An athlete’s guide to everyday nutrient timing

When you eat is as important as what you eat when it comes to athletic performance. The tips below can guide you to the optimum times you need to eat and drink to perform your best, along with sample snacks and meals.


Start Strong

Stay Strong

Finish Strong

Everyday Strong


Fuel: 30–60 minutes before exercise

Fluid: 2–4 hours before exercise, drink 14–22 fl oz of water

Fluid: Every 15–20 minutes during exercise, drink 3–8 fl oz (one gulp is about 1–2 fl oz)

Fluid: Immediately after exercise

Fuel: Within 2 hours after exercise

Fluids and fuel throughout the day


To fuel up for the body’s next challenge

To replace sweat loss and provide carbs to maintain blood sugar levels

To replenish glycogen, replace fluid and electrolyte losses, and repair damaged tissues

To support normal activities, repair damaged tissues, and promote muscle growth


Carbohydrate-rich snack of about 200–300 calories. 

Choose foods low in fat and fiber to prevent digestive upset.

Tip: Drink enough fluids to begin well hydrated.

Water: In general, if exercise duration is less than 60 minutes

Sports drink: If exercising longer than 60 minutes or in hot/humid environment

Tip: Look for a sports drink containing 12–24 grams of carbohydrates, 82–163 mg of sodium, and 18–46 mg of potassium per 8 oz serving.

Fuel: Choose a meal or snack containing carb-rich foods and 20–25 grams of protein. 

Fluid: 16–24 oz of fluids per pound lost throughout the day (not more than 12 quarts per day)

Tip: Weigh yourself before and after working out to determine change in body weight.

Choose lean protein (such as meat, poultry, fish, beans, nuts, or eggs), whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy.

Tip: Drink fluids throughout the day with meals and snacks to maintain hydration.




  • ½ peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Fruit, low-fat granola, and low-fat milk
  • Small muffin and low-fat milk

For exercise longer than 2.5–3 hours, consume up to 90 grams of carbs per hour, depending on intensity of the exercise. 

For exercise longer than 3 hours, consume solid foods such as sports gels or chews, fresh or dried fruits, and pretzels, as well as fluids, to meet carbohydrate needs.

  • Low-fat yogurt with fruit and granola; juice
  • Chocolate milk and fruit
  • Pita with hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, and string cheese; tea
  • Tuna, crackers, fruit, and water
  • Fruit-and-nut trail mix; sports drink
  • Chicken fajita with tortilla, beans, and salsa; water
  • Stir-fried tofu with veggies and rice; soymilk


  • Egg-white omelet with spinach and mushrooms, whole-grain bread with jam, and low-fat milk
  • Whole-wheat pita sandwich with turkey and veggies, pretzels, apple, and low-fat milk
  • Cheese tortellini in tomato sauce, tossed salad, grapes, and water
  • Lamb kebabs, pita, spinach, and mango-yogurt beverage


  • Yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit
  • Granola bar
  • Trail mix
Where do you find these foods? Anywhere! Home, chow halls, even fast-food restaurants.
Learn more about hydration and nutrient timing in the HPRC Warfighter Nutrition Guide.