Diet Plan For Swimmers To Lose Weight


Diet Plan For Swimmers To Lose Weight – The most effective diet plan for swimmers to lose weight is that they diet in a dietary regimen that is mainly based on the meal plan. There are certain types of diet regimens that are supposed to be followed by swimmers. They should diet in such a way that their bodies remain fit and fine at all times as this will help them perform better in the pool.


Nutrition has an enormous impact on a swimmers’ performance. Without enough energy or calories coming in, you cannot expect your body to respond quickly to the high demand of our sport.  Parents and athletes need to understand the relationship between what you eat and how well you perform.

For example, without sufficient protein, muscles cannot grow stronger. Without enough calcium, magnesium, potassium and other nutrients, muscles cannot contract and relax at the proper times. Lastly, if a swimmer eats too much sugar at the wrong time, their energy will quickly diminish resulting in weakness and fatigue.  

Athletic progress is accomplished by continuously stressing your body and allowing it to recover. If you do not receive adequate nutrition from your diet, this recovery is not possible.  For swimmers it is even more challenging because we are conflicted between staying lean but providing enough fuel for our body.  I often hear swimmers say, “I can eat anything and I don’t gain a pound.”  Just because the scale doesn’t change, doesn’t mean you can eat anything and everything.  It is extremely important that swimmers give  themselves the right kind of fuel,  at the right times throughout the day.


Training and competition require large amounts of energy, which comes from carbohydrates, fats and protein in your body. If you do not consume enough of these macronutrients from your diet, your body will not be able to perform at a peak level..  The energy needs of an athlete differ if you are male or female. As you get older, your energy needs will change again as your body grows and you acquire more muscle.  Changes in training, such as higher intensity and more volume, also requires more energy used by your body.  

For example a 15 year old male sprinter doing 5,000 yards might require 3,500-4,500 calories a day but if the same athlete was a distance swimmer doing 9,000 yards daily he will probably need closer to 5000-6000 calories a day.  If a 17 year old female did the same workouts, she may need 2,750-3,750 calories or 4,000-5,000 calories respectively.  Fueling for performance is specific to the individual. It not only alters athletic performance but can also change your mental state, ability to focus, school work, etc.  It can often be beneficial to meet with a Sports Dietitian to assess your needs and come up with a game plan!  In the meantime, here are some tools to support you.


Pre workout meals

The ideal pre-workout fueling includes both a full meal 3-4 hours before practice and a snack or “top-off” about 45-60 minutes before.  If you have an afternoon workout, no problem!  But for swimmers, it’s just that much more challenging to fuel ourselves because practice begins at 6am sometimes.  If you have an early workout the best thing we can do is provide the body with quick energy as soon as we wake up for a workout.  Sometimes this means waking up a few minutes early to make what we need.  Carbohydrates that provide quick, easily digested energy for pre workout meals are listed below.

An ideal meal includes:

  1. Mostly starchy carbs (bread, rice, pasta, potatoes)
  2. Carb rich fruits and veggies of all colors (avoid salad and raw vegetables)
  3. Small serving of lean protein – chicken, turkey, eggs, beans, low fat dairy
  4. Fluids (water or sports drink with minimal caffeine)
  5. Salty foods (pretzels, trail mix, etc)

Before practice or competition AVOID:

  • Foods you haven’t tried before
  • Cream based sauces and soups
  • High fat meats
  • Fried foods
  • Spicy foods
  • High sugar items such as soda or sweets

During workout

Recovery begins the minute you start working out. During practice you are constantly burning fuel. In order to be at your best through a two hour long workout and especially when doing doubles, you need to be fueling during practice. You have to train your body to do this, its not always easy! Practice when you’re in a workout using sports drinks, fruit, granola bars, crackers, bagels, fruit snacks, dry cereal, etc.

  • 30-60 grams of carbohydrate is recommended per hour for those exercising 60 minutes or more
  • Small amounts of protein (5-10 grams) per hour during exercise along with the carbohydrate have also been shown to have positive effects on muscle recovery
  • Drink 6-8 ounces of fluids every 15-20 minutes as tolerated
  • KEY TO SUCCESS: Start out consuming something small or a liquid form of carbohydrate in order to allow your stomach a chance to adjust to consuming calories/energy while working out. Some people get an upset stomach when trying this, the challenge is to find the right carb source for you and stick with it to give your body a chance to see how much better it will feel with fuel available!

