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Fuelling around training for athletes - Sports Nutrition

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

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Pre, during and post fuelling strategies around aerobic exercise

It is important for athletes who typically have higher energy requirements to have the right balance of energy and macronutrients from your food. This will be different for everyone, as the balance of nutrients needed are unique to you and dependant on a variety of factors, including your exercise routine. To prevent the loss of muscle mass and strength, decreased bone density and immune system function and maintain hormonal balance in the body, it is important to match your energy intake to your energy output from your activity.

We can look at fuelling strategies by considering macronutrient requirements:

Carbohydrates: The body’s preferred source of energy and necessary to optimise performance to ensure liver and muscle glycogen stores are topped up.

Protein: Necessary for building and maintaining all muscle in the body. Typically 1.4-2.0g/kg/day is suitable for most athletes.

Fat: A moderate amount of fat e.g. making up 30% of daily calorie intake, is recommended.

General requirements guide:

Low intensity 30–40 min per day, 3 times per week of exercise

Energy: 25–35 kcals/kg/day, assuming energy expenditure during exercise is moderate (e.g., 200–400 kcals/session)

Of which:

Carbohydrate: 3–5 g/kg/day, this is 45–55% of the energy from food is from carbohydrates (as recommended for the general public)

Protein 0.8–1.2 g/kg/day

Moderate Intensity 2–3 h per day of intense exercise performed or high volume intense training (e.g., 3–6 h per day of intense training in 1–2 workouts most days per week

Energy: 40–70 kcals/kg/day e.g. 2000–7000 kcals/day for a 50–100 kg athlete. Assuming energy expenditure on average 600–1200 kcals/hour when exercising.

Of which:

Carbohydrate: 5–8 g/kg/day e.g. 250–1200 g/day for 50–150 kg

Protein 1.2–2.0 g/kg/day e.g. 60–300 g/day for a 50–150 kg athletes

High intensity

Energy: Elite athletes may require up to 150–200 kcals/kg/day for a 60–80 kg athlete). This is slightly different for larger athletes (i.e., 100–150 kg) who also require increased energy requirements e.g. 6000 and 12,000 kcals/day depending on body weight and exercise.

Carbohydrates: e.g., 3–6 h per day of intense training in 1–2 daily workouts for 5–6 days per week) may need to consume 8–10 g/day of carbohydrate (i.e., 400–1500 g/day for 50–150 kg athletes) in order to maintain muscle glycogen levels

Protein1.7–2.2 g/kg/day of protein (85–330 g/ day for a 50–150 kg athlete)

Although simply knowing the importance of appropriate fuelling is not enough on its own. Strenuous exercise can reduce your appetite and affect hunger cues. Many athletes choose not to eat too much before exercising as this can cause stomach upset for some. As such, it is often recommended to aim for 4-6 high nutrient snacks in-between mealtimes to help meet nutritional requirements.

What type of foods are best?

Carbohydrates: In general aim to get most carbohydrate from whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Protein: Good sources of low fat, high quality protein in the diet are skinless chicken, fish, egg whites, lean cuts of beef and skim milk (casein and whey). Protein supplements are often made up of whey, casein, milk and egg protein.

Fat: Choose unsaturated fat, rather than saturated fat sources. E.g. choose olive/vegetable oil, avocados, nuts, oily fish and less butter, red meat, coconut oil.


Try and aim to eat regularly throughout the day. Snacks in-between meals are a great way to help meet your fuelling needs, this is useful for all those who exercise regularly. Regular sources of carbohydrates and proteins throughout the day will help optimise fuelling as the body benefits from nutrients being spread out, rather than trying to utilise it al from one meal. e.g. choose wholegrain sources of carbohydrates (beans on wholegrain toast) and protein (unsalted nuts, low-fat protein yoghurts etc.) every 3-4 hours.

Anaerobic exercise


Throughout the day and without any consideration of when exercise is occurring,

a key goal is for an athlete to drink enough fluids to maintain their body weight. Next, athletes can promote optimal pre-exercise hydration by ingesting 500 mL of water or sports drinks the night before a competition, another 500 mL upon waking and then another 400–600 mL of cool water or sports drink 20– 30 min before the onset of exercise.

Before exercise

Pre-exercise meals should be consumed about four to 6 h before exercise.

ingesting a light carbohydrate and protein snack 30 to 60 min prior to exercise (e.g., 50 g of carbohydrate and 5 to 10 g of protein) serves to increase carbohydrate availability toward the end of an intense exercise bout.

Finally, for two to 3 days prior to competition, athletes should taper training by 30 to 50% and consume an additional 200 to 300 g of carbohydrate each day in their diet. This eating strategy has been shown to supersaturate carbohydrate stores prior to competition and improve endurance exercise capacity

During exercise

refined sugars, starches and engineered sports nutrition products should be reserved for situations in which glycogen resynthesis needs to occur at accelerated rates

High intensity (> 70% VO2Max) exercise bouts that extend beyond 90 min challenge fuel supply and fluid regulation. In these situations, it is advisable to consume carbohydrate at a rate of 30–60 g of carbohydrate/hour in a 6–8% carbohydrate-electrolyte solution (6–12 fluid ounces) every 10–15 min throughout the entire exercise bout.

to maintain fluid balance and prevent dehydration, athletes need to plan on ingesting 0.5 to 2 L/hour of fluid to offset weight loss. This requires frequent (every 5–15 min) ingestion of 12–16 fluid ounces of cold water or a sports drink during exercise

After exercise

In these situations, the absolute delivery of carbohydrate (> 8 g of carbohydrate/ kg/day or at least 1.2 g of carbohydrate/kg/hour for the first four hours into recovery) takes precedence over other strategies such as those that may relate to timing or concomitant ingestion of other macronutrients (e.g., protein) or non-nutrients (e.g., caffeine)

Following intense exercise, athletes should consume carbohydrate and protein (e.g., 1 g/kg of carbohydrate and 0.5 g/kg of protein) within 30 min after exercise and consume a high carbohydrate meal within 2 h following exercise

Post-exercise ingestion (immediately-post to 2 h post) of high-quality protein sources stimulates robust increases in MPS.High-quality protein sources stimulates robust increases in MPS. Similar increases in MPS have been found when high-quality proteins are ingested immediately before exercise.

If you are an active individual and need one-one individualised nutrition support and a periodised nutrition plan , our expert sports dietitian's who are SENR registered are here to support you.

To book a 1-1 online appointment, click here.


Kerksick, Wilborn, C. D., Roberts, M. D., Smith-Ryan, A., Kleiner, S. M., Jäger, R., Collins, R., Cooke, M., Davis, J. N., Galvan, E., Greenwood, M., Lowery, L. M., Wildman, R., Antonio, J., & Kreider, R. B. (2018). ISSN exercise & sports nutrition review update: Research & recommendations. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 15(1), 38–38.

Louise M. Burke, John A. Hawley, Stephen H. S. Wong & Asker E. Jeukendrup (2011) Carbohydrates for training and competition, Journal of Sports Sciences, 29:sup1, S17-S27, DOI: 10.1080/02640414.2011.585473

British Nutrition Foundation, (2020), Nutrition for sports and exercise, Available at:

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1 commentaire

Billi Jean
Billi Jean
28 déc. 2023

Thanks for advice! This information will be useful, especially for me. After all, I am a student and I need to play sports. However, due to intense workload, this is not always possible. There is not enough time because there is a lot of homework to do. That's why I use a literature review helper from whom I order the writing of finished works. Using the Literature Review Assistant has greatly simplified my research process. Working with an expert to help me navigate the complexities of structuring and searching literature for my paper was invaluable.

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