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What to Eat to Fuel Your Performance

Here's what you need to know to fuel your body for performance.


Carbohydrate is the main source of energy for your muscles and brain as they are the most easily digested out of the three macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat). Once eaten, carbohydrates convert to glucose (sugar) and are used as fuel for working muscles, therefore delaying muscle fatigue.



When It's Nearly Game-Time

In order to effectively fuel performance, athletes should consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrate 30-60 minutes before exercise (check out some examples below!). It’s important to consume a carbohydrate rich fuel source that is lower in protein and fat, since those macronutrients will slow down digestion and absorption, which can lead to feeling full while performing. When choosing a carbohydrate rich snack, a good guideline is to keep protein and fat less than 10 grams. It’s also a good idea to choose lower fiber foods (aim for less than 5g fiber) as too much can cause bloating and GI upset.


When Your Game Is Later In the Day

If your game or event is later in the afternoon, consume an athlete-portioned meal (1/2 plate carbohydrate/starch, ¼ plate vegetables, and ¼ plate protein) 3-4 hours before. If your event is early in the morning, your dinner the night before will provide enough carbohydrate to convert to fuel in your muscles (as glycogen, the storage form of carbohydrate). It’s still a good idea to consume 30-60 grams of a carbohydrate snack 30-60 minutes before your event.


Hydration Is Key

Be sure to stay hydrated as well! A good guideline is 16 oz. of water 2-3 hours before exercise and an additional 8 oz. of water 15 minutes before. Sports drinks aren’t necessary prior to exercise and during the first hour of activity since your body is well fueled with the carbohydrate rich snack. Sports drinks become important after continuous exercise lasting over an hour in duration.

One of my favorite snacks to keep on hand as travel friendly pre-exercise fuel is homemade cinnamon oat bars. The recipe below is gluten and dairy free, but you can customize by adding dried fruit, chocolate chips, etc.

Oatmeal Raisin Bars - recipe yields 9 portions


Old Fashioned Oats - 1.5 cup

Oat Flour - 1.25 cup 

Brown Sugar- 1 cup

Raisins - 1/2 cup

Walnuts - ¼ cup, crushed

Almond Milk - 1/2 cup

Egg - 1

Cinnamon - 2 tsp 

Vanilla - 2 tsp 

Baking Soda - 1 tsp 

Baking Powder - 1/4 tsp 


Nutrition Per Bar: 280 calories, 9g fat, 43g carb, 4g fiber, 7g protein

Here are some other pre-exercise fuel Ideas:


  • Pretzels

  • Trail mix (dried fruit and cereal)

  • Dry cereal

  • Fruit (apple, banana, orange, etc.)

  • Granola bar

  • Popcorn



  • Bagel

  • Crackers and string cheese 

Plan and pack your snacks today to make sure you’re prepared for your workout tomorrow.

Interested in hearing more from Whitney? Stay tuned for her next two articles about fueling during and after performance, and contact her directly! 

Call (610) 762-0050 or email wjb176@gmail.com

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