Swim Nutrition Tips

3 Pillars of Sports Nutrition with Trailblazer Nutrition

Trailblazer Nutrition

Tom Shand
New Zealand Registered Dietitian

There are 3 key sports nutrition pillars, neglect one and your performance will suffer. While the logistics of ocean swimming do create interesting nutritional challenges, those that do incorporate an effective nutrition plan have much to gain.

Pillar 1: Everyday Nutrition

Everyday nutrition is very important: you must supply your body with enough nutrients for it to perform its everyday tasks or you will fatigue, get sick, and risk long term injury and illness.

When you throw endurance training into the mix, your energy requirements increase. If your day to day diet does not rise to meet these requirements, you will eat into the critical nutrient reserve used for everyday living to fuel your training, and not only suffer the health consequences, but compromise training quality.

Following these general guidelines on a day to day basis will ensure that you provide your body with the best environment to adapt and respond to the challenges of your training programme, and keep you healthy for your busy life.

Eat a variety of nutritious foods
  • Aim for 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day.
  • Have lean protein at each meal.
  • Balance this with unrefined carbohydrates such as whole grain breads and cereals, rice, wholemeal pasta, and potatoes.
  • Have 2 serves of low fat dairy each day.
  • Incorporate vegetarian protein into your meals.
  • Follow the plate model – half your plate veges, ¼ protein, ¼ carbohydrates
Ensure high quality foods
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates such as white breads and cereals, fizzy drinks and juice, baking, lollies, and other sugary foods.
  • Trim the fat from meat before it is cooked and drain fat as you are cooking it.
  • Avoid processed meat
  • Have fresh, unprocessed, unpackaged food as much as possible. Shop the perimeter of the supermarket.

Pillar 2: Exercise specific nutrition

Exercise specific nutrition is ensuring that you provide your body with the right amount of the right fuel, at the right time, so that your body can thrive on the demands of exercise.  By fueling correctly during training you will have better quality training sessions and larger fitness adaptations, so a good fuel plan is not just for event day.

In ocean swims this obviously presents a challenge, but when training in the pool you can take fuel on board.

During exercise, your body burns through your fluid and carbohydrate stores, which are relatively small. As these stores get lower your performance is negatively affected.

  • Ensure you are well fuelled before training starts – have a carbohydrate rich meal about 2 hours before training. If time doesn’t allow this, have an easily digestible snack closer to the time.
  • Keep a drink bottle up one end of the pool – drink to thirst.
  • During longer sessions of one hour or more, consume carbohydrates during training – around 60g/hr will improve performance.

Pillar 3: Recovery nutrition

A hard training session can set up the potential for a large training adaptation, but this adaptation will not take place unless we provide the right environment. We need to repair our muscles (they get damaged during exercise) and replenish our fuel stores. Studies have shown that we have a window where muscles suck up these fuels the fastest, so refueling soon after exercise is important. The types of nutrients is important:

  • Provide lean protein for muscle repair
  • Provide carbohydrates to restock your muscles readily availably fuel sources

Also the amount of each nutrient is important, although this differs for each individual. Striking the right balance will prevent weight gain and optimise recovery.

Continue to include both protein and carbohydrates in all snacks and meals in the 24 hours after training for best results.


Nutrition is an often overlooked part of preparing for endurance swimming, but it is an area where big fitness returns can be gained from just a small amount of extra effort. Don’t let all that time in training go to waste, ensure that you are in the best possible shape to make the most of your hard work, and that you provide your body a nutritious recovery environment.

For a personalised nutrition plan designed around training programme and chosen event, visit www.trailblazernutrition.co.nz

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