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Top Snacks for Athletes

Apr 18, 2013 12:59AM ● By Erin Frisch


When it comes to participating in sports, fueling your body right is as important as getting in some solid practice before the big game. A good rule of thumb is to consume about half the number of calories that you expect to burn during the game, run, or practice. In terms of which nutrients your body needs, you’ll want about 50% to 60% of those calories to come from complex carbohydrates. Simple sugars (including some sports drinks) can cause a spike in blood sugar that’s followed by a drop that could leave you dizzy and fatigued. Avoid fatty foods before games as well; they take much longer to digest than carbs and can make you feel sluggish. It’s also a smart idea to test your pre-game snacks before a couple of practices to ensure that they agree with you and don’t upset your stomach.

Some ideas for snacks two to three hours before a game include:

● Whole wheat bagel with peanut butter

● Cheese and whole-grain crackers

● A whole-grain, no-sugar cereal with low-fat milk

● Whole-grain pretzels

● An apple or banana with peanut butter

One to two hours before a game, a smaller 100-to-200-calorie carbohydrate snack might be better. A fruit such as an apple, pear, orange, or banana works well. Granola bars and power bars with high-carbohydrate content (like Clif Bars) are also good options.

After a game or practice, it’s important to replenish your nutrient stores, especially if you will be playing another game within the next 24 hours. Post-game snacks are most beneficial when eaten within 30 minutes after completing your activity. The ratio of protein content to carbohydrate content should be about 1:4. It is important to refuel so that your body has enough nutrients to support your activity the next day.

Healthy post-game snacks include:

● 8 ounces of low-fat chocolate milk

● A sandwich with whole-wheat bread, turkey, and lettuce

● Hummus and whole-wheat pita bread

● Trail mix made of raw nuts and dried fruits

● Cheese and whole-grain crackers with orange slices

● Low-fat yogurt with raw nuts and granola

And don’t forget how important hydration is! Athletes should begin hydrating earlier in the day and continue to within an hour or two of the game. Begin with water before the game and continue drinking during the activity. Losses due to perspiration should be replaced regularly during exercise. This can be a combination of water and a sports drink containing electrolytes (e.g., Gatorade). It can even include coconut water, nature’s sports drink. Coconut water provides electrolytes without the added sugar that sports drinks contain. Remember, for every pound of body weight lost during exercise, you need 16 to 24 ounces of fluid to replace it.

Fuel up right and you’ll be on top of your game! What are some of your favorite pre- and post-game snacks?

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