat chocolate milk may be the best option for post workout recovery fuel. Milk provides two important sources of protein: whey and casein. In addition to high quality protein it contains the natural sugar lactose that stimulates insulin, a hormone that helps feed the amino acids into the muscle. Milk also contains as much calcium and 10 cups of spinach to keep your bones strong. Let's be honest, it's so good that any excuse to have a glass of chocolate milk is a good one!

Race Day Nutrition:

  • Breakfast is a MUST! If you are racing in the morning, make sure you eat light. Fruit, yogurt, dry cereal, and instant oatmeal are some of the best options.
  • Pack for the day: make sure you bring a variety of healthy snacks for the day so that you stay properly fueled and ready to race at your best.
  • Don't forget the protein! Protein is vital in keeping your blood sugar levels stable and helping you stay fuller for longer. Some options include: cheese sticks, nuts, nut butters, deli meat slices, or hard-boiled eggs. 
  • Carbohydrate fuel: make sure your carbs are easily digestible. We recommend fresh fruit or 100% fruit juice, crackers, pretzels, or graham crackers.
  • Save “meals” or large quantities of food for big breaks between events an sessions. Snack on small amounts of food between events that are closely scheduled. This will help you stay energized and keep your muscles fueled on race day.
  • Stay hydrated: Water, fruit juice, and sports drinks are good choices for race day.  Milk can be an excellent recovery drink  after the meet because it provides protein for muscle repair and carbohydrates to re-fuel muscles

For more nutrition information please visit USA Swimming's Nutrition Center