Sports Nutrition Information

Fuel your body for prime athletic performance

Many athletes train long hours to prepare to play as hard as possible. What keeps them going before, during, and after the game? A well-designed diet built on healthy food and beverage choices.

Henry Ford Health System sports nutrition specialists help give athletes a competitive edge. Our registered dietitians and sports nutritionists create nutrition and hydration strategies to support your athletic conditioning and performance.

Three nutritional building blocks for athletes

Carbohydrates, fat, and protein are essential for optimal athletic performance.


  • Carbohydrates are sugars and starches the body converts into glycogen and used for energy.
  • Athletes who eat a carbohydrate-rich diet perform better and longer than those on low-carbohydrate diets.
  • Carbohydrate-rich foods: Whole-grain bread, rolls, pasta, and bagels; rice; potato; corn; beans and peas; fruit; milk and yogurt.


  • Fats help insulate and protect the organs, curb hunger, and store energy.
  • Fats should be around 25 percent of your total daily calorie intake.
  • Healthy fats: Avocado, vegetable oil, nuts, seeds, lean meats, and dairy products.


  • Protein is important for post-workout recovery. It helps build and repair muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
  • Most athletes need one to two grams of protein per day.
  • Good sources of protein: seafood, low-fat or nonfat milk or yogurt, chicken and turkey breast, lean red meat, tofu, nuts, eggs, beans, and natural peanut butter.

Important sports hydration information

Proper hydration is important in every sport, year-round. Dehydration can lead to heat cramps and heat stroke.

For most workouts, water is the best choice to rehydrate. Sports drinks can replace electrolytes lost through sweat for intense exercise or workouts longer than an hour. Choose a low-sugar sports drink that isn’t loaded with caffeine -- it can dehydrate you even more.

Sports nutrition: before, during, and after exercise

Before exercise

Eat a carbohydrate-rich meal or snack two to three hours before exercise to improve performance. Limit protein and fat intake during this meal -- these are slower to digest. Stick to foods and drinks you’re used to before a competition -- new foods or drinks can cause stomach distress that may affect performance.

Before exercise, follow these general guidelines:

  • Two to three hours before, drink 17 oz. to 20 oz. of fluid
  • Ten to 30 minutes before, drink 7 oz. to 10 oz. of fluid

During exercise

Refueling during exercise is a fine line. If you eat too much, you’ll feel sick. Too little, and you risk running out of energy.

If you exercise for more than an hour, eat small snacks to keep your energy up. Choose carbohydrate-rich foods that digest quickly, such as crackers, trail mix, and fruit. Protein and fat are slower to digest, which can lead to cramps and stomach distress.

Watch your fluid intake. In general, drink 7 oz. to 10 oz. of fluid every 10 to 15 minutes. If it’s hot out, drink more fluids more often. Above all, listen to your body -- if you suspect dehydration, take a break to rehydrate.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of coordination

After exercise

Eat carbohydrate-rich foods within 2 hours after competition to replenish energy stores and help prevent you from feeling ill and excessively tired later.

To rehydrate after exercise, drink 20 oz. of water for every pound you lost through sweat. This is key to prevent dehydration, which can cause cramps and heatstroke.

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