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Nutrition and Feeding Schedules

Humans need to eat and drink to stay fueled, especially in endurance sports. Whether you're swimming or paddling for a nice leisurely activity, or doing high intensity racing or training, you'll likely need to bring along something to stave off the hangriness.


Timing & Schedules

The decision of when to feed should come from practice, trial and error.  Make sure you try out your feed schedule and your feeds during a practice swim – don’t try anything new on race day! 

  • Here are some example feed schedules: 

  • None the first hour, then every X minutes 

  • Every 30 minutes

  • Every 45 minutes

  • Every 20 minutes

  • Every 40 minutes for the first 3 hours, then every 30 minutes until the finish

  • Feeding times should be quick, but also allow you to: 

  • See your surroundings

  • Chat with your kayaker/crew

  • Complain

  • Allow your crew to assess your condition

  • Take medication


Tips & Tricks

  • If you're not swimming with a support paddler or boat, consider how you'll be able to access your feeds yourself. The Quackpacker allows for quick easy access to bottles and containers. You can also shove a baby food pouch or Gu inside the butt of your swim suit.

  • Don’t let a wave take your feed – use a bottle with an easy-open/easy-close mechanism.



  • Most of your feeds should be liquid only – every 2nd or 3rd feed can include a snack. Use a clipped in container that’s easy and quick open/close for solid feeds to not waste time. 

  • For solid feeds: chewing may be difficult after several hours of swimming (your neck and jaw get tired) or in water with high chop.  Consider your environment and body condition and change your fuels appropriately.  You can always choose not to eat your entire feed, or reserve it for your next feed.  You can ask your paddler to modify (for the next feed – do not wait for a swap out on the current feed!). 

  • Consider water and air temp/race day conditions when deciding on a feed plan.  Keep in mind, your feed plan may change during the swim. 

    • Warm water, warm air = cold feeds, farther apart

    • Cold water, cold air = warm feeds, closer together

    • Make sure you plan for the worst – have some warm feeds with you for long races, regardless of the forecast!  You may get cold from exhaustion, and the warm feeds will help your nutrition and core body temperature, even on hot days/warm water swims. You may just need warm water, not even nutrition, to get you through a cold spell!


Feed Examples

  • Water

  • Gatorade

  • Carb/Fat/Protein/Sugar Powders (CarboPro, Perpetuem, etc.)

  • Tea

  • Electrolyte Supplements (ie, Nuun, others)

  • Soft Drinks (make sure they're flat so you don't get reflux)

  • Orange slices

  • Blocks/Chews

  • Gels (like Gu)

  • Bananas

  • Canned peaches

  • Raisins

  • Applesauce

  • Baby food (the kinds with fruit and oatmeal are tasty and filling, and come in single-serving packaging. Crack the baby food grab-and-slurps and partially tighten them before your swim so you're not opening packaging while treading water.)


Be sure to try out feeds during your training in the months leading up to your event. Feeds that work for other sports or activities may not sit right with swimming due to the horizontal position.


Logistics of Feeding

In an open water racing environment, you want your feeds to be as quick and efficient as possible. Most swimmers' feeds take 30 seconds - 1 minute, with milestone breaks taking a little longer for a special treat, medicine administration, or wellness assessment. A recommended method is clipping all of your drinks and snacks to a feed rope and having your paddler throw you the whole feeding kit. That way, you don't have to swim close to the paddler or hand back any bottles or wrappers once you're done.


Using a feed rope also allows the paddler to be hands-free in rough conditions; you can take a feed while they paddle. As long as the end of the feed rope is clipped to the vessel, you can just feed and go, dropping the other end into the water and letting your paddler reel it in when it makes sense.




If you're swimming next to a boat for support, your crew may have a more rigid feed pole.




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