During Workouts or Meets

Recovery tips to take with you

  • Plan ahead. Keep a variety of nutritious ready-to-eat snacks in your swim bag or locker, such as whole-grain crackers, low-fat cheese sticks, fruit, PB&J, granola bars, etc.
  • Begin recovery within 30-45 minutes after practice or competition followed by a meal within 2 hours.  Liquid carbohydrate or simple carbs can be utilized during workout or right after to speed up absorption and recovery.
  • Your post workout snack should include carbohydrate and protein in a 3:1 carb to protein ratio (3 grams of carbohydrate for every 1 gram of protein).  
  • Keep portion control in mind. Replace muscle fuel or carbohydrate utilized during practice along with the energy you need to support your body’s normal functioning.  The higher the volume and intensity of a workout the more fuel you need to recover with.  That being said, you don’t have to replace every calorie you burn.
  • Provide protein to aid in repair of damaged muscle tissue and to stimulate development of new tissue.  More is not better, so shoot for 20-40 grams of protein in your recovery snacks and meals.

6 Steps to Being Well Hydrated

  1. Begin exercise well hydrated.  Drink 16 oz about 2 hours before practice and another 8-16 oz about 15-20 minutes before practice.
  2. Weigh yourself before you get in the pool.
  3. During exercise
  • If less than 60 minutes, drink 6-12 oz of water every 20 minutes
  • If more than 60 minutes drink 6-12 oz every 20 mins of a 6-8% carb solution drink (ie Gatorade)
  1. Weigh yourself after to calculate sweat rate. For every pound you lose, drink 16-24 oz of fluid.
  2. Drink water with every meal to ensure pale yellow colored urine to indicate you are hydrated (check out the hydration chart).  
  3. After exercise, drink water with carbohydrates to speed up the recovery process.  Thirst lags behind the body’s need.  Prevent yourself from becoming thirsty because if you’re thirsty, then you are already dehydrated.

How to create a meal plan for swimmers: 5 Simple steps-

Step 1- Determine your energy needs.

swimming calculation

The first step in setting up a meal plan for swimmers is to calculate how much energy your body requires on a daily basis. In other words, the number of calories you require to maintain weight, lose weight or gain weight.

As you can see, there a 3 scenarios listed above, let’s take a deeper look at each to help you decide on your nutrition goals:

Maintain weight: In order to maintain weight you’ll have to be consuming roughly the same amount of energy that you are expending every day. Say your body burns 3000 calories per day on average, then you’ll also need to eat 3000 calories per day in order to maintain your current weight.

Weight maintenance is a good option for swimmers who are already strong, healthy, and at the ideal body fat percentage and is the desirable state for much of our lives. By ensuring that you are meeting your daily energy expenditure your body will be able to function optimally in training and will also be able to recover at an optimal rate. This is known as energy maintenance.

Energy maintenance: Energy intake = energy expenditure

Lose weight: Being overweight can definitely have a negative effect on swimming performance. According to the American Dietetic Association, male athletes should have between 5-12% body fat and female athletes between 10-20% body fat. These ranges usually allow for a small layer of fat on the body and aren’t anything superhuman.I don’t recommend going on a diet or weight loss program if you aren’t at least over these ranges as that will require you to consume less energy than your body expends which can harm performance and recovery.

If you are outside of these ranges I recommend going on a long weight loss program of 12 weeks or more. This will help to minimize the negative effect on training performance by allowing for more time to lose weight, meaning you’ll lose weight at a slower rate, instead of losing the same amount at a faster rate. This is also known as an energy deficit.

Energy deficit= Energy intake < energy expenditure

Gain weight: Weight gain is a necessary part of becoming a stronger athlete. During hard-training periods and the off-season this nutrition style may be preferred to ensure maximal progress and gain from your training.

In order to achieve weight gain, you’ll have to consume more energy (calories) than your body expends. I only recommend this for athletes who are already within the athletic bodyfat range mentioned above. Going slightly over these ranges in periods of hard training isn’t a problem as you should be able to cut off additional bodyfat easily before the competition season starts again. This state is known as an energy surplus.

Energy surplus= Energy intake > energy expenditure

Now to determine your energy needs you’ll first need to know what you’re daily energy requirements are. To calculate this you want to first determine your basal metabolic rate which is the rate at which your body uses energy when you are not doing anything, like sleeping for example. The energy used during your basal metabolic rate comes from things like breathing and maintaining a warm body temperature.

