Have you ever swapped a swimming sesh for the sofa because you were too tired? Or hit the gym but can’t quite reach your PB? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there!
We all know how important keeping fit and active is but sometimes it’s difficult to muster up the motivation and energy to have a great workout. Things like stress and lack of sleep can all have an impact but often it can be attributed to what we’ve had (or haven’t had) to eat.
What you choose to eat before or after training can be the difference between an energetic workout and an unfulfilling and slow session. So where to begin? Well, what you eat and how much you should eat depends on a number of factors from age, weight and daily activity right through to genetic make-up. But if you’re a keen swimmer and looking for some advice on what the best foods to eat before and after swimming might be, read on!
What to eat before swimming
Ideally, you should leave 1-2 hours after eating before you get in the pool – but for early morning swimmers, this can be easier said than done! When you’re already getting up at the crack of dawn to swim before work, losing an extra hour in bed to have a hearty breakfast may not be achievable (or desirable!).
If eating a proper breakfast isn’t an option before your morning swim, you should try to at least have a small snack. You may not feel like you need it, but it’s especially important to refuel after your body has been fasting through the night.
Regardless of what time you choose to swim, the key is opting for easy to digest carbs that will release energy throughout the course of your swim and ward off any sudden sugar crashes.
Anything high in fat is a no-go before swimming, as these types of foods are much harder for the body to digest. The same goes for heavy grains, such as rice and pasta. Experiment a little with how much you feel comfortable eating before you swim, as it will be different for everyone. If you’re planning on swimming straight after work, you can plan a bigger lunch without worrying about feeling too full or bloated in the pool.
Any main meal that you eat before swimming should contain low GI carbohydrates, with moderate protein and ‘good’ fats (such as avocados or nuts and seeds). We’re loving the below meal inspiration for our pre-swim sustenance.
Pre-swim meal & snack inspiration
These peanut butter overnight oats are a great way to get all the benefits of oats, minus the faff in the morning! Choc full of slow-releasing energy and protein, you’ll be in the perfect mindset to rock that swim. Just make sure you don’t go too heavy on the peanut butter!
- Whole wheat toast, slices of banana and a sprinkling of cinnamon – bananas are the ultimate snack if you’re short on time and need a boost!
- Try a sliced apple and nut butter combo for a good combination of carbs and protein
- Whizz up a quick smoothie to have on the go
- Have a go at making your own protein bars for something to grab on the way out the door
- If you find that you’re always in a rush, maybe try and keep a couple of healthy protein bars in your swim bag as a backup
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What to eat after swimming
It may feel counterintuitive to eat just after you’ve finished your swim (especially if weight loss is one of your goals) but making sure that you’ve replenished your energy stores is very important to aid in your recovery.
An important thing to consider here is whether you’re swimming just for enjoyment and fitness or if you’re training for a competition. For the latter, you’ll need a lot more calories, especially if you’re training multiple times a day.
If your swims are more casual, what you eat afterwards is still very important, but you most likely won’t need as high a calorie intake. If one of your swimming goals is weight loss and you’re concerned about adding extra snacks into your diet, planning your swims around set mealtimes is a good way to ensure you refuel your body appropriately without consuming additional calories.
The important thing to remember when you’re planning what to eat after swimming is the sooner the better – preferably eating within 30 minutes of finishing your swim to ensure that you’re giving your body the best opportunity for muscle repair and regrowth. Make sure you’re incorporating more protein into your meal now to aid the recovery process, and you’ll also have the added benefit of feeling fuller for longer so you won’t be tempted to keep snacking later on in the day.
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Post swimming meal inspiration
A common occurrence in many people’s fitness journey is the feeling that after a tough workout you can have whatever meal you want. While at Swimfreak we’re huge believers in “everything in moderation” and see no wrong in so-called “cheat” meals, there are definitely certain foods that are better suited to the post-swim recovery than others.
Carbs are the body’s fuel for exercise, being stored as glycogen in the body which gives you the energy to keep pushing through that tough swim. Make sure you keep your energy levels topped up by eating complex carbs such as brown rice, potatoes and legumes alongside any food with a good source of protein.
Almost anywhere you look when researching post-exercise meals will hit on that old staple of brown rice, chicken and broccoli. As great as this is, sometimes you want to mix it up with something a little more insta-worthy! This gorgeous brown rice kedgeree is full of protein and flavour.
- Chilli con carne
- Griddled chicken with quinoa salad
- Spicy tuna and cottage cheese jacket potato
- Chicken, sweet potato and kale
- Vegetarian curry
- Hummus chicken
- Pesto salmon
- Cashew chicken
- Having a protein shake ready to go once you get out of the pool is a great way to start the muscle repair process quickly – especially if you know you don’t have time for a proper meal. Or why not give this chia recovery drink a go post workout.
- If that’s not your thing but you’re still short on time, then having a quick bowl of Greek yoghurt with fruit will also give you that protein boost, with some healthy carbs for an energy boost.
Ready to optimise your workouts with these energy-boosting meals? By now you should have a better idea of which foods work better before and after your swim, and perhaps even feel more confident to freestyle your own recipe ideas.