Eating Before an Event:
Sports Nutrition Timing

On the subject on sports nutrition timing, success starts early. Eat before you compete!

You want to eat several hours prior to the training session or event so the food can digest. If you’re going out early, then you’ll have to judge how much you can tolerate, if anything. At least start with hydration and plan on fueling during the event. If you know you have trouble eating prior to your training or event, be sure to focus on a good meal the evening before and maybe even a snack around bedtime.

The standard guideline is 1 to 4 grams carb per kilogram body weight, one to four hours prior to the event. For example, a 120# woman (54.5 kg) should eat 55 grams of carbs an hour prior to an event (if tolerance allows). Check out the carb content of foods on food labels, or read more about the carb content of common foods.

Keep the fat and fiber content low, while including more refined carbohydrate and a small amount of protein. (Fat and fiber take longer to empty from the stomach). An everyday diet of refined carbohydrates is NOT recommended, but when it comes down to fueling your needs for an extended workout you may need to get in whatever fuel you can tolerate.

Is a pre-workout meal or snack always required?

No, as long as you have fuel in your system or you have a fueling plan for during the workout. If you had a reasonable snack the evening before your workout and can't tolerate food before the workout, the at least try a sports drink before the workout. You may need to take a fuel source with you (see carbohydrate supplements). If the workout is less than an hour and you plan on a good recovery snack or meal shortly after the workout, then skip the pre-workout snack. Still hydrate prior to, during and after the workout based on your hydration needs.

Check out this list of sports nutrition snacks.

What about hydration prior to an event or workout?
Make sure to drink something prior to the session to assure good hydration before an event. You know your body, so if milk products usually make you gassy or mucous in your throat, skip the milk products. If a cup of coffee keeps you “regular”, then enjoy your coffee. (Read more about the performance enhancing effects of caffeine).

Fruit juice is not a good pre-event fluid as it provides more sugar (fructose) than you may be able to process at this time, and could encourage diarrhea. Water or sports drinks may be your better option, depending on the length, conditions and type of event.

The best way to determine your personal fluid needs to to estimate your sweat rate . In general, you should drink 15-20 ounces 2-3 hours prior to the event, early enough so you can go to the bathroom prior to starting the event. Have another 8-10 ounces 15 minutes before the event. Having fluid in your stomach allows the process of fluid absorption to proceed normally during the event. Fluids taken on an empty stomach during the event will have a harder time being absorbed, and could give you that "sloshing" feeling in your stomach.

Of course you should practice drinking these amounts of fluid during training so you know your tolerance (rather than on race day). The good news is that you can train your body to get used to the right amount of fluid that your body can handle.

Learn more about sports nutrition DURING or AFTER a sports training session, endurance event or everyday fitness workout.