Athlete preparation for elite swimming

Enhancing the understanding, and place a greater emphasis on, the nutritional needs of young swimmers to maximise their performance.

Elite swimmers' nutritional intake has been assessed to improve their performance


Research background

This a joint research project between BCU and the City of Birmingham Swimming Club.

The health and performance of adolescent swimmers is of optimal performance when they are striving to compete at an international level.

However, from a nutrition perspective, there is a limited amount of research available to highlight the current issues that these athletes may be facing.

Therefore, this PhD investigation aims to expose the existing nutritional behaviours of young elite swimmers and propose new strategies to ensure physical preparedness for the athlete lifestyle. 

Research aims

This three-year investigation will be an in-depth assessment regarding multiple aspects of sports nutrition and physiology.

It will review the long-term nutritional intake (energy, macronutrient and micronutrients), nutritional knowledge, seasonal vitamin D status, and supplement behaviours of elite adolescent swimmers.

This project aims to raise awareness of the nutritional needs of young swimmers and how these can be manipulated to maximise health and competition performance.

How has the research been carried out?

The swimmers sent images of all food and drink intake over three days which was analysed for energy and nutrient content. For supplement use, swimmers completed a survey regarding the current nutritional behaviours.

These are completed at different training stages to investigate any potential changes in habits. Knowledge was assessed the completion of a validated sports nutrition questionnaire. Seasonal changes in vitamin D status are assessed by blood sample.

On top of this, personalised ingestion strategies for the supplement sodium bicarbonate is to be investigated with regards to swimming performance to understand if it can be a viable option to optimise race-day preparations.

Intended outcomes

The final results will not be available until 2022. However, the intended outcomes are to enhance the understanding, and place a greater emphasis, on the nutritional needs of young swimmers. This thesis may become a key educational resource among the swimming community.