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9/3/13blog post

eating before, during and after sports

Fall Sports have started! With the warmer weather, hydration during exercise is a focal point. But, what to eat before/during and after is equally important.

How should my child eat before sports practice or game?

Goals of nutrition before exercise:

  • Consume a carbohydrate-rich snack or meal before exercise to top off muscle stores. With pre-competition jitters, liquid meal replacements may be a better choice than whole foods.
  • Include small amounts of protein in your pre-exercise meal(s). Protein helps build and repair muscle tissue. Adequate protein before exercise may help reduce post-exercise muscle soreness.
  • Choose pre-exercise meal(s) that are low in fat and fiber to ensure optimal digestion.

What to eat and drink pre-exercise:

3–4 hours before exercise, eat:

  • Peanut butter & honey on toast + instant breakfast drink
  • Fruit and yogurt smoothie + low-fat granola
  • Oatmeal with brown sugar and almonds + skim milk + banana
  • Low-fat cottage cheese + apple butter + crackers + fresh grapes
  • Lean hamburger on bun with lettuce & tomato + side salad +yogurt-fruit parfait
  • Turkey and Swiss sandwich + fruit + sports drink
  • Low-fat tuna melt sandwich + fruit cup + fat-free yogurt

30–60 minutes before exercise

  • Sports drink or water
  • Sports gel, sport beans or gummies, sports bar
  • Piece of fruit or jam sandwich

What if your child is participating in exercise greater than 1 hour?

Goals on nutrition before prolonged exercise:

  • Optimal fuel blend: Nutrition during prolonged exercise requires the proper mix and timing of fluids, carbohydrate, and electrolytes. Too little fluid or too much carbohydrate can result in cramping and other intestinal problems.
  • Adequate fluids to replace sweat losses: Prevent excessive fluid loss (>2% body weight lost as fluid). Dehydration can cause fatigue and impair performance. Knowing your sweat rate will help you determine the right amount of fluid to drink.
  • A plan tailored to YOUR needs: A nutrition plan based on YOUR needs can help maximize performance. Experiment with sport drinks and foods for different types of workouts and competitions. Record your tolerance to learn what works best.

What to eat and drink during prolonged exercise:

  • Sports drinks that contain carbohydrate and electrolytes, while avoiding ingredients that may slow digestion.
  • Easily digested carbohydrate-rich foods during endurance events, for example, banana, bread or roll with jam or honey, sports foods (gels, gummy chews), or bite-sized pieces of low-fat granola or sports bars.
  • Fluids consumed with carbohydrate gels or carbohydrate-rich foods to speed fuel transport to muscles.

What about eating after competition?

Goals of recovery nutrition:

  • Restore fluid and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) lost in sweat; weigh before and after exercise and replenish what was lost.
  • Replace muscle fuel (carbohydrate) utilized during practice.
  • Provide protein to aid in repair of damaged muscle tissue and to stimulate development of new tissue
  • Begin nutrition recovery with a snack or meal within 15-60 minutes following practice or competition.


How to rehydrate with fluids and eat for recovery:


  • Before exercise: 2 to 3 hours, drink 16 ounces (about 1 water bottle) water; 15 minutes before: 8 ounces water.
  • During exertion: drink 4 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes (2 to 3 large gulps)
  • After exertion: 16 to 20 ounces of fluid for every pound lost (1 to 1½ water bottles per pound lost)
  • If exercise is greater than 60 minutes: start drinking to replace electrolytes through a sports drink (a few gulps) every 15-20 minutes



  • Smoothie made with yogurt and frozen berries
  • Sports drink + sport bar
  • Graham crackers with peanut butter + low-fat chocolate milk + banana


Recovery Meal Ideas



  • Whole wheat pita sandwich with turkey and veggies + pretzels + low-fat milk
  • Rice bowl with beans, cheese, salsa, avocado + whole grain tortilla chips or whole wheat tortilla
  • Stir fry with lean steak, broccoli, bell peppers, carrots + brown rice

Optimal exercise and sports performance is not limited to the use of our muscles – what we eat and drink plays an integral role! To work with a sports dietitian in our area, check out: Find a SCAN Registered Dietitian.

Goals and suggestions per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Practice Group: Sports Cardiovascular and Nutrition