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.