Meal and Fluid Timing

Meal and Fluid Timing

Posted in Uncategorized by Posted May 20, 2016 Leave a comment

Some athletes struggle with when to eat before a race or a training session. Sometimes you may eat too much or too close to a work out such that stomach cramping ensues. Other times you may skip eating in order to avoid these negative sensations, only to find yourself “running on empty” part way through practice. A successful training session or race relies on your energy reserves, and these reserves are strongly influenced by the timing of your food intake prior to physical activity.

With that in mind, here are some tips to timing your food and fluid intake prior to a race or practice session.

When an event is two to four hours out, consume your final large meal. To use the plate analogy from the Athlete’s Plate post, your plate should be divided as described by the high intensity/pre-event plate description. This plate would consist of one-half grains, one-quarter protein, and one-quarter vegetables in combination with 17-34 ounces of fluid.

The next time you eat will be one to two hours prior to the event. At this time you drink another 17-34 ounces of fluid and combine that with a pre-event snack. We recommend snacks like fresh fruit, peanut butter and honey on toast, a fruit and yogurt smoothie, bread, or crackers. By practicing this meal timing during your regular training schedule, you can help ensure that on race day you have honed in on foods that you can easily stomach prior to intense physical activity.

If you can tolerate food in the hour before an event, eat a small snack of pretzels or crackers every 15 minutes combined with plenty of fluids. Athletes that cannot tolerate food during the hour prior to an event should drink several mouthfuls of a carbohydrate-containing sports drink every 10-15 prior to the race or workout.

Once the event begins, it is important to keep taking in nutrition in order to continue supplying your body with carbohydrates and hydration. Watery fruits such as oranges, grapes, and watermelon provide your body with simple sugars and hydration. Bananas, bread with jam or honey, gels, or bars are also a great way to eat carbohydrates during exercise sessions. Ideally, you are also drinking 5-12 ounces of carbohydrate or electrolyte-containing drinks every 15-20 minutes during exercise. These types of drinks keep you fueled and hydrated while also replenishing the fluids lost due to sweat.

Of particular importance is the meal you eat directly after exercise. The first 30 minutes after a workout is known as the glycogen/metabolic window. This 30-minute window is a crucial period for replenishing the glycogen stores in the muscles. By eating mostly carbohydrates during this glycogen window, such as fresh fruit, fruit smoothies with protein powder, hummus and pita, a sandwich, a bagel, or fruit juice, your body is able to replenish its glycogen stores up to three times faster than normal. In order to maximize your recovery, consume 1.0-1.5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight during the first 30 minutes. This is coupled with about 15-25 grams of protein (0.3-0.4 grams protein per kilogram body weight). A typical ratio of carbohydrates to protein is 2:1 to 4:1, with more intense exercise requiring a higher carbohydrate to protein ratio.

By practicing these meal timing and recovery fueling techniques you will be able to achieve the best results during practice or racing. Familiarizing yourself with an eating schedule that works well prior to exercise will also help ensure that you can line up at the start of a race confident that you have fueled and hydrated properly.

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 Meal and Fluid Timing

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