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What should I eat before cold water swimming?

oatmeal

It is always important to power your body before engaging in any sport. However, it is extra important to power up before swimming in extreme conditions, such as cold or open waters.

Exercise forces you to exert energy, so cold water swimmers need to charge up their bodies beforehand to ensure they have fuel to burn and they don’t extreme hunger.

There are certain do’s and don’ts as to what is considered quality sustenance for swimmers. We share our top tips on the best food, drinks, snacks and more. 

Our article will discuss the best food to eat before cold water swimming and why they are beneficial. 

Should you eat before a cold swim?

fruit selection

We recommend having a light meal or snack before heading out for your open water swim. 

You need the energy to fuel yourself for a cold water swim in open waters, and food is fuel. If you want to swim at peak performance, then food is required. You may not get in the best swimming session on an empty stomach.

You won’t want to have a heavy meal that will make you feel heavy, lethargic, and bloated in the water—however, a light and nourishing meal is advisable before cold water swimming.

What are the benefits of eating before cold water swimming?

There are many benefits associated with eating before you take a cold water swim. Such as the following:

  • Provides swimmers with energy and stamina.
  • It helps to build strength and cardiovascular fitness.
  • May improve competitive performance. 

Cold water swimming may require athletes to exert high energy, so fuelling up before cold water immersion is very important. 

Want to learn about the health benefits of winter swimming? Cold water temperature helps boost the immune system; read our article to learn more.

swimming in open lake

What should I eat right before swimming?

We would recommend eating the following foods before you go for a cold water swim:

  • Wholegrain pasta or bread. 
  • Porridge or oats.
  • Beans or peas. 
  • Sweet potatoes. 
  • Brown rice.
  • Eggs. 
  • Bananas.
  • Yoghurt.
  • Protein bars or drinks

The foods listed above are complex carbohydrates, vitamins, protein, and fibre sources. 

Carbohydrates are ideal as they are an amazing energy source. Carbs support muscle growth and recovery; they even restore your glycogen. 

oatmeal

What not to eat before swimming?

You should avoid the following foods before you take a cold water swim:

  • High-fibre foods. 
  • High-fat foods.
  • Spicy foods. 
  • Alcohol. 
  • High-sugar foods. 
  • Fizzy drinks. 

Foods that are too fatty, spicy, and sugary may decrease your performance levels. For example, high-fat levels are hard to digest, leading to indigestion, sickness, and diarrhoea in the waters.

junk food

What should I eat after swimming in cold water?

Just like what you should eat before cold water swimming, you should focus on foods high in fat, protein, and carbohydrates after swimming too. Ideally, you want to provide yourself with healthy foods after a cold water swim.

So, instead of eating fast foods or processed fats, focus on healthier alternatives. 

Instead of carbs like chips and crisps, why not try rice cakes, quinoa, or pasta? Avoid fats like cheese and chocolate; instead, go for avocado, oily fish, or nut butter. 

Fresh fruits boost your sugar and energy levels after ice swimming. Cold water swimmers burn through their energy stores fast!

This is not to say you cannot treat yourself after your wild swim; it’s all about balance.

If you want some chocolate after wild swimming, that is fine. However, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates or even an energy bar may be better.

FAQs

How long after eating should you wait before swimming?

We recommend eating at least 2 to 4 hours before swimming, as this will allow you to digest the food before entering the water. When swimming, your body directs most of its energy to your muscles.

It is important to leave time after eating, ensuring your blood supply isn’t focusing on your digestive system. 

To keep yourself warm and protect your health, you might consider buying a thermal wetsuit

Wetsuits are an important part of many swimmers’ cold water equipment, alongside tow floats and dry bags.

healthy food

How long after swimming should you wait before eating?

You should try to refuel your energy levels after a cold water swim, so we recommend having a post-workout snack within 45 minutes of exiting the water.

It is also crucial to rehydrate after a swim! You can choose to drink water or a sports drink, or we often have a hot cup of tea after a swim in cold water to warm us up again. 

Why does swimming make you hungry?

Swimming in ice-cold water will make you hungry, as less energy is required to cool the body down, so you can continue digestion. 

With a typical workout, your body heats up and uses energy to expel that heat from the body via sweat. More energy is used to cool the body down, meaning less energy is used for digestion.

However, due to the wintery environment, your body temperature remains low. Therefore, digestion continues, leaving you hungry after your swim. 

Due to this, you must eat after you dip in cold waters to reduce the risk of low glycogen levels or high blood pressure. 

How can you adapt your diet every day to improve your swimming performance?

The best swim athletes have a diet that consists of high amounts of protein, calcium, and whole-grain carbs. 

Other supplements you need to integrate into your diet include potassium and magnesium. 

Without protein, your muscles will not grow, and without minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium, your muscles will struggle to contract and relax. 

Another thing to consider is your sugar intake. Too much sugar can make you feel lethargic and will hinder any progress you have made to increase your muscle mass.

Summary

Maintaining a healthy and nourishing diet is important for swimmers interested in cold water training, particularly in the Winter.

We recommend eating a high-protein meal two to three hours before swimming and then having a post-workout snack. Food ensures the winter swimmers’ glycogen levels are maintained while training in the cold waters.

Eating too much can be a mistake, making you feel bloated, and you might not perform to the best of your ability. However, you must ensure you support your body before and after you take a dip. 

Nutrition is the most important thing for any swimmer, whether you want to dunk in the Winter water or you want to go for some morning fun in the Summer.