What To Eat Before, During and After Exercise

For endurance athletes, proper nutrition & hydration are ESSENTIAL for solid performance on a day-in, day-out basis. Unfortunately, these two areas are often full of confusion & misinformation. Here you have tried-and-true information to help guide you to better refueling before, during & after exercise.

What to Eat Before Exercise

To help make your next exercise session feel great, look no further than your blood sugar levels. Low blood sugar will contribute to feeling sluggish, tired & lethargic…not things we want to feel while we’re exercising! For endurance athletes, carbohydrate is a key energy source. To make sure your carbohydrate stores are topped up before exercise, here’s the formula:

Number of Hours Before Exercise x Your Body Weight in Kilograms = Grams of Carbohydrate You Need to Eat.

So, if you’re a 60kg person eating 3hrs prior to exercising, you’ll need to eat 180g of carbohydrates to top up your blood sugar levels (3 x 60kg = 180g of carbs). The same person eating 1/2hr prior to exercise needs 30g of carbs (.5 x 60kg = 30g of carb). Just make sure to keep fiber lower if you’re eating within 2hrs of exercise. Higher fiber = yucky stomach!

healthy carbs
Oh…to find your kg body weight, divide your body weight in pounds by 2.2! 

What to Eat DURING exercise

If you’ve eaten well beforehand (see last week’s Tip #1), your body has enough blood sugar to carry you through a 1hr workout. But, if you’re going longer than 1hr, then you’ll need to think about replenishing those fuel stores while you exercise. Just remember these numbers: 7-15g of carbohydrate every 15min (after the 1st hour of exercise).

If you’re a smaller athlete, start on the lower end…if you’re a larger athlete, try the mid to higher end.

For example – Athlete A weighs 140lbs & will be biking for 2hrs + running for 45min = 2hr 45min. Hour 1 is taken care of w/ a pre-exercise meal. For Hour #2 + 45min, Athlete A will eat 11g of carbs every 15min for a total of 77g of carbs (11g x 7 15min blocks = 77g).
fig newton
Stay away from fiber, fat & high protein focusing on easy-to-digest carbs. Things to try: fig newtons (not whole wheat), white bread jelly/honey sandwiches, boiled salted new potatoes, mandarin oranges, dried fruit (if you can tolerate the fiber), trail mix (if you can tolerate the fat), low-fiber crackers, hard candy, bananas and energy bars/gels.

What to Eat AFTER Exercise

So you’ve just had a great workout! How do you make sure tomorrow’s workout feels just as good? Eat something! Remember the 30-Minute Rule. Make sure to eat a snack of carbs & protein within 30min of finishing your workout. The carb/protein combination will help drive that carb back into the muscles so you have topped up energy stores for your next workout.

What to eat? PB&J, chocolate milk, turkey sandwich, smoothies, yogurt & granola are all good options.
peanut butter and jelly


Proper hydration is just as important to exercise as proper nutrition.  As little as 2% dehydration will cause thickened blood which leads to increased heart rate, increased breathing rates and the feeling that exercise is harder than it should be.  Water is by far the best beverage choice for regular drinking.  How much, you ask?  Here you go!

Before Exercise   5-30min prior drink 16oz (8 oz = 1 cup)

During Exercise   5-10oz every 15min…that’s 20-40oz per hour!

After Exercise     16oz for every 1lb of body weight lost to sweat


Drink up!


Coach Michelle

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