What to Eat Before, During, and After a Workout

Get tips on what kids and adults should eat before, during, and after the game.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #96

Sports offer so many things to both kids and adults. Playing sports can build skill, confidence, coordination, camaraderie, character, and sportsmanship. It’s also a fun way to keep our kids—and ourselves—physically active. You hate to see all those great health benefits undone by poor food choices. After all, we’re not just training young bodies—we’re also training eating habits and patterns that will last a lifetime.

Here are some tips on what kids—or anyone for that matter—should eat before, during and after athletic events.

Tip #1: What to Eat Before a Workout

It’s not a good idea to hit the field on a full stomach. Having a lot of food in your stomach when you’re exercising can be uncomfortable and slow you down. What’s more, it’s not going to provide energy for the event because most of it won’t be digested until the game is over. Ideally, you want the kids to eat a normal-sized, healthy meal—you know, the kind with protein and vegetables and stuff—a couple of hours before they exercise.

If it’s been more than three hours since their last meal and it’s going to be a long activity, a small pre-game snack might be a good idea.  A banana, orange, or other fruit are good portable options. A small bagel or a few graham crackers would also work. The half-hour before the game is also an ideal time to hydrate with 12 to 20 ounces of water. Drinking sports drinks before exercising really makes no sense.

Tip #2: When Should You Drink Sports Drinks?

It’s important to keep athletes hydrated, especially during long events. Water is the ideal hydration beverage. If you are working out very hard, very long, or in very hot conditions, sports drinks like Gatorade, which contain electrolytes, are helpful. But water is really all you need for shorter or lower-intensity exercise.


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.