Nutrition plays an integral role in promoting athletic success. Proper nutritional habits help athletes stay healthy and optimally fueled so they can maximize training, conditioning, and recovery. Good nutrition habits can equate to greater gains in lean body mass, minimize fatigue related to poor hydration and under-fueling, enhance recovery, and injury prevention and rehabilitation, which supports all future training and competition. To accomplish these goals, the student-athletes must get appropriate calories and nutrients essential for fueling the body throughout the day.

Proper nutrition provides energy to fuel physical performance and the basis for recuperation from that effort. The basic nutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water.

  •  Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for aerobic athletes and, contrary to popular opinion, are not fattening. If taken in reasonable amounts, carbohydrates are used for energy, leaving little to be converted to body fat.
  • Protein builds and repairs muscle, produces hormones, supports the immune system, and replaces red blood cells. Protein is not a main source of energy except in cases of malnutrition or starvation. Most athletes do not need extra protein. They get adequate protein from a normal diet. Again, contrary to popular opinion, protein does not build muscle bulk; only exercise does that.
  • Fats are essential for hormone production, storage of vitamins, and delivery of essential fatty acids. The body needs fat, but the average American diet contains more than enough. High fat foods should be traded for low fat substitutes so that fat intake is limited to 25% of total calories.
  • The necessary vitamins and minerals are also readily available in the foods consumed in a healthy diet. Vitamins, minerals, and water make the body more efficient at accessing carbohydrates, fats, and proteins when they are needed during exercise and recovery.


In terms of total calories, swimmers should aim for a diet of:

  • 60% carbohydrate
  • 15% protein
  • 25% fat


Of course, this will vary, but carbohydrate intake shouldn’t drop below 50%, protein should not go above 25%, and fat should not go above 30%. There are no magic foods and no magic food groups! Extra vitamins, minerals, and supplements are not necessary in a healthy diet. The easy guidelines for your athletes are as follows:


1) Eat colorful foods. The more naturally colorful, the more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and carbohydrates are available for recovery and general health.

2) Eat early and often. The first two hours post-workout are the most critical.

3) Adequate carbohydrate intake is essential to replenishing muscle glycogen stores.

4) Higher fat intake increases fatty acid oxidation as an energy source, sparing muscle glycogen.

5) Athletes who simply change the type of fats they eat, increase fat intake, and add appropriate levels of protein to their diet can expect improved performance and faster recovery.


Recovery: Recuperating from training or performance entails all the processes the body needs to rebuild its self. This includes, but is not limited to, nutrition, drink, and sleep, massage, Active Release Therapy, active recovery, heat, ice and meditation. All of these areas are important components of recovery, injury prevention and/or healing.


Dietary Supplements: Dietary supplement use is prevalent among athletes. Claims of improved performance, quickened recovery periods, and increased energy from products that are marketed as over the counter, safe and effective are confusing and often erroneous. Many compounds are not subject to the strict regulations set by the U.S. Food and Dietary Administration. The ingredients in dietary supplements may not be accurately revealed and may contain impurities or substances banned by USA Swimming. Widespread use of dietary supplement without accurate knowledge of effects or misinformation about ingredients may have adverse reactions and could result in a positive drug test.


It is highly recommended that athletes avoid using any type of supplement not prescribed by a Physician.


Lots of parents want to know about supplements like vitamins, minerals and special substances like Creatine, Glucose and so on. The five golden rules about these products are:

1. They may be of some use to some swimmers in some situations and on some occasions but consult a sports nutrition professional to help determine what might work for your child

2. Nothing takes the place of consistent hard work, good technique and a great attitude

3. If something sounds too good to be true, “Miracle Sports Performance Powder – Improves Endurance by up to 60%...” it probably is too good to be true!

4. Never introduce a new product – no matter what it is promising – within 7 days of an important meet. Many parents have fallen for the trap of giving kids a “special” breakfast or all new “miracle” supplement on the morning of a big meet only to find their kids spend more time in the toilet than in the pool.

5. Read rule 2 again – no supplement can turn mediocrity into magnificence. Teach kids to believe in themselves and to take responsibility for their own swimming performances rather than to rely on the promises of a supplement advertising campaign.



This is the most obvious area to discuss, but is something all our athletes overlook. It is true that taken to extremes, dehydration causes death. Most folks will never go that far. However, a modest 3% level of dehydration causes a muscle to lose 10% of its contractile strength and 8% of its speed. Let’s take a further look.

Proper hydration is critical to both health and athletic performance. Every day we lose body water due to basic life processes such as respiration and gastrointestinal functions. But as an athlete, one of the biggest sources of our daily water loss is sweat.

