Healthy Post Workout Snacks for Swimmers

The Best Healthy Snacks For Swimmers

As a mom, I find that I have pockets of snacks stashed everywhere. In my purse, in the center console of the car, in swim bags, and in backpacks — I try to always be prepared.

In a society where we have become over-fed and over-sugared, what can you pack as a snack that will have a positive impact? And does your swimmer or do you truly need a snack? The answer is yes. After workouts or pre-workout, fueling your body is a big deal. Picking the right fuel is even more so.

What to Look for in a Swimming Snack

Don’t swim with an empty tank. Even if you’re feeling amped or your nerves are getting the best of you, make regular meals and snacking a part of your swim routine. Whether its workouts or a competition, you’re bound to have plenty of things on your mind. Being prepared with some energy-packed snacks for swimmers is always a good idea.

Not sure what makes a good before or after swimming snack? Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Before a practice or event, top off those glycogen stores with snacks high in complex carbohydrates.
  • Eat a little something every two to four hours to keep your blood sugar levels up and fuel your muscles.
  • Eat as soon as possible after you swim to give yourself plenty of time to recover if you have to swim again.
  • Avoid overeating, as this may cause you to feel sluggish.
  • Stick to familiar foods to avoid gas, bloating, and stomach discomfort.
  • If you’re really struggling to eat, try a liquid snack such as sports drinks, flavored milk, or diluted juice. These can replenish your energy supplies and help achy muscles recover.
  • Avoid high fat and simple sugar foods.
  • Opt for snacks high in protein as these help repair and build muscle.

15 Healthy Snacks for Swimmers

Whether you’re feeding yourself or you’re prepping some swim team snacks, I’m going to toss out a top 15 of my favorite go-to’s on the go — but I would love to hear from you too!

1. Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich

I’m completely 100% serious. They are portable; they have a good ratio of carbs, to protein, to sugar. My college coach Frank Busch was always boasting the benefits of having a pb&j on hand to help you get through your day.

2. Jerky

Avoid brands with high sodium or sugary flavors, but this is a protein-packed example of an excellent on the go snack.

3. Nuts

Not the fancy kind that are salted, sugared, or anything in-between. Just nuts — natural, nothing added. Mix them up for a trail mix blend — variety is a good thing! Pecans, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pepitas, and cashews are just a few excellent choices. A little dried fruit (watch out for sneak sugar added attacks here) is another good addition to the mix.

4. Chocolate Milk

Yes. Why? This is a fast fuel packed with protein and, if you make good choices, just a touch of sugar. This is a great fast refuel option after a hard workout.

5. Cheese & Deli Meat Roll-Ups

Roll up some low-sodium natural deli meat with a cheese stick inside for an excellent pre-practice or post-workout snack. Not so much to make you feel full during training but a great source of fuel to keep you going or top you off when you are done.

6. Hummus

Not as portable I know, but with all the Tupperware we know we all have buried in our pantries and cabinets, why not put a few to work. Stick some carrot sticks, celery, and/or tomatoes in there for a healthy energy boost.

7. Hard-Boiled Egg

Back to super portable! Woo! You can make a large batch of these once a week and easily pack one to go with you for whenever you need a quick pick me up.

8. Nut Butter Packets

There are an amazing number of these available now. Just look for one with a low sugar amount. Be picky about what you put in your body. You can eat these as they are or add them to celery, crackers, pretzels, a wrap, or bread.

9. Pouched Fish

The most familiar of these is tuna packets. Adding fish to your diet is like taking a vitamin. There is so much good stuff in there that is awesome for your body, whether you are an athlete or not!

10. Yogurt

Careful here. There are so many choices out there it can be overwhelming. And speaking from personal experience, it is HARD to find tasty ones that don’t have ridiculous amounts of sugar. I am not on the anti-sugar bandwagon (okay maybe I am) but be a conscious consumer. You will regularly see single servings of yogurt with 18+ grams of sugar in a serving. Look a little harder at specialty stores for something that will fuel your body, not hurt it.

11. Fresh or Dried Fruit

Whether fresh from the farm or dried up and ready to grab on the go, fruit is one of the best snacks for swimmers. While eating fresh fruits and vegetables may seem like a no-brainer, here are some fruity options you can grab between races or for a post-workout sweet treat:

  • Potassium-packed bananas perfect for sore muscles and cramping
  • Frozen watermelon to cool off and hydrate on a hot day
  • Applesauce pouches for on-the-go snacking
  • Boxes of raisins you can pass out among your teammates
  • Smoothies with your favorite blend of fruits and veggies

12. Ants on a Log

Whether you want to delight a team of young swimmers or you have a little nostalgia for this classic treat, ants on a log packs a healthy protein punch. This simple combo of celery, peanut butter, and raisins is a healthy snack that will never go out of style.

13. Fig Bars

With almost no fat, fig bars are the smart swimmer’s candy bar. They’re also a great source of fiber and vitamins so you can keep your energy up between races.