Once you have calculated that, you want to determine the amount of energy required for all of your other activities and then add it to your basal metabolic rate. External activities include things like training, walking around, doing a core workout, etc.

Energy requirements= BMR + energy expenditure from physical activities

There isn’t an exact science to determining these numbers and chances are nobody can get it exactly right as it varies from person to person. There are, however, many tools that can help us do this. An activity tracker will probably be the most accurate as it can provide personal insights, but online calculators are a free alternative, they just won’t be as accurate.

Use these tools to determine your energy needs-

  • Best swimming watch and activity tracker, Garmin Swim 2.
  • Swimming calories burned calculator.
  • BMR calculator

Step 2- Choose your list of foods.

meal for swimmers

The next step in creating your meal plan is deciding on what foods you want to incorporate into your diet. Before you can do this you, however, need to have a bit of a better understanding, regarding the different types of nutrients required for performance. Allow me to briefly explain each-

Carbohydrates: This is the basic source of energy for your body. Your body prefers to use carbohydrates as energy over any other nutrient. Incorporating enough healthy carbohydrates should be an important part of your meal plan as it is going to form the base of fuel for your training.

Examples of healthy carbohydrates for swimmers-

  • Wholegrain cereals, oats, bread, and crackers.
  • Grain-based foods such as rice, pasta, quinoa, noodles, potatoes.
  • Fruit, legumes, starchy vegetables, and beans.
  • Sweetened dairy products like yogurt.

Proteins: Required for the structure and function of the body’s tissues. In a more simple way, this basically means proteins are important for recovery and growth. As a swimmer you want to be consuming a good amount of protein, this will optimize your body’s ability to recover, build muscle, and become stronger.

The ideal amount of protein intake for both strength and endurance training has been set at roughly 1.3-1.8 grams per kg of body mass per day. Those who follow a balanced diet probably already consume protein in these ranges, but for some additional protein supplementation may be required.

Examples of healthy protein-rich foods for swimmers-

  • Eggs
  • Milk or soy milk
  • Lean meats like chicken breast, steak, ground beef
  • Fish
  • Tofu or soy meat
  • Legumes or lentils
  • Protein supplements

Fats: This nutrient plays an important role in many of your body’s essential functions and they shouldn’t be avoided. Make sure you consume a good amount of fats, keep them healthy though, meaning monounsaturated- and polyunsaturated fats. You should avoid trans- and saturated fats at all costs, these fats can have a negative impact on your training and performance in the water.

Examples of healthy fat sources for swimmers-

  • Nuts
  • Avocados
  • Cheese
  • Vegetable oil
  • Fatty fish
  • Chia seeds.

Micro-nutrients: These are essential vitamins and minerals, they are important for keeping your body healthy and protecting it from illnesses and infections that can compromise your training. Make sure to consume a variety of fruits and vegetables every day, this should be enough to cover your micro-nutrients and keep your body healthy.

Examples of good micro-nutrient sources for swimmers-

  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Spinach
  • Beetroot
  • Apples
  • Kiwi
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots

Now that you have a good understanding of the different macro and micronutrients you can choose your list of foods to incorporate into your meal plan. Remember to keep things balanced and to incorporate all of the macro and micronutrients in your diet. This will vary from person to person so find what works for you.

Step 3- Creating a list of meals and food amounts.

Now that you’ve put together a list of all of the foods you are going to incorporate into your meal plan, it’s time to actually put them together into meals that you can make. Part of this includes deciding what amount of each food you will use and calculating the calories as well as the macro- and micro nutrients for each meal.

This will make your life much easier as you will always have a set sheet of healthy meals to pick from that you can quickly put together or prepare in advance to ensure you stay on track with your meal plan.

You might be wondering, well how am I supposed to know the calorie and nutrient amounts for my meals?

Luckily, it isn’t that hard, all you need to do is a quick google search for the nutrition facts of the food you want to use and then write down those numbers, once you have done that for each food in your meal you can put it together to see what you get or adjust it to either add or remove protein, carbohydrates, or whatever you need.

pasta nutrition example
Pasta nutrition facts example- Google search

Allow me to do a quick example with you so that you can get a better understanding of what to do. Let’s say we were creating a very basic pasta and tuna meal.

