Nutrition Before Training by Anita Bean

When to eat before training?

If you train in the evening, your earlier meals and snacks will help to fuel your workout. Make sure you eat at regular intervals and never skip meals. The optimal time for the pre-exercise meal is 2 – 4 hours before training. If your training session starts at 7pm, have dinner at 4 or 5pm. Aim for ‘comfortably full’, not stuffed. If there isn’t time for a meal then have a smaller meal or healthy snack 30 minutes or 1 hour before training, with a drink.

What to eat before training?

Of all the foods you could have before a workout, prioritize ones rich in carbohydrates, especially if you will be training for 2 hours or longer. This is the body’s preferred energy source during exercise. Opt for wholegrain carbs wherever possible, together with a source of protein and some veg – this will provide sustained energy and improve performance. See ‘Nutrition for Swimmers’ for suggestions.

Fuel up: Eat a meal 2–3 hours before training (carb & protein & fat – low  GI)

Hydrate properly: drink 200 – 300ml 2h before swimming

Suitable pre-training meals:

  • Jacket potato with cheese, tuna or baked beans plus veg
  • Pasta with tomato-based sauce or pesto; cheese, tuna or chicken; plus veg
  • Rice with chicken, fish or beans plus veg
  • One pot dish with pulses, veg, lean meat or fish PLUS potatoes or pasta
  • Sandwich/ toast with tuna, cheese, chicken or peanut butter

If you don’t have time for a meal (eg early morning training), have a snack 30 min before training with 200 – 300 ml water. You should NEVER train on empty!

Pre-training snacks

  • Toast (wholegrain) with honey or jam
  • A banana (or other fresh fruit)
  • A handful of dried fruit (e.g. raisins, apricots)
  • A cereal bar
  • Porridge or wholegrain breakfast cereal with milk

Should swimmers eat anything before an early morning session?

Training on empty may result in low blood glucose levels, light headiness, nausea and a poor performance. If a meal is out of the question, try to have a nutritious high-carb snack, such as toast with honey, dried fruit or a banana. Alternatively, try a nutritious drink, such as milk, milkshake or a smoothie. Some fuel is better than no fuel at all.