America's Other Energy Crisis: What to Eat Before, During, and After a Workout


By Julie Upton, RD

I don’t write about my first love, sports, all that much, but if you’ve read a few of my posts you may know that I spend the better part of the fall watching the NFL Network and that my winter, spring, and summer revolve around whatever athletic events I'm training for and watching.

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My book provides the answers to today's other energy crisis—the one faced by everyone from professional athletes to weekend warriors to anyone looking for a simple boost to help achieve their goals at work and play. This guide provides nutrition-conditioning strategies for meeting the demands you face in a typical workout, or even just a typical day.

Now that it’s finally out, I wanted to give my blog readers a peek of what’s in the book. During my research, I interviewed literally hundreds of athletes, including world champions, Olympians, and plenty of "regular" gym rats.

It was really interesting to hear that most of the top athletes I spoke with had specific approaches to nutrition for both training and competing. In the world of sports, where hundredths of seconds can make the difference between a gold medal and no medal, the best of the best dial in their diet down to individual calories. It was also rewarding to see what athletes really eat and drink on a daily basis. It was surprising to me that most prefer a home-cooked meal to eating out—and many are actually pretty good cooks.

The book also provides advice about how and what to eat before, during, and after exercise to maximize performance and get the most out of your workout. It gives all the basic sports-nutrition concepts and how to find your perfect weight (and keep it!), as well as a guide to vitamins and minerals—and sports supplements that are often all hype and no help.

For some sports-nutrition basics, use this little chart. I go into much more detail in my book, but this is a good reference point to start.

Eat and drinkBefore exerciseDuring exerciseAfter exercise

Whole grains; fruit; 100% fruit juices; sports-nutrition bars, gels, and drinks

0.9 gram per pound, 2 hours before

1–2 hours: 30–60 grams per hour

2+ hours: 45–90 grams per hour

0.9 gram per pound, 2 hours before

Lean meats; fish; poultry; eggs; low-fat or nonfat dairy products; soy; nuts; seeds

Not recommended

Not recommended

10–20 grams within 1 hour

Water; 100% fruit juices; sports drinks

0.1 oz per pound

6–8 fluid oz every 15–20 minutes or 18–32 oz per hour

24 oz per pound lost during exercise