  1. Decide on the amounts and foods, say 100 grams of tuna, 250 grams of pasta, and 50 grams of green pepper all mixed together with a tablespoon of mayonnaise.
  2. Do a google search to calculate the nutritional values for each.
  3. Then add together the calories, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats to get an overview of the nutritional value of your meal.
  4. That would equate to 527,5 Calories, 35,35 grams of protein, 64.9 grams of carbohydrates, and 12,85 grams of fat. (Don’t bother calculating the micro-nutrients just eat your fruits and vegetables and you’ll be fine).

There are also many apps and tools that allow you to track your calories and nutrients, these are more accurate as they allow you to scan the bar codes on foods to provide the most accurate results. I, however, wouldn’t get too obsessed with this as it does take time and the rough estimates are more than adequate for most of us and won’t cause any frustration.

Some good meal ideas for swimmers-

  • Whole grain breakfast cereal with low fat milk.
  • Baked beans on toast or on a baked potato.
  • Tuna and rice with vegetable side.
  • Fruit salad with fruit-flavored yogurt.
  • Bagel with peanut butter + low fat milk.
  • Fruit smoothie or liquid meal supplement.
  • Cooked chicken breast with vegetables and rice.
  • Low fat chocolate milk.
  • Lean meat and vegetable pizza.
  • Sandwich with meat and salad filling.
  • Meat and vegetable stir fry with noodles or rice.
  • Tuna salad.

Step 4- Scheduling your meals, frequency and times.

swimmer training

Scheduling your meal times are far more important than you may think and it’s something many swimmers neglect.

There is nothing worse than having to dish out a set of fast sprints on a full stomach.

Ideally, you want to allow enough time for your meals to digest before training and you also don’t want them to close to each other as it might kill your appetite. I recommend eating your last meal about 1 to 2 hours before working out.

This will allow enough time for the carbohydrates and other nutrients to break down and enter your bloodstream so that they can be used during your workouts. It will also help to avoid having to train on a full stomach and feeling like you are sinking or want to throw up.

As for your other meals I recommend spacing them out evenly. This is going to depend on the number of times you eat per day. Some people like to have 3 big meals in a day others like 6 smaller meals, there isn’t really a right or a wrong way, it’s up to personal preference.

Step 5- Testing your meal plan.

digital scale

Now that you’ve set up your meal plan you’ll have to test it. This can be done in a couple of different ways, but ideally you should combine all of the methods I’m going to list now to achieve the best results and find what works for you.

Firstly, I recommend tracking your weight, body fat percentage, and muscle mass. This will give you an indication of how your body is reacting to your meal plan. Ideally, you should allow at least 3 months for each testing period to see some real results and changes.

An easy way to track these statistics is by using a scale that can track these numbers. Once again, it won’t be exact but it’ll be the easiest way. You can check out this nice scale that provides all of these insights on Amazon.

Next you’ll want to be tracking your performance in training as well as how you feel throughout the day. Remember to also take other factors such as sleep, how busy you are etc. into consideration.

This can be done by writing down your workouts and performance in a logbook which is something all swimmers should have anyway. If you don’t have one you can use any old notebook and just write down all of the things I just mentioned as well as other information that you think can be useful to become a better swimmer.

Bonus- water intake.

Consuming enough water is very important, and even more so for athletes. Water is used in all the cells, organs, and other tissues in your body to help regulate temperature and maintain other important functions.

Meal Plans for Swimmers

Girl swimming the crawl stroke

A swimmer needs 3,000 to 6,000 calories a day.

Swimming burns many calories. A swimmer needs 3,000 to 6,000 calories a day to maintain their weight, according to the American Dietetic Association. Competitive swim teams often practice twice a day, making meal planning essential. Swimmers need to eat before and after practice to fuel workouts. Eating small meals and snacks can help to reach calorie needs.


Close up shot of paddy crop

Grains are a good source of carbohydrates.

The body utilizes carbohydrates for energy during exercise. They need to comprise the majority of a swimmer’s meal plan. The American Dietetic Association recommends 2.3 to 3.6g per lb. of body weight a day. Thus, a 150-lb. swimmer would need 345 to 540g. Sources include grains, fruits, vegetables and cereals. Swimmers can include 8 oz. of orange juice, 1 cup of oatmeal, 1 slice of toast and 8 oz. of milk. This provides 75g of carbohydrates, according to the Colorado State University Extension. A sample lunch could include two slices of bread for a sandwich, 8 oz. of milk, 8 oz. of apple juice and two cookies. This meal provides 81g of carbohydrates according to the Colorado state University. Extension. Eating 3 cups of spaghetti, 1 cup of tomato sauce, two slices of bread and 1/2 cup of ice cream provides 156g. Snacks can include 16 oz. of grape juice and six fig cookies, which provides 164g. This sample meal plan provides 476g of carbohydrates for the day.




