Tag Archives: Diet

Feeding for long swims

I thought I’d revisit this subject, with the benefit of some few longs swims done in the past few months.

On the first six hour lake swim, I crashed (ran out of energy) on the last mile.

On the first six hour SandyCove swim this year I crashed at about four & a half hours, for twenty-five minutes, until I got some more food into me.

The next 6 hour sea went well, as have the various four and five hour sea swims.

The eight hour sea swim went fine, as did last weekend’s six hour. some more tweaking will be done for next weekend’s eight hour swim again.

The pattern we’re using is hourly food breaks. However for myself, I’ve decided I need one extra food break (at least) in a six hour swim, so after four hours I may need to move to half-hourly feeds.

I’ll use a plain isotonic mix for the first hour, moving to Maxim later on.

I had been using Hi-5 (4:1) carbohydrate to protein mix for a while but discovered at the TBBC swim that the higher sodium in it made it difficult for me to get enough in, so I changed to Maxim after that which is fine.

Depending on the day, I’ll also have some tomato or minestrone soup, with added Maxim. Using the soup alone won’t give me enough energy (that’s why I crashed on the first SandyCove six-hour, nothing extra in the soup).

I’m taking plenty of fruit also, especially in the first three or four hours. Maybe half a banana, and plenty of strawberries and blackberries, which are easy to get in quick.

Good old Kendall Mint Cake comes out at the five or six hour point. I try not to use it until the last hour or two. At that stage, I’ve reduced the fruit intake mostly. I stocked on the Mint Cake early in the year when ALDI had it on sale. I think most of the guys are converts to it also. Some of them are also using one of Finbarr’s recommendations, Fry’s Turkish Delight.

Each feed I’m getting about 400 to 500 ml of liquid in (Maxim plus soup). I have generally discarded the fresh smoothie in the sea that I was using for long pool swims, as it’s too viscous (the way I make it). I’ve removed coffee from my diet, as I mentioned before, using it only on the day of a long swim, to get the benefits. I believe one needs to be off coffee for ten days to get those benefits. I plan to hold off on it in the Channel until the last few hours.

Pre-swims of course involves plenty of carbohydrate and liquid intake. Pasta and fruit and oatmeal for me.

Preparation for a 10 hour swim…

Alarm clock set to 4 a.m.
2 home-made Solo Bars (560 calories each),
1 ham sandwich,
4 chicken sandwiches,
1 flask of Tomato & pasta soup,
1 flask of coffee,
1.5 litre home-made smoothie,
1/2 litre milk,
4 litres of isotonic drink,
500gr. of grapes,
1 banana,
1 packet recovery drink,
1 small slice of fruit cake,
2 small chocolate bars,
1 packet dextrose,
3 Kendall Mint Cakes,
Peppermint oil capsules (in case of cramps),
2 pairs of goggles,
2 pairs of togs,
2 swim hats,
2 nose clips,
Lanolin, Vaseline & Channel grease,

4 hours sleep.

Oh damn.


For me, a 3 hour 40 minute swim, consumes close to 3,500 calories. I think the standard rate quoted for swimming is about 830 per hour for “moderate” swimming. I consume about 900 per hour with slightly higher intensity. For longer swims like this morning, obviously, speed is fairly constant, (except I increase it for the last 10 minutes).

Thoughts on feeding for the 8 hour swim

So I consumed the full 2 litres fruit smoothie and maybe another 2 ½ litres of isotonic. I also ate two bananas and a few handfuls of grapes during breaks. My liquid intake looks a bit low, but I think that’s kind of normal for me as well. Certainly for the first three hours I felt bloated from the carb. loading. Later on I would have loved some solid food (other than fruit). But that’s one of the swimmer’s dilemmas. What you can eat while swimming is a tiny subset of your normal diet. Some of the guys went for cold pasta as sold food during the break, but I can’t stand cold pasta, another limiting factor.

If only we could find a way of making a waterproof sandwich! All told though, the fruit smoothie worked from an energy and liquid point of view. Of course, there were, shall we say, repercussions, from 8 hours of a liquid fruit diet and two hour drive home. :-[