When a hard swim workout leaves you drained and ravenous, it's hard not sprint straight from the pool to your refrigerator and scarf down everything in sight. That'll fill you up, all right, but when it comes to proper recovery, there's a little more strategy that goes into it. After swimming, what you really need to eat is a specific mixture of carbs and protein, according to Cindy Dallow, PhD, a registered dietitian and triathlon coach.
What Should I Eat After Swimming?
"The best thing to eat after a hard swim workout is something that has a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein," Cindy told POPSUGAR. Yes, that's more carbs than protein; that's essential when you're recovering from a cardio workout like swimming. If the workout was a hard one, you've probably used up your glycogen stores (aka glucose, which your body gets from carbs). Eating carbohydrates will help you replenish them and restore your energy levels. You need protein, meanwhile, to repair and maintain your muscle tissue. "Many athletes overdo the protein after a workout and underconsume carbohydrates," Cindy said. "Both are necessary."
Want options? Here are a few Cindy recommended, perfect for on-the-go:
- Fruit smoothie with protein powder and/or Greek yogurt (give one of these quick, healthy smoothie recipes a shot)
- High-carbohydrate sports bar and a handful of almonds
- Bagel with almond butter
- Homemade energy balls (try this tasty vegan recipe!)
- Yogurt and fresh fruit
- Rice cakes with almond butter and a banana
In general, Cindy advised choosing foods that are nutrient-dense, which give you the most bang for your buck: high in nutritional value, she explained, while providing the right amounts of carbs and protein.
But what if you're trying to lose weight? "The main thing would be to not overconsume calories after the workout," Cindy said. Easier said than done, of course. Choose a snack with the right ratio, Cindy told POPSUGAR, but don't go overboard with how much of it you end up eating. Eat the food, sit for a couple minutes, and if you're still starving, grab another healthy, satisfying snack to fill up on.
One last thing: try to eat your postswim snack within an hour after you leave the pool. That quick refueling will jump-start your muscles' recovery and rebuild your glycogen stores fast. The timing, the carbs, and the protein will all come together to give your energy levels (and your muscle strength!) a much-appreciated boost.