Nutrition Guide

Nutrition and hydration are important elements to any high performance athlete especially swimmers.   Competitive swimming is a demanding sport which requires special needs.  Below is a list of recommendations provided by USA Swimming. 



Hydration- Swimmers need to stay hydrated during practice as well replenishment after practice.

  • “If you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.”  Be proactive in hydration
  • Stay Hydrated during practice - Bring a water bottle
    • Water only if practice is 1 hr or less, sports drink if practice is more than 1 hour.
    • Drink 3-8 oz every 20 minutes during practice
  • Pre/Post Workout Weight Loss-  Drink 16 oz for every pound lost
  • Urine color is a good indication of proper hydration. Color chart

Protein  Protein is a necessary part of every child’s diet. It is fundamental for organ function, new tissue development and the repair of muscle damage. Children need protein to stay healthy and grow.

  • The average child, aged 9-13 years, needs about 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Youth swimmers and other young athletes have a slightly higher protein requirement and need about 0.5-0.7 grams per pound of body weight, depending on age and gender.
  • Post-exercise the muscle’s ability to synthesize protein is increased. Recent research suggests that four equally spaced meals throughout the course of the day and one larger pre-sleep meal may be ideal for maximizing protein synthesis and negating protein breakdown.
  •  Milk, yogurt, cheese, milk-or yogurt smoothies, eggs, turkey, chicken, lean beef and pork, nuts, seeds and beans and peas are all good sources of protein
  • Good protein sources for vegan athletes include brown rice, protein-enriched pasta (like Barilla Plus protein and omega-3-enriched pasta), nuts, tofu, soy milk and soy cheese and soy yogurt, tempeh, peanut butter and beans and peas (black beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas and lentils).

Iron Swimmers need adequate iron for performance. Iron is the key part of the blood protein hemoglobin. Its job is to pick up oxygen from the lungs and transport it to working muscles. Without enough hemoglobin your muscles don’t get enough oxygen.

  • Lean beef in spaghetti sauce, tuna chunks in pasta salad, fish tacos, or a chicken drumstick all contain the most absorbable form of iron.
  • Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) is a potent enhancer of iron absorption. It can change iron to a more absorbable form—up to three times more iron can be absorbed when food is eaten with a good source of Vitamin C.

Calcium There is one golden opportunity for building bone and optimize bone health and that occurs in the first two decades of life.

  • Unfortunately, young swimmers are swimming against the current when it comes to bone health. Swimming is a non-impact sport, and according to a literature review in 2011 by Tenforde et al, is not associated with improvements in bone health. This makes optimal calcium intake, as well as the consumption of other important bone nutrients, and participation in other impact-loading exercises, more critical to healthy bone formation. 
  • During the period of childhood and adolescence (ages 9-18 years), the needs for calcium are at their highest in life, a level of 1300 milligrams per day Romano cheese: 452 mg per 1 ½ ounce
    • Ready-to-eat cereals, calcium fortified: 100 – 1,000 mg per ½ cup
    • Orange juice, calcium fortified: 500 mg per 1 cup
    • Soy beverage, calcium fortified: 80 – 500 mg per ½ cup
    • Plain non-fat yogurt: 452 mg per 1 cup
    • Low fat fruited yogurt: 338 – 384 mg per 1 cup
    • Mozzarella cheese: 333 mg per 1½ ounces
    • Low fat milk: 305 mg per 1 cup
    • Low fat chocolate milk: 290 mg per 1 cup
    • Soft serve vanilla frozen yogurt: 105 mg per 1 cup

CarbohydratesCarbohydrates supply important nutrients and a critical energy source for the young swimmer.


  • Carbohydrates are categorized as simple (sugar) or complex (starch and fiber). Foods such as grains, fruit, vegetables and dairy products are complex carbohydrates and desirable for the athlete.
  • The more complex the source, the longer it takes to digest and absorb, making glucose available to the muscles over a longer period. 
  • Simple carbohydrate sources, such as a sports drink, can be beneficial before and during training or competition.
  • Complex sources are the foundation foods from daily meals and snacks, keeping muscles, brain and body well fueled.
  • During moderate- to high-intensity training for 1 to 3 hours/day, aim for 2.7-4.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight. On low volume training days or rest days, decrease carb intake to 2.3-3.1 grams per pound.
  • Max on complex carbohydrate foods and minimize the simple ones—not only will the young swimmer be set for training and competition everyday, he’ll get a healthy dose of good nutrition too. 
    • Eat an array of fruit and vegetables, targeting 5 servings (1 cup) each day. 
    • Incorporate starchy (potato and other root vegetables) and non-starchy vegetables into meals and snacks. 
    • Eat whole grains (cereal, bread, pasta, rice, crackers) over refined grains, at least half of the time. 
    • Drink and eat low-fat dairy products (or dairy substitutes), targeting 3 cups each day. 
    • Scale back on desserts, candy, processed snacks, soda and other sweetened beverages—keep it to one or two servings (or less) each day. 
    • Strategically use sports drinks during training and competition, not as an accompaniment to a meal or snack.