Nutrition for Young Swimmers:

A child aged between 7 and 10 is growing and developing a lot. The demands for nutrients and calories are actually greater than many parents imagine. In fact the suggested intake of calories is around 1500 per day at age 7 up to 2000 a day at age 10.

These calories should ideally be taken from the following sources:

  • 5 different fruits or vegetables a day (this does not include potatoes).
  • Proteins for building tissue and muscles – these come from meat, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, beans, pulses and nuts (as long as there is no allergy). Ideally some protein should be included at each meal.
  • Some milk and dairy foods for calcium and also additional protein – milk, yogurt, cheese.
  • Good energy foods like potatoes, bread, pasta and rice – ideally wholegrain/ wholemeal where possible.

When your child also undertakes training for a competitive sport, like swimming, it is important to remember that additional demands are being made on their body. Including increased need for protein to help repair and build muscle tissues and an increased need for calories. One session in the pool could see your child burn an extra 200-300 calories an hour.

Making sure they have eaten about an hour before going into a training session, something which provides energy (potatoes, pasta, rice) with some protein (meat, fish, chicken) and vegetables, will help to ensure they have the energy to perform well at training.

If they are hungry after training, it shows that their body needs the extra food to replace those calories burned off and to build the muscles which have been used. Therefore, if required a snack after training can be a good idea. Good snacks at this time would include a yogurt or a slice of wholemeal toast with cheese spread or nut butter. This will help ensure their body has all it needs and that they get a good nights sleep! Believe it or not, children who go to bed hungry do not sleep as well as they should!

As well as considering the need for food and calories, it is important to consider the need for fluids. A training session will cause your child to lose sweat and therefore having a drink of water with them through a training session is vital to keep them properly hydrated. This will also help to improve their performance and reduce fatigue.


Diet and swimming

Diet is important part of the training regime of any competitive swimmer. Guidelines for swimmers can be downloaded from:

eating to Compete.

The main source of energy during training is derived from carbohydrates, therefore, it is not surprising that high carbohydrate meals and drinks are essential to provide energy and facilitate recovery. The timing of meals and snacks, however, is important.

30 MINUTE RULE: The muscles are most susceptible to restoration of carbohydrate stores within 30 minutes after exercise. Thereafter, the process becomes progressively more difficult. The swimmer should eat 50 to 100 grams of carbohydrate, whilst keeping fat ingestion low, as soon as training finishes, and definitely within the first 30 minutes after training.

The following are examples of appropriate snack foods and their approximate carbohydrate content.

  • Apple, Banana or Orange = 15 to 20g
  • Muller Rice = 20g
  • Nutrigrain Elevenses Bar = 25-30g
  • Fruit Shake or Smoothie = 25-30g per glass.
  • 1 thick Jam or Honey Sandwich [no or minimal butter] = 50g
  • Malt Loaf [Soreen] = 18g per 1/8th of a loaf.
  • Fig Rolls = 13g per biscuit.

Other excellent snacks: Rice Cakes, Dried Fruit

After high intensity training it may be appropriate to have protein mixed with high carbohydrate. This may be achieved using known brand formulated drinks.

Morning training

Have a snack item [examples above] with fruit juice 30 minutes before training, with breakfast 30 minutes after training.

Guidelines for event meals

Before a race: High Carbohydrate/Low Fat meal 2-4 hours before the race. Suitable types of food include: breakfast cereals, porridge, bread, rolls, toast, fruit juice, fruit, rice cakes, plain crackers, boiled rice, potatoes, boiled pasta, dried fruit, oatmeal biscuits, plain wholemeal biscuits, muffins, and carbohydrate drinks. These are all examples of complex carbohydrates as these release energy slowly. Avoid simple carbohydrates [the sugars] as these release energy quickly but trigger the release of insulin, which can have a negative impact on performance.

A snack [examples above] may be eaten 30 minutes prior to the race.

If the interval between races is up to an hour: The swimmer should have a snack from the above list, with plenty of fluid, up to 30 minutes before the next race.

If the race interval is 1-2 hours: The swimmer should have a small carbohydrate/low fat meal.

If the rest period between races is longer: The swimmers should have a substantial meal no later than 2 hours before the next race [see before a race].


As water is stored with carbohydrates it is essential that substantial amounts of fluid is drunk with meals and snacks.