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Simple Sports Nutrition Tips

Simple Sports Nutrition Tips for Training and Competition

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Updated June 03, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Sports nutrition doesn't have to be complicated. If you aren't interested in the details or the science of sports nutrition, but still want to get the most from your diet and fitness program, the following recommendations are for you.

Eat a Balanced Diet Each Day

Food Pyramid
Photo (c) Mitch Hrdlicka / Getty Images

To exercise consistently, you need to provide a good supply of high-quality energy to your working muscles. The easiest way to to this is to eat a balanced breakfast and continue eating a variety of high-quality foods throughout the day.

Carbohydrate in the form of glycogen is the fuel that makes exercise possible, so adequate carbs must be eaten each day if you hope to train consistently. Protein and fat also have a place in your diet and should be consumed daily. In general, each meal should contain a varied combination of carbohydrates, protein and fat.

If you aren't sure if you are getting the proper nutrients in your daily diet, check out Calorie Count to create a profile and analyze your diet.

Several Hours Before You Workout

Big Salad
Photo (c) ULTRA.F / Getty Images

The pre-exercise meal will vary depending upon your exercise style. If you workout in the evening, lunch should include easily digestible foods high in complex carbohydrates, such as pasta, breads, fruits and vegetables. A big salad with a small amount of protein works well. Select a small amount of lean meat such as chicken or fish, and experiment with what works best for you.

If you exercise first thing in the morning, you'll probably feel best if you eat a light breakfast of fruit, toast, or an egg. Again, everyone is different, so experiment with what works best for you. Regardless of what you choice to eat, you should drink plenty of water before and during a morning workout.

Thirty Minutes Before You Workout

Pre-Exercise Snack
Photo (c) Thomas Northcut / Getty Images

Depending upon the type and duration of workout you do, you'll want to eat a small snack and drink some water a half hour before you get going. Trail mix is great for aerobic workouts over 60 or 90 minutes, but if you are going hard for thirty minutes, you probably only need a half of an energy or granola bar, a large banana, a few graham crackers, fig bars, or pretzels. For a shorter workout, you may not want to eat anything at all, but can get a few calories from drinking about 8-10 ounces of a sport drink.

You should also start drinking water before your workout so you've consumed about 6-12 ounces in the the hour before your workout.

During Your Workout

Eating During Your Workout
Photo (c) Ross Land / Getty Images

Proper hydration during exercise will vary based on your exercise intensity and duration and even the weather. In order to simplify the recommendations, a good starting point is to drink 8-10 fl oz of water every 15 min during exercise.

If exercising longer than 90 minutes, drink 8-10 fl oz of a sports drink every 15 - 30 minutes. Exercising for more than about 90 minutes usually requires that you replenish lost carbohydrates.

If your workout is less than an hour, odds are you don't need to consume anything extra.

Hydration After Your Workout

Drinking and Exercise
Photo (c) picturegarden / Getty Images

After your workout, the general rule is simple: drink enough water to replace water lost through sweat. The best way to determine this is by weighing yourself before and after exercise. For every pound of body weight lost, you'll need to consume about 3 cups of fluid.

Another way to determine how much liquid to consume is to check the color of your urine. Dark, concentrated urine may indicate dehydration. Your urine should be relatively clear in color.

Eating After Your Workout

Your post-exercise meal needs to be consumed within two hours after a long or intense workout in order to replenish glycogen stores. Research shows that getting 100-200 grams of carbohydrate within two hours of endurance exercise helps you replenish adequate glycogen stores, but adding a combination of carbohydrate and protein seems to be an even better option. Studies have found that a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein seems to the ideal combination of nutrition. And although solid foods can work just as well as a sports drink, a drink may be easier to digest make it easier to get the right ratio and meet the 2-hour window.

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