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Athlete Nutrition

Athletes have specific nutrition recommendations for optimal performance


Little River County, Ark. – The temperatures have been on the rise lately and since school is starting back soon many young athletes are busy training for the next season.  Carbohydrates are a very important component of physical performance of an athlete.  You can practice all day, but if you do not fuel your body correctly, you will not be able to perform your best. Carbohydrates give your body and your muscles the fuel that is needed to support physical activity. Each meal (at least three meals per day) should include a good amount of carbohydrates to give the body enough fuel for performance.  About two to four hours before exercise you want to consume a meal with at least 60-75 g carbohydrate to prepare for your physical activity.  The meal should not be too high in fat because this can slow down digestion. One idea could be a whole grain bagel with a slice of low fat cheese, sliced tomatoes, and turkey breast.  You can also look for an energy bar with at least 7-10 g protein and 60-75 g carbohydrate. If the bar does not have enough carbohydrates, pair it with a serving of fruit.  You can also look for a trail mix that is easy to carry around all day that has protein with carbohydrates for a healthy snack. 

Athletes need to drink adequate amounts of water throughout the day.  It is a good idea to drink one cup of water in the hour leading up to your exercise. Drink fluids throughout physical activity especially if you are exercising more than 60 minutes at one time.  Most athletes need at least 6-12 oz of fluid every 15-20 minutes of physical activity. After practice, drink at least one cup of fluid to replace fluids lost. With sweat loss, your body may need more fluids to replace fluids lost during activity. Many times you can get to the afternoon without drinking any water so you want to make sure to start off the day drinking water especially if you are an athlete. The goal all day would be at least 8-10 cups of water for a teenage or adult athlete.  Drinking too much water can also be dangerous because it can drop your sodium levels so you do not want to drink more than your body needs.

Less than 30 minutes after exercise, eat a snack of about 30 g carbohydrate such as 2 cups of low-fat milk, a smoothie with yogurt and fruit, or a small sandwich.  The intake of carbohydrates within 30 minutes of exercising helps your body to rebuild the stores of energy that it lost during exercise. For dinner after physical activity you need to get enough carbohydrates and protein to fuel your body. An example would be 4 oz of chicken breast with 1 medium potato, ½ cup of corn, 1 cup of salad, and 1 whole grain roll. Potatoes are high in potassium just like bananas so if you think you could be low in potassium try to work a banana and a potato into your meal plan. 

Bananas provide potassium to help refuel your body after exercise.
1 serving.
1 cup low-fat milk
1 banana (frozen and sliced)
1 tbsp peanut butter
½ tsp vanilla
1 tsp cocoa powder (optional)

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Serve immediately. Provides about 250 calories, 14 g protein, 35 g carbohydrates.

Call the Little River County Extension office at (870) 898-7224 or email for more information about nutrition for athletes.  Always feel free to stop by our office at 1411 N Constitution Ave in Ashdown to receive more information. The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas Research and Extension. The Cooperative Extension is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.
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By Celeste Scarborough, MS, RD, LD
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Celeste Scarborough, MS, RD, LD
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
1411 N Constitution Ave Ashdown AR 71822
(870) 898-7224


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.