What do you eat before your morning swim workout?

Athlete eating breakfast
Woman eating healthy breakfast. Getty Images

What a swimmer eats - or does not eat - before and after a morning swim workout can make the difference between a good practice and a bad one. Like many student athletes who vie for gym space and playing time, swimmers often face early-morning workouts due to pool scheduling and availability. It is not uncommon to see swimmers in the water by 5 a.m. One of the concerns with scheduling practices early in the morning is what to do with breakfast. Jackie Berning has some advice for swimmers in Swimming: Breakfast and Recovery Strategies. (Gatorade Sports Science Institute)

Why Swimmers Shouldn't Skip Breakfast

It is hard to squeeze in breakfast. Not only does time play a big role in determining whether or not you eat in the morning, but how you feel does as well. For some, eating in the morning can be a cause for discomfort and nausea, especially if a big practice or competition is on the agenda for the day. It doesn't have to be this way. It is important to eat breakfast. If eating breakfast does make you feel sick, change what you consume and avoid caffeinated drinks. 

Swimmers who don't eat breakfast before a swim can experience the following issues:

  • Lower energy store
  • Reduced or impaired training or performance
  • Reduced focus
  • If you are eating a breakfast that is nutritionally defecit, you are handicapping your body and neglecting it of the protein and micronutrients necesaasry for performance, health, and recovery.

How to Start Eating Breakfast Again

If you aren't swimming as well as you know you can or should be, it is probably because you aren't eating breakfast. When you eat breakfast, you provide your body with the necessary energy balance it needs for training, it can improve recovery and strength, and it prevents you from going on a food-binge after your time in the pool. 

I can hear it now: "but I get up too early," "but eating makes me feel gross," "I am not hungry". Lucky for you, I am equipped with the responses to combat your concerns. Here are a few tips to get you eating in the morning:

  • Make it a habit. Yes, it will feel weird and you will be off, but once you start making breakfast a habit, you will begin to feel hungry again in the mornings.
  • If you can't have a big meal, make a shake that has everything you need for a successful session. 
  • Split up your meal: eat a pre-training breakfast and a post-training breakfast. 
  • Don't wake up right before you training and expect to eat a good breakfast. Give yourself some time. Wake up earlier so you aren't rushing out the door with a bagel in your mouth.This is when shakes and smoothies come in handy for swimmers.
  • Prepare your breakfast the night before so you can wake up and eat before practice.
  • Put it on the schedule. Swimmers live by schedules, so add breakfast on there.

What Makes a Perfect Breakfast?

Your breakfast plan needs to complement your body's energy and training needs. A wholesome and nutritionally-dense breakfast must include lean protein, vegetables, and healthy fats. You should eat a meal that can be digested easily and quickly absorbed to avoid nausea and discomfort. 

If you are having a post-training breakfast, add carb-rich foods to boost recovery and to replace energy.