How to time your meals and snacks for optimal sports performance

Nutrition plays an important role in athletes performing at their peak.

Eating a snack between meals can help ensure that you are in optimal physical performance during an athletic event.
Eating a snack between meals can help ensure that you are in optimal physical performance during an athletic event.

Have you ever been in the middle of a run or athletic event and felt your energy decrease for that last mile or that final 15 minutes? This may be due to the timing of your meals in comparison to when you are physically active. When and how you choose to fuel your body makes an impact on your performance level. Following the tips below will help you keep your energy level optimal and your performance at its best.

Five tips for optimal physical performance during an athletic event:
  1. First, start your day off right with a healthy breakfast.
  2. Make sure that you eat every three to four hours.
  3. Make sure you have a pre-workout meal an hour before the event.
  4. Have a post-workout meal within an hour of the event ending.
  5. Hydrate with water throughout the day.
An example full day nutrition plan for an athletic game/training:
  • Breakfast (7 a.m.): whole grain cereal with skim or one percent milk and an apple
  • Snack (9 a.m.): granola bar or trail mix
  • Lunch (12 p.m.): sandwich (on whole grain bread) with a side of vegetables and a bag of baked chips
  • Pre-game Snack (4 p.m.): peanut butter and banana sandwich (on whole grain bread)
  • Game time or training session (5-7 p.m.)
  • Post-game meal (8 p.m.): turkey sandwich (on whole grain bread), an orange and a chocolate milk

Nutrition is the fuel for your body, so in order to perform at your top level, you need to make sure to fuel it at the right time and with the right nutrients. Sometimes you cannot control the foods available to you or when you are free to eat a meal/snack, however, making a conscious effort to eat at the right times can make a change in your performance.

For more information on health and nutrition please visit Michigan State University Extension on tips and articles to help you make healthier choices.   

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