A sandwich stacked with lunch meats can boost protein intake.

Protein fuels growth, maintenance and repair for the body. Fish, chicken, nuts, eggs, beef, milk and cheese provide high quality sources. Swimmers need 0.55 to 0.8g per lb. of body weight, according to the American Dietetic Association. A 150-lb. swimmer needs 82 to 120g of protein a day. Swimmers can include milk with meals to boost intake. Using almonds on salads or including meat with dinner helps swimmers reach their needs. An ounce of meat provides 7g per serving. Sandwiches with lunch meats can raise protein intake. Some shakes and drink powders include a high amount of this nutrient. Swimmers can use these to supplement the diet as well.



Woman drinking glass of water

Swimmers need to be sure to drink plenty of fluids.

Swimmers need to drink at least a cup of fluid with each meal and snack throughout the day. Swimmers sweat in the water, which causes fluid loss. Chilled fluids lower body temperature and are absorbed faster, according to the Colorado State University Extension. Swimmers need to drink 2 cups of fluid before practice. Swimmers should drink 5 to 10 oz. of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes during practice. Swimmers can consume a sports drink when practicing more than one hour to help replace carbohydrate loss. Swimmers should weigh themselves before and after practice to determine the weight lost from fluids. They need to drink 3 cups for every pound lost.

Your body needs a well-balanced diet to stay healthy and energetic. But if you are an athlete, you need a diet that supports a higher level of physical activity by boosting your energy, immunity and muscle strength. A poor diet not only affects your athletic performance, but it can expose you to health complications. The right combination of foods can boost your energy levels and keep your levels high for longer.

Vitamins and Minerals

Swimming is a strenuous activity that requires muscle health and strength. Vitamins and minerals boost your immunity and aid in energy production. For example, your body needs the B vitamins for energy. Vitamins B-1 and B-2 help your body produce energy, and they affect the enzymes that influence your muscle, heart and nerves functions. Deficiency of some B vitamins can result in muscle cramps, tiredness and loss of appetite, according to American Cancer Society. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, and it protects you against free radicals, which can cause disease. Also, minerals play a significant role in your performance. Iron carries oxygen to all cells of your body, and calcium improves your bone health and muscle function.


Water is a crucial part of your diet as an athlete. Because your body does not make or store water, you must replace what you lose through sweat and urine to avoid dehydration. Drink water before, during and after training without having to wait to feel thirsty. By the time you feel thirsty, your body will have lost about 2 percent of its weight, which can affect your performance, according to OrthoInfo, the patient information website of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. While everyone should drink at least eight cups of water every day, an athlete requires more. Dehydration can cause overheating and fatigue.


Carbohydrates provide your body with 40 percent to 50 percent of your energy requirements in the early stages of moderate exercise. Eating a diet that provides 70 percent of your calorie intake from carbohydrates three days before a big competition can help boost your endurance. Also, choosing whole grains over refined starches protects you against energy lags; whole grains have a low glycemic index, and your body absorbs the sugars slowly for lasting energy, according to the Harvard Health Publications. Examples of whole grains include whole-wheat bread, oats, cereal and whole-grain rice. For general training needs, you require 2.2 to 3 grams of carbohydrates per pound of your body weight. Endurance athletes need up to 4.5 grams per pound of body weight.


Your body needs proteins to build new tissues. The amount of protein your body requires depends on the intensity and duration of your exercise. If you are a competitive swimmer, you require 0.5 to 0.6 grams of protein per pound of your body weight. Sources of animal protein include poultry, meat, eggs, dairy and fish. Vegetable proteins include legumes and nuts. Eating protein in excess of your body’s needs is unnecessary; the body stores excess protein as fat.

Other Tips

Breakfast in an important part of an athlete’s diet. A healthy breakfast replenishes your glycogen levels – the stored form of glucose – which may be a bit low after sleeping. Start fueling your muscles with energy earlier in the day to avoid an energy slump and decreased physical activity. It is equally important to eat foods that contain good fats such as peanuts, avocados, olives and walnuts. Avoid solid fats such as butter and lard, and instead, replace them with vegetable oils. Your total fat intake should be between 20 percent to 35 percent of your total energy intake.

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