OH-Blog Logo
workout nutrition

What to Eat and Drink Before, During and After Exercise

Is your pre-workout PB&J doing the trick? Find out in this guide

If you’ve ever bonked during a bike ride or felt woozy in the squat rack you already know fuel matters. And it’s not a one-size-fits-all nutrition approach. Eating to perform on a 30-minute tempo session calls for something a lot different from what a two-hour run does.

In this guide, developed by OhioHealth sports nutritionist Dawn Holmes, RD, LD, you’ll discover exactly how much, what and when you should eat and drink when exercising:

Before: Top Off Your Tank


3 to 4 hours before: Eat a carbohydrate-rich meal to top off your fuel supplies and moderate protein for muscle recovery. Choose from among these options:
o Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, nonfat milk, yogurt with granola and strawberries
o Pasta with low-fat meat sauce and garden vegetables, bread sticks, nonfat milk
o Breakfast wrap with scrambled eggs, cheese and salsa

• 30 to 60 minutes before: Go for easy-to-digest carbohydrates. Choose one of these:
o Granola bar
o Pretzels and banana
o Graham crackers
o Bagel


•2 to 3 hours before: Consume 16 to 24 ounces of fluid. Checking your urine color is a quick way to make sure you’re hydrated. It should be pale yellow.
o Water
o Sports drink
o Nonfat milk
o 100 percent fruit juice
• 10 to 20 minutes before: Drink 8 ounces of water or sports drink.

During: Sustain Energy


• Exercise longer than 60 minutes: Consume 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour.
o Sports drinks
o Gels
o Chews
o Bars


• Every 15 to 20 minutes: Drink 8 ounces of water.
• More than 60 minutes: Drink 8 ounces of water or sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes.

After: Fuel Recovery


• 30 minutes after: The first 30 minutes after a workout are essential for recovery! Choose foods or drinks rich in carbohydrates (60 to 100 grams) and protein (10 to 20 grams).
o Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
o Two string cheese sticks, whole-grain crackers, apple
o Bagel with cheese or turkey
o Low-fat yogurt, frozen berries and banana smoothie
• 2 hours after: Repeat above every two hours (twice), or consume a meal similar to your pre-competition meal.


• 30 minutes after: For every pound of body weight lost during your exercise, consume 16-24 ounces of fluid. Check your urine color.
o Chocolate milk, low-fat
o Recovery beverage with carbohydrate, protein and electrolytes such as Gatorade 03 shake or electrolyte drink, Endurox R4, Recoverite or Ironman Restore

Looking for more post-workout options? Find out our five favorite foods for recovery.