Healthy eating and exercise habits can help keep energy levels high while playing sports. Eating the right foods before, during, and after your workout will improve your performance.
Water for a good fluid balance
Exercise performance improves when athletes maintain fluid balance before, during, and after exercise. Drink generous amounts of fluid in the 24 hours before an exercise session. Athletes who train at high levels or for long periods should drink 1 ¾ to 2 ½ cups of fluid 2 to 3 hours before exercise. If you drink caffeine, alcohol, pop, or sweet or salty foods, drink extra water to prevent dehydration, headaches, low energy, and blurred vision.
Basic advice for your pre-exercise meal or snack
- Choose foods that are low in fat and fibre. These tend to be harder on your digestive system and may cause stomach upset.
- Choose foods high in carbohydrate. Your body absorbs these quickly.
- Choose foods moderate in protein.
- Choose foods that are familiar to you. Try new foods on days you are not training.
- Eat smaller meals 1 to 2 hours before exercise time. Eat larger meals about 3 hours before exercise.
Snack ideas to boost energy and exercise
Carbohydrates eaten alone tend to give you a quick energy boost, lasting only approximately 1 to 2 hours. By eating a snack that combines both carbohydrate and protein, you will be providing your body with energy that will last for up to 3 to 4 hours. The following is a list of great snacks for energy:
- 15 mL (1 tablespoon) of peanut butter with celery sticks or whole grain crackers
- 55 to 115 mL (one-quarter to half a cup) of trail mix (nuts, raisins, cereal, seeds, soy nuts)
- 30 to 60 mL (2 to 4 tablespoons) of hummus with half a pita to dip
- 1 small wrap or sandwich with tuna, egg, or lean meat
- 1 to 2 eggs or egg whites with toast
Nutrition and fluids during your activity
At the start of your exercise and throughout the event, you should be drinking about half a cup of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes. Do not wait until you feel thirsty. Sports drinks containing carbohydrates are recommended for intense exercise lasting longer than 1 hour. Drink either 115 mL of sport drinks every 10 minutes or 30 to 60 g of carbohydrate (such as a nutri-bar) for every hour of exercise.
Advice for your post-exercise meal or snack
To provide your body with the nutrition it requires after exercise, consider the following:
- Drink at least 450 mL (2 cups) of water soon after exercise to rehydrate yourself.
- Replace every kg of body weight lost with 2 L of water. For example, if Vince Carter lost 2 kg of body weight after a basketball game, he should drink 4 L of water.
- Most athletes finish their activity with depleted glycogen stores and so eating carbohydrates is important.
- Aim to eat a carbohydrate food within the first 30 minutes after your activity and aim for a 3:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio in your next meal.
- With excess sweating in heat, replace sodium and potassium. The following are good food choices: pizza, pretzels, soups, pickles, cheeses, and meats.
Dietary tips for success
There is no one "miracle food" or supplement that can supply all of your nutritional needs. Certain foods supply mainly proteins, while other foods contain vitamins and minerals. The key to balancing your diet and enhancing your performance is to combine different foods. Eat a wide variety of foods before, during, and after your event.
- Healthy eating and exercise habits can help keep energy levels high while playing sports.
- Eat a wide variety of foods before, during, and after your event.
- Drink generous amounts of fluid in the 24 hours before an exercise session.
- Eat smaller meals 1 to 2 hours before exercise time. Eat larger meals about 3 hours before exercise. Also make sure these meals are low in fat and fibre.
- Eat snacks that combine both carbohydrate and protein for energy that will last for up to 3 to 4 hours.
- After exercise, drink at least 2 cups of water to rehydrate yourself. Aim to eat a carbohydrate food within the first 30 minutes after your activity and aim for a 3:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio in your next meal.