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6 Tips for Refueling During Exercise

During competitions, you should eat or drink primarily carbohydrates. The amount of carbohydrate ranges between 30 and 60 grams depending on the length of the competition and how long you are playing. Liquid sources are usually easiest to tolerate, but solids can work, too. Low-fat and low-fiber fuels are preferred because fat and fiber slow absorption of the fuel. Small amounts of protein can help keep you from feeling hungry. Below is additional information about fueling during exercise:

  1. Drink beverages with carbohydrates

During games, try to consume between 30 and 60 grams of carbohydrates every hour. This can be in the form of sports drinks or can include gels or solid foods. Liquids are typically easier to consume. You can use commercial sports drinks or, if you want to make your own, search “homemade sports drink” for recipes online. Gels and juices are highly concentrated and should be diluted with water.

  1. Drink cool fluids

Cooler drinks are absorbed more quickly and are often more appealing than warmer fluids.

  1. Stay hydrated for easier refueling

When you are dehydrated, fluids and foods stay in your stomach longer. Stay hydrated!

  1. Know how much to drink

Drink about 4 to 8 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes. Plan ahead to make sure you can consistently get fluids during exercise. Ideas include placing bottles around the field or where you can find them during timeouts or breaks in the action.

  1. Consume small amounts of protein

Protein is not necessary during games, but it’s OK to consume it  in small portions and it may help keep you from feeling hungry. Three to 5 grams per hour can be appropriate. Powdered sports drinks containing protein may also be available.

  1. Don’t forget sodium

For heavy sweaters, during hot temperatures or for athletes who are susceptible to cramping, sports drinks containing sodium are ideal. Commercial sports drinks contain sodium. 

Examples:

  • Gatorade or Powerade: 20 to 36 ounces will provide approximately 30 to 60 grams of carbs. If you only drink 20 ounces, you may need to drink additional water to stay hydrated.
  • Gu: One packet at the start of the game with 12 to 16 ounces of water, followed by 1/2 or 1 Gu 30 to 45 minutes later with 6 to 16 ounces of water, which will provide a total of approximately 35 to 50 grams of carbs.

Between Events

You can also have something to eat or drink between events. What you have depends on how much time you have between events. If you have less than two hours, it is usually better to stick with liquids because they will clear the stomach faster. Sports drink can be a good solution because of the carbohydrates. If the time between events is two hours or longer, having something solid may be an option. A turkey sandwich and a piece of fruit could work.

Before trying between-game foods, we recommend trying it during practice. Eat the food after a practice and see how you feel two to four hours later. If you feel sluggish or have a full stomach, try another food the next time.