10 Top Sports Nutrition Tips

by Lona Sandon, MEd, RD, LD

Health Talks

1. Hydrate for performance. When you are well-hydrated you perform better. Drink 2-3 cups of fluid two hours before you plan to workout and 1-2 cups about 30 minutes before. Being well-hydrated will help you feel more energized and alert.

Lona Sandon, MEd, RD, LD

2. Hydrate to prevent injury. Lack of fluid can leave you feeling tired, dizzy and clumsy, making you more likely to stumble and hurt yourself. Plan to drink eight gulps of fluid about every 15 minutes during a hard workout, especially if you are outdoors.

3. Choose the right drink at the right time. Before or after a workout, fluids such as low-fat milk, 100% fruit or vegetable juice, and plain water work great to hydrate your body. If you are training outdoors in hot, humid weather for more than an hour, a sports drink is recommended for replacing fluid and electrolytes lost through sweat. Sports drinks are designed for use during extended workouts, not the lunch and dinner table. If you are working out indoors for an hour or less, plain water will do the trick. 

4. Replace 1 pound with 2-3 cups of fluid. For every pound of sweat you lose during a tough workout, drink 2-3 cups of fluid for recovery.  

5. Check your urine color. Dark yellow means you are not drinking enough fluid. Pale yellow to clear means you are getting enough to stay hydrated.

6. Build and repair with protein. When you exercise hard, your muscles break down and must be repaired. High-quality protein will help your muscles rebuild and repair so you can be stronger and more powerful. Lean meats, eggs, nuts and nut butters, yogurt, low-fat milk or cheese, or soy milk are all great sources of quality protein. 

7. Energize with carbohydrates. Carbohydrate is the main energizing fuel for working muscles. Without enough carbohydrate you may feel weak and tired which will affect your performance. Choose plenty of good quality carbohydrates with each meal such as whole wheat bread or pasta, quinoa, oatmeal, and brown rice. Fruits and starchy vegetables such as beans, peas, and sweet potatoes are also good sources of healthy carbohydrates.

8. Prime the pump with a pre-exercise snack. If it has been more than three hours since your last meal, having a pre-exercise snack may help you have a better workout. Make it something small and easy to digest such as a glass of milk with graham crackers, 100% fruit juice with peanut butter crackers, or a fruit smoothie. You will want to avoid foods high in fiber and fat just before a workout. These take longer to digest and can make you uncomfortable.

9. Pair protein with carbohydrate after the workout for recovery. Protein paired with carbohydrate help your muscles recovery after a tough workout.  Aim for 7-10g of protein and 30-40g of carbohydrate. A turkey sandwich on whole wheat plus fresh fruit, a small fruit smoothie made with fresh fruit and milk, or low-fat chocolate milk is a good option for a snack. For a meal, aim for 3-4 oz of lean meat such as chicken breast, brown rice, and pile on the mixed veggies.

10. Aim for food first. Nutrient rich foods provide all the energy and nutrition your body needs for best performance and are cheaper than sports supplements. If you need a sports supplement, look for those with a complete nutrition label such as sports bars, drinks and gels. Be skeptical of the promises, as some supplements have caused athletes to test positive for banned substances. Choose bars that are low in fat with at least 10 g of protein and 30 g carbohydrate.  

Share: