4 Perfect Pre-Practice Foods

Photo Courtesy: US Navy

By Emma Merrill, Swimming World College Intern

All swimmers should be well-informed about the best pre-practice foods. It’s important to fuel up appropriately before a morning practice in order to maximize your performance in the pool.

According to Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, pre-exercise fuel has four primary functions. Eating before exercise prevents low blood sugar, fuels your muscles, fills your stomach, and provides the relaxed confidence that comes from knowing your body is ready to perform. Plus it prevents the “hangry” swimmer (aka one that’s angry from hunger).

A Small Snack is Better Than Nothing

You might be the type of person who doesn’t like to eat right after the alarm clock goes off (apparently these people DO exist). If so, Clark suggests at least a 100-calorie snack before working out in order to perform your best. Even a small snack can ward off the fatigue accompanying low blood sugar that may sneak up on you over the course of a night’s sleep.

Timing Your Fuel-Up

It’s a question that runs through every competitive swimmer’s mind. You don’t want to be bogged down by something heavy sitting in your stomach when you dive in the water at 6 a.m. At the same time there’s nothing more painful than attempting to swim several thousand yards on an empty stomach. USA Swimming’s Chris Rosenbloom, a published dietician, says that swimmers should aim for a healthy meal about 3-4 hours before hopping in the pool. But, he says if you’re crunched for time before a morning practice, aim to eat a minimum of 30 grams of carbs to maximize performance.

Here are four pre-workout foods that will take your practice or race to the next level! And don’t worry, just like with recovery foods, pre-practice snacks can be both nutritious and delicious!

Pre-Practice Foods

1. Bagels


Photo Courtesy: en.wikipedia.org

These carbohydrate bombs are the perfect fuel for a hungry swimmer’s breakfast a few hours before the start of a practice or meet. Remember, carbs are energy, and the complex carbs in a bagel will provide hours of much needed energy for a swimmer. Pair your favorite bagel (whole wheat if you’re feeling extra healthy) with peanut butter for an added protein boost and you’ve set yourself up for some fast swimming.

2. Smoothies


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Smoothies are delicious. Lucky for swimmers, they are also a great way to fuel up before jumping in the pool! Rosenbloom notes that liquids like fruit smoothies are easy to digest and that most contain calcium and vitamin C. That makes them ideal for those that have a hard time holding down solid food during a long aerobic set.

3. Energy Gels


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These small gel packs containing around 100 calories each will provide you with the energy boost you need to push through practice. A study carried out by John G. Seifert and Rochelle McKenzie on a group of NCAA DII swimmers in Minnesota found that energy gels can improve swimmers’ performances for an intense training session. The results of their study suggest that consuming a carbohydrate and protein packed gel may help maintain speed and reduce muscular fatigue.

4. Bananas

Photo Courtesy: Flickr

Photo Courtesy: flickr.com

Nothing fancy here. A banana is the ideal quick pre-practice snack. Since they provide 30 grams of carbs, lots of potassium, and are conveniently packaged, Rosenbloom calls bananas the original fast food. And if you are so inclined, you could always add some peanut butter for added protein and yumminess factor. Trust me people, you are so inclined.

These foods are good potential options for pre-practice or race fuel; however, it’s important to keep in mind that everybody is different. Just because your friend got his Olympic Trials cut after eating a bagel doesn’t mean that you should only eat bagels every time you have practice or a meet.

What is important is that you find the pre-workout foods that work for YOU, and that you eat them an appropriate amount of time before you swim.


  1. No. 4 at a meet, watched the team split a bunch amongst themselves. In unison, open banana, break in half and pass it on without a word uttered.

  2. avatar

    What about avocados?

  3. Mitch Mccallum

    Rachel Carroll Callum Gilroy Matthew Douglas Rebecca Douglas Ryan James Dixon William Telford Daniel Weightman

  4. avatar

    Every sport nutritionist suggested to eat 2-3 hours before practice/meet. But my practices start at 7am and so do the meets. To be able to eat a few hours BEFORE, I would need to get up at 3am. How is that possible?