Nancy Clark provides selected specific food and drink options for a variety of fitness and sports situations.

On the day that you compete or train your aims should be to:

Replenish your carbohydrate stores that have been reduced over night (sleeping is a form of fasting), maintain your blood sugar levels (to avoid energy dips), remain hydrated and avoid feeling hungry.



A substantial breakfast is important if you are competing/working out in the afternoon. You should have your pre-event lunch 2-4 hours prior. If you’re competing in the evening then eat at 3 hourly intervals during the day and again eat your pre-event/workout meal 2-4 hours prior to it.

Pre-game breakfast

1 to 2 hours before, let’s say, a 9:00am. cross-country meet or football game:

Dry cereal with low-fat milk and banana, oatmeal with applesauce and brown sugar, cream of wheat with raisins, bagel with peanut butter, poached eggs with two slices of toast, yogurt and granola.

Pre-event carbo-loading dinner

1 Pasta with tomato sauce, meatballs, green beans, wholemeal, low-fat/skimmed milk, frozen yogurt with strawberries.

2 Turkey with potato, stuffing, low-fat gravy, pumpkin, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, apple crumble with reduced-fat ice cream.

Liquid ‘meals’

Great if you have trouble digesting solid food

Fruit smoothie (milk, yogurt or juice blended with frozen berries, banana chunks), low-fat chocolate milk, vanilla pudding, pureed peaches.


4 hours before, for example a 1:00am football or hockey game

Larger portions of any of the above breakfast options or:

*Pancakes with maple syrup, scrambled eggs

* Veggie omelet with non-greasy hash brown potatoes, toast

* Breakfast burrito (scrambled eggs, low-fat cheese, salsa wrapped in a flour tortilla) and orange juice

Four o’clock pre-game dinner

For example, before a 7:00pm basketball game

Any of the carbo-loading dinners or brunch suggestions or:

*Cheese ravioli, tomato sauce, peas, fruit salad, sugar biscuit

*Grilled chicken (small portion) with baked potato/low-fat sour cream, steamed carrots, bread, low-fat milk (or milk alternatives: lactose-free milk, soy milk)

*Turkey sub with lettuce, tomato, low-fat mayonnaise, baked potato chips, vanilla yogurt and oatmeal-raisin cookie

*Wonton soup, stir-fried chicken with veggies, steamed rice, noodles, pineapple chunks, fortune cookie

Grab ‘n Go Snack:

Provides 100 to 300 non-perishable calories within the hour pre-exercise. Keep in your desk or gym bag:

*Hard or soft pretzels, cinnamon raisin bagel, snack-box raisins, trail mix

“Eating right in the two hours immediately after your workout/ event will maximise your recovery”

Pre-exercise ‘quick fixes’

These choices lack nutritional value but are easy to digest, provide the quick energy the body wants – and when eaten five minutes pre-exercise – are unlikely to create rebound hypoglycemia (also known as a ‘sugar crash’).

Toast with jam, marshmallows, gum drops, jelly beans, licorice, sports drinks, fruit juice, sweetened iced tea, de-fizzed Coke. You can make your own energy drink – here’s how: Simply add 7 packets (teaspoons) of sugar to 236ml/8oz of coffee. You’ll end up with 80 mg caffeine and 110 calories.

Pre-exercise high sodium snacks

Consuming a salty food before exercise helps retain water in your body and delays becoming dehydrated.

*Pretzels, salt bagel, baked chips, chicken noodle soup, canned broth (chicken, beef or vegetable), boiled and salted red potatoes or potato chunks, ham and cheese sub with mustard.

Fuel during exercise lasting more than an hour

Sports drinks, energy bar with water (water should be sufficient for workouts lasting less than an hour)

Between heats or events (on the same day)

Quick energy releasing carbs, for example rice cakes, energy bars, rolls, dried fruit, bananas, rice cakes or low-fat crackers with jam and sports drinks (consume 500ml of fluids immediately after)

Fuel during exercise that lasts more than 4 hours

For example, a long bike ride, cross-country ski, or adventure race

*Peanut butter on bread, bagel or flour tortilla, trail mix, ham and cheese in a pita bread, beef jerky (for sodium), noodle soup, sweetened condensed milk, chocolate bars … any food that tastes good, settles well and helps you survive the event. We’ll talk ‘good nutrition’ at another time!

Post workout/event

Sports drinks, energy bars, rice dishes. Eating right in the two hours immediately after your workout/event will maximise your recovery, for example providing the stimulus to re-build muscle protein that has been broken down through weight training and boosting the replenishment of muscle glycogen (this is a form of carbohydrate that can only be stored in your muscles in limited amounts).

What should you eat on the day you workout or compete?2

More Hydration Tips

Before exercise: Ensure you are hydrated before you workout or compete and then consume 200-250ml of fluid 15-20min before. To ensure you are hydrated your urine should be light in colour and relatively odourless and should be of a high volume and you’ll want to keep making frequent visits to the loo!

During exercise Consume 150-250ml of water or an isotonic sports drink every 10-20min (additionally for workouts/events lasting more than 90min consume 25-50g of carbohydrate to sustain your energy levels.

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