Fueling and Hydrating Before, During and After Exercise

Proper fuel and hydration before, during, and after exercise is key to getting the most out of your training and optimize performance.

Carbohydrates, proteins and fats are the nutrients that provide the body with energy. The human body contains 60% water and a water loss as little as 2 - 3% of a person’s body weight can decrease athletic performance. A balanced eating plan that supplies the right amount of fuel and fluid is important for sports performance.

Summary of nutrition and hydration recommendations and examples can be found in the table at the end of this article.

How Should I Fuel and Hydrate BEFORE Exercise?

  • 3-4 hours before exercise:
    • Fuel:
      • Have a balanced meal that is high in carbohydrate, some protein, and low fat
      • Carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for the working muscles during exercise. Good sources of carbohydrates include whole grains (whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, and brown rice), starchy vegetables (sweet potato, potato, corn, carrots) and fruits (banana, apple, strawberries)
      • Proteins such as chicken, fish, milk, nuts/nut butter, and eggs can help you from feeling hungry during exercise
      • The meal should be low in fat and fiber to decrease chance of an upset stomach
    • Hydrate:
      • Carry a water bottle and take sips frequently
      • Hydrate with water, milk, and 100% fruit juice
  • 30-60 minutes before exercise:
    • Fuel:
      • Have a carbohydrate rich snack for an extra boost of energy
    • Hydrate:
      • Make sure your body is well hydrated before exercise
      • Aim to drink 8-20 oz. of fluid

How Should I Fuel and Hydrate DURING Exercise?

  • For exercise lasting less than 60 minutes:
    • Fuel:
      • Eating may not be necessary for short practice or competition period
    • Hydrate:
      • Water is the fluid of choice during most physical activity
  • For exercise lasting more than 60 minutes:
    • Fuel:
      • Having a carbohydrate rich snack can help maintain your energy level throughout the long practice or competition period
    • Hydrate:
      • Sports drink may be helpful by keeping you hydrated as well as maintaining electrolyte levels
      • Try drinking 4-6 oz. of fluid every 15 minutes
  • When participating in tournaments, multiple events, or all day sporting event:
    • Fuel:
      • Plan ahead and pack easy to-go meals and/or snacks
      • Avoid eating new foods on competition day to avoid risk of upset stomach
    • Hydrate:
      • Take advantage of breaks and rehydrate with fluids

How Should I Fuel and Hydrate AFTER Exercise?

  • Within 15-60 minutes after exercise:
    • Fuel:
      • Fuel the body with carbohydrate and protein to maximize recovery
      • Replenish the carbohydrate stores following exercise so the body is ready for your next workout
      • Protein helps with the repair and recovery of the muscles
    • Hydrate:
      • Replenish fluid lost during exercise to help the body return to optimal body temperature
      • Rehydrate with 16-24 oz. of water for every pound of water lost through sweat
  • 2-3 hours after exercise:
    • Fuel:
      • Eat a well-balanced meal with carbohydrate, protein, and fats
    • Hydrate:
      • Continue to rehydrate with fluids
      • You can also hydrate your body by eating water-rich fruits and vegetables

Remember, you cannot out-train poor nutrition and hydration. Food is fuel and your body needs good nutrition to train and perform at your best!

Summary on Nutrition and Hydration Recommendations Before, During and After Exercise






3-4 hours before

30-60 minutes before

Exercise lasting < 60 minutes

Exercise lasting > 60 minutes

Within 15-60 minutes after

2-3 hours after

Nutrition Recommendations


High carbohydrate, moderate protein, low fat and fiber

Snack: Carbohydrate


Snack: Carbohydrates

Snack: Carbohydrate + protein

Balanced meal:

Carbohydrate, protein, and fats

Hydration Recommendations

Drink 8-20 oz. of fluid one hour before exercise

None or water

4-6 oz. of fluid every 15 minutes

Rehydrate with 16-24 oz. of fluid for every pound of water lost through sweat


  • Lunch meat and cheese sandwich
  • Grilled chicken, rice, vegetables
  • Spaghetti and meatballs
  • Peanut butter jelly sandwich
  • Pretzels and peanut butter
  • Trail mix and banana
  • Sports drink
  • 100% fruit juice
  • Orange
  • Banana
  • Granola bar
  • Pretzels
  • Chocolate milk
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Protein bar
  • Smoothie
  • Yogurt and granola
  • Hamburger and grilled vegetables
  • Salmon, mixed vegetables, and rice
  • Pizza and salad
  • Lasagna
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