14. Protein Bars

A walk down your local grocery store aisle will show that protein bars are an extremely popular snacking option. But not all protein bars are created equal. When perusing the nutrition info, look for options that are high in protein and fiber but low in sugar. If you’re having trouble finding a healthy variety, make your own homemade protein bars. The internet is filled with tons of easy and delicious recipes.

15. Crackers

From the sweet taste of graham crackers to the savory goodness of saltines, whole wheat crackers are a great option for a boost of delicious energy. Pair yours with peanut butter, cheese, or whatever suits your fancy.

About Emily Milak

Emily Milak is a lifetime competitive swimmer living in Southeastern Wisconsin. Emily is a US National Team champion, NCAA champion, and USMS champion with extensive coaching experience. She is a product development consultant at Kiefer.

16 Comments on “Healthy Post Workout Snacks for Swimmers”

    • Hi Valerie! I’m not saying don’t eat fruit! The content of this article is geared toward refueling after a training session, its not inclusive to your daily meals and needs. Eat all the fruit! I sure do!

  1. Not sure I’m on board with all of these selections. Jerky? Cheese and deli meat? Yogurt? Sure, nuts are fine in small quantities. But our Western diet already consists of too much highly processed foods, meat, and dairy. What we need more of are whole fruits or veggies. And water, lots of water. As a swimmer and cyclist, I can eat healthier than the above, portably, and still replenish adequately. Hell, pickles and watermelon have been lifesavers on more than one occasion. Hummus is a good choice, but I think I could put together a better list.

    • Hi Jeff, I don’t disagree about processed foods, the intent of the article was to replenish and refuel after a workout, not so much what to eat over the course of a day. I love fruit and vegetables as much as the next person, vegetarian actually, but there are few of either that will really put gas back in the tank after a two and a half hour 6,000 meter plus workout. Admittedly this article was geared and written towards young adults who are training multiple times a day, going to school, and needed fast fuel. Pickles are great, but yikes salt content! You’d need to eat the watermelon to combat that! Watermelon is probably one of my favorite things as well, but again, what nutritional value does it hold other than to hydrate? I have to say that neither of those things would help me after a killer workout. But I would love to hear more about fruits and veggies that will help me recover. I haven’t been working out at this level in years and without meat I think my own protein intake is struggling.

  2. Paul and Stephanie I completely about the yogurt. The taste of artificially flavored yogurts always leaves a disappointing taste in my mouth. But fresh fruit, nuts, and honey YUM!

    Fads are distracting for many people. What is the latest, greatest best food, diet plan etc are hard for some people to ignore. If you are struggling to make choices get a college nutrition textbook. No fads there, just facts. It will help keep you away from weight control/loss trends.

  3. Emily, thank you, all good points. I find it SUPER easy to get the right yogurt. We buy plain organic (nothing added), then mix it with a teaspoon of strawberry preserves, other preserves, or honey. Beats any store bought flavored yogurt.
    In beef jerky, I would look for the kind without nitrates or nitrites and other preservatives.

    Michael K.: nuts have no sugar, unless added.

    Joan: variety in nutrition is the key. Watch out for falling into food fad traps. They come and go. We drink everything: milk, chocolate milk (mostly home-made: milk+cocoa+honey or maple syrup or brown sugar), some almond milk, goat milk, etc. Kinder to animals? Humans have been drinking milk for millennia, and we should stop now because California almond growers need a bottom line boost?

    My bottom line: simple, non-processed foods and keep them varied!

  4. Regarding yogurt: Chobani & Oikos plain yogurt has 22 grams of protein/serving. I add seasonal fresh fruit (strawberries, raspberries, pomegranate seeds, peachss, etc) & a handful of mixed plain nuts. Delicious & packed w protein & good fats. Add enough fruit to balance the sourness of the yogurt. Tastes better than the sugared fruit yogurts.

  5. Joe is your mindless snacking with an open bag in front of the television? If yes give yourself a portion instead of the whole bag. If snacking in general is the problem try drinking a large glass of water before you eat dinner and again after. If you feel like you are still hungry take a critical eye to your meal and see if it is missing something essential. You should be consuming a healthy ratio of fat, protein and calories to keep your body sated through the night.

  6. Any advice for a 60 yr. old swimmer ( about 5 miles per week) who has trouble with their weight? The worst thing is at night – mindless automatic eating?

    Thank you

    Joe P

  7. Michael, for athletes in full training mode, over 20 hours a week, fats are a good thing. Cutting them would destroy their ability to recover and improve. Everyone needs to consume fats in moderation, nuts are one of the most pure and healthy ways to get them. Vegetables made my list, as I wouldn’t go a day without eating some, love them!.

  8. Why nuts and no vegetables? Nuts are nearly all fat calories. Raw carrot has no fat (fat calories) and more natural sugar than nuts.

  9. Add some non-dairy, vegan choices… instead of chocolate milk, suggest chocolate almond milk! So much healthier, delicious, (and kinder to animals)!

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