Learn Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance | STACK

Time Your Fueling for Peak Performance

September 1, 2012 | Featured in the Back to School 2012 Issue

Must See Nutrition Videos


Consuming fast-acting carbs prior to physical activity allows you to work harder and longer. For an immediate energy boost, take in approximately 100 calories of easily-digestible carbs 15 minutes before a game. “Taking in a small amount of carbohydrate before you get started will help your body more effectively use additional fuel that you take in during activity,” says Kim Stein of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute.

Fruit and pre-activity sports drinks work well. But to prevent stomach distress, don’t overdo it—and avoid slow-digesting, protein-rich, fatty or greasy foods. Limit the amount of fluid you drink immediately before a game to a maximum of eight ounces; but top off your electrolyte levels, because once you begin to sweat, you’re likely to lose sodium and potassium. Failing to replenish them can result in cramping or dehydration, which will degrade your performance.

During Games

Your nutrition strategy doesn’t end when the game begins. You need to continue giving your body the nutrients it needs to perform well. When you sweat during training, practice or games, you lose water and minerals such as sodium and potassium, which can lead to cramps, dehydration, or an electrolyte imbalance that reduces your muscles’ ability to contract.

To avoid this, consume eight to 12 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes—preferably a sports drink rich in electrolytes, especially sodium, because it helps the body retain fluid. To maintain your electrolyte balance, drink a beverage with 110 to 220 grams of sodium per eight ounces.

When you engage in intense activity, you also burn through your fuel stores. Taking in some carbs during a game will help you maintain peak energy and performance. “Select a sports drink with about 14 grams of carbohydrate per 8 ounces,” says Lindsay Baker, GSSI Senior Scientist. Another good option: eat carb-rich foods, like a banana or pretzels, during halftime.


Right after a workout or game, your body needs protein and carbs for recovery. “The half-hour after training is a really important time,” says Dr. Stein. “Your muscles are ready to repair themselves if you give them the proper nutrients.” To optimize muscle recovery and rebuilding, take in 40 to 80 grams of carbs and 10 to 20 grams of protein within 30 minutes after a game or workout. You also need to rehydrate, so drink about 20 ounces of fluid for every pound of bodyweight lost. To prevent cramping and dehydration, make sure your drink contains sodium and potassium.

Power your performance by checking out the full STACK Fueling Guide.

More Cool Stuff You'll Like

How the Glycemic Index Can Help Your Athletic Performance

Glycemic index is a measurement of how quickly food impacts blood sugar levels compared to pure sugar. Foods are ranked on a scale of 0 to 100, with...

Protein Powder Potato Chips? ProTings, Reviewed

How to Build a Performance-Fueling Smoothie

The Meal Plan That Helped Shea McClellin Add 11 Pounds of Muscle

The Skinny on Good Fat vs. Bad Fat

Why Can't I Stop Gaining Weight?

7 Pro Athletes Who Succeed Despite Having Horrible Diets

An Athlete's Guide to Calcium

Got (Almond) Milk? How 6 Popular Milk Alternatives Measure Up

Eat Junk Food Without Sacrificing Your Performance

5 Basketball Pre-Game Snacks for Full-Game Energy

How Fatty Is Your Thanksgiving?

Should Athletes Follow a Pescetarian Diet?

The Great Burger Battle: Which One Is Best for Athletes?

3 Unlikely Ways to Lose Fat

The Food Rules for Building Muscle

Low Workout Stamina? Your Diet May Be the Culprit

The 7 Best Nuts for Your Health and Performance

Why You Need a Bedtime Snack

5 Drinks You Had No Idea Were As Bad As (or Worse Than) Soda

Pre-Game Nutrition: What to Eat Before You Compete

Taco Bell Launching New High-Protein Menu

6 Reasons Your Weight Fluctuates Every Day

LeBron Cuts Carbs This Summer. Should You?

Coconut Sugar: What Is It, and Is It Good for You?

Grab the Salt Shaker: Why Athletes Need to Eat More Sodium

What Else Are You Drinking? The Truth About BPA Dangers

High Fructose Corn Syrup vs. Sugar: What's The Difference?

The Mineral Most Athletes Need More Of in Their Diets

6 Fruits and Veggies You Aren't Eating But Should Be

Is All Sugar Bad for You?

Do You Need Protein Immediately After Your Workout?

Make Rotisserie Chicken Better With 2 Simple No-Cook Recipes

Building a Healthy Pizza: Tips and Recipes

The 5 Foods That Will Rule 2015

4 Common Nutrition Questions Answered

3 Nutrition Hacks to Improve Your Sports Performance

We Tried Cricket Protein Bars. Should You?

Build Muscle With This Diet for Young Athletes

Eat Like a Champion, Part 1: How to Build Muscle in the Kitchen

6 Ways to Power Up Your Oatmeal

Survive Two-a-Days With 5 Fueling Tips From the Houston Texans

A Healthier Milk, Brought to You By Coca-Cola. Wait, What?