On average the metabolic processes in the body are only about 20% efficient. Which means that 80% of the energy we produce is lost in the form of heat. This heat has to go somewhere in order to maintain body temperature, and the best way to lose it is to sweat.

The amount of fluid lost in the form of sweat can vary significantly from athlete to athlete. Sweat rates have been reported to be as low as 0.3 L/hour and as high as 2.4 L/hour . Your sweat rate will depend on the interplay between exercise duration and intensity, your level of acclimation to the activity, and other environmental factors such as heat, humidity, or even altitude.

Losing too much body water without sufficient replenishment will lead us into a state of dehydration. Once there you can expect to experience increased cardiovascular strain, altered metabolic and nervous system function, and a rise in body temperature . All of which will lead to a decrease in exercise performance. In addition, dehydration can increase the likelihood of experiencing heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or renal failure caused by rhabdomyolysis.

Negative Effects of Dehydration: Scientific, peer-reviewed tests of athletes suffering 5% dehydration show up to a 30% decline in standard performance, and these results were measured during events lasting 35 minutes or less. 

Longer efforts would show more dramatic results: 3-5 hours of exercise without hydration causes the heart rate for a fixed level of output to increase by 30 beats per minute (BPM), while stroke volume decreases.

The body controls its temperature through sweat. At rest, evaporation through the skin is responsible for roughly 30% of water loss, but during heavy, exercise-induced sweating can increase almost 300 times (depending on air temperature, humidity, and body surface area - a bigger athlete loses more).

At high altitude, where humidity is lower -- because cold air holds less water -- respiratory evaporation increases, causing as much as .5 to 1.5 liters of water to be lost per hour. This is in addition to fluid loss through sweat and kidney function. Water loss through the kidneys is normally reduced during exercise, although diuretics (like caffeine) can cause more water loss by way of the kidneys than is necessary.

Symptoms of dehydration include muscle cramping (may also be due to sodium deficiency), excessive fatigue, and shortness of breath. Eventually vomiting, hot, dry, skin, a coma and so on but you will have fallen off or become “stretcher-material” long before you reach this point.

Water Requirements: A study done at Middle Tennessee State University indicated that optimum fluid replacement during one hour of hard cycling is 100ml (3.5 ounces) every five minutes. The American College of Sports Medicine published a position paper in 1996 stating the athlete performs best if he replaces fluid at the same rate it is being lost through sweat.

Drink 2 glasses of water as soon as you wake up
Drink O2 before practice
Drink during practice
If you are thirsty, you waited too long
Keep a bottle by your lane at all times 
Fluid temperature between 59-72 ̊F optimizes palatability and absorption.
The fluid should be composed of a 4-8% carbohydrate concentration.

Carbohydrates should be ingested at a rate of 30-60g per hour, which corresponds to the above recommendations for overall intake and composition. 

Calcium, magnesium and potassium may also be present and are beneficial electrolytes. If these are not provided in the drink they should be supplemented (see below).

What to Drink: Avoid commercial sports drinks. This includes Gatorade, Powerade, Minute Made, etc. If you can buy it at a gas station, it probably isn’t worth it. These drinks feature glucose and sucrose as their carbohydrate components. These inhibit gastric emptying and are not well tolerated by the stomach under field conditions, although they are usually more satisfying to the taste buds. 
We prefer powder drinks such as Endurox or Cytomax. You can mix this with water and it has much less sugar than commercial drinks. 

Carb Loading

Effective for multi-event athletes or athletes who compete in events that last 90 min or longer. Carb loading Gives us more energy by increasing the glycogen, or stored glucose, in muscles. 

How it’s not done - scarfing a bunch of spaghetti the night before a meet.

How it’s done - 7 day plan

5-7 days before competition:

Eliminate all junk food (should have done this already).
Reduce amount of carbs to a 3rd of what you should be consuming. Recommended 50-60%, reduce to about 20% calories consumed
Drink plenty of fluids (water).

2-4 days before competition:

Continue to eat healthy foods
Increase carbohydrate consumption to 70% of diet
Continue to drink plenty of fluids

Day before competition 

Normal diet (still no junk food)
Keep water consumption high

Day of Meet (Sample)

Breakfast: Bagel w/peanut butter, acai smoothie ( acai packet, honey, mango, banana, coconut water), 2 glasses of water

Pre Warm-up: Water + grape juice

During Meet: 1 health bar (bearded bros, power bar, barf bar, etc.), 1 chocolate milk

Post Meet: Chicken with pasta, Vegetables, yogurt, lots of water

Post Race: Fish, vegetable, quinoa, sherbet