Nutrient Timing

LAST UPDATED: April 29, 2021

Plan nutrient timing for peak results

Nutrient timing involves proper fueling strategies before, during and after physical training sessions and other strenuous activity. Solid strategies for eating and hydrating before, during and after exercise are essential. Follow these tips and recommendations.

BEFORE your workout or strenuous activity

1 hour or less before exercise – choice of: fresh fruit such as apples, watermelon, peaches, grapes, oranges, or a sports energy bar and/or ½ - 1 ½ cups (4-12 ounces) of carbohydrate electrolyte beverage

2-3 hours before exercise – choice of: fresh fruit, 100-percent fruit or vegetables juices and/or breads, bagels, English muffins with limited amounts of butter or margarine or cream cheese, yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes with limited amounts of butter and syrup, or a sports energy bar and/or 2-4 cups (16-32 ounces of carbohydrate electrolyte beverage.

3-4 hours before exercise – choice of: Fresh fruit, 100-percent fruit or vegetable juices and/or beads, bagels, baked potatoes, cereal with milk, yogurt, sandwiches with a small amount of peanut butter, lean meat, or cheese, spaghetti with tomato sauce and/or 4-7 ½ cups (32-60 ounces) of carbohydrate electrolyte beverages.

DURING strenuous activity

Sessions lasting 45 minutes or less:

Drink ½ to 1 cup of water every 15–20 minutes during your workout. Do not exceed 1.5 liters or 1½ canteens per hour.

Sessions lasting 75 minutes:

  • Glycogen levels start to dwindle, especially if you are only drinking water. After exceeding 45 minutes, consume 10–20 grams of carbohydrate (banana, sports drink, commercial sports bar or granola bar, gel shot, etc.) every 20–30 minutes.
  • Continue drinking ½ to 1 cup of fluid every 15–20 minutes. Sports drinks can have added performance benefits during activity lasting longer than 60 minutes as they provide carbohydrates that help refuel glycogen stores and maintain blood sugar levels. They also contain electrolytes, like salt, which help you retain body water.

Endurance and intermittent, high intensity exercise lasting 1 to 2.5 hours – recommended carbohydrate is 30-60 grams per hour

  • Endurance and ultra-endurance exercise lasting 2.5 to 3 hours or longer – recommended carbohydrate is 80-90 grams per hour

Alternatives to sports drinks:

  • Dilute any 100% fruit juice with an equal amount of water. Add 1/8 teaspoon salt per quart (one quart = four 8 oz. cups). This mix closely approximates the carbohydrate, sodium, and potassium content of commercially available sport drinks.
  • Mix 1/3 cup sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt per quart (four 8 oz. cups) of water. Flavor with unsweetened beverage base.

AFTER strenuous activity

Refuel to replenish your energy and start preparing your body for the next training session.


  • Focus on eating protein and a carbohydrate-rich food within 30–60 minutes after exercise.
  • Suggested carbohydrate/protein snacks include low-fat chocolate milk, 100% fruit juice (8 oz.) and a handful of nuts, whole-grain bread with peanut butter and banana, low-fat yogurt plus fruit, or a commercial sports bar.
  • Optimize glycogen refueling by consuming 50–100 grams of carbohydrate in your beverage or food within 30–60 minutes of exercise and every 2–4 hours thereafter.
  • The post-workout fuel choices along with a complete balanced meal within 3–4 hours of activity will replace electrolytes.


Continue to drink fluids and rehydrate.

  • Drink 2–3 cups of fluid for every pound lost during activity. As indicated before, drinking small amounts of fluid at a time is more effective than large amounts occasionally.
  • Drink until urine is clear or light yellow.
  • Avoid alcohol as a fluid replacement. If you do drink beer after activity, drink 1–2 cups of water or diluted juice at the same time to counter the dehydrating effects of alcohol.
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