Nutrition for Athletes: Snacks and Meal Concepts

Nutrition Concepts

  • Focus on whole grains and quality proteins 
  • Avoid items that cause a spike in blood sugar (sodas, simple/processed 
carbohydrates, sugar) 
  • Not too much fat (hard to digest) 
  • Consider time frame of meal: large meal require 1-2 hrs to digest/smaller 
meals and snacks require 30 min-1 hr to digest 
  • Watch your fiber intake, especially if you’re not used to eating much fiber 


  Examples of Pre-Practice/Pre-Meet Food Options

  • 1⁄2 cup nonfat/low fat cottage cheese sprinkled with cinnamon 

  • dethawed frozen berries (keep juice) mixed with 1-2 Tbsp plain yogurt, cinnamon and 1 Tbsp granola 

  • three slices deli turkey; 1⁄2 cup alfalfa sprouts, 1⁄2 whole wheat pita; mustard or low fat mayo 
  • 1⁄2 small whole grain bagel with whipped cream cheese or 2 oz part skim 
ricotta cheese or one slice deli cheese; one cup fresh berries

  • 2 stalks celery with 2 Tbsp peanut butter (try natural or almond or 

  • apple slices or banana with peanut butter (try natural or almond or 

  • 1⁄2 cup cooked brown rice; one sliced green onion; scrambled egg; soy sauce 

  • 3 cups air popped popcorn; one cup chocolate milk (low fat, almond or soy) 

  • 1⁄2 cup oats (steel cut or regular preferred; not instant or quick) sprinkled 
with cinnamon; 1⁄2 cup berries; 1/3 cup low fat milk

  • seedless grapes; one ounce Swiss cheese (about the size of a pair of dice) 

  • 3 egg white omelet with 1⁄2 cup mushrooms (or broccoli, spinach, etc.); 
season with Italian seasoning and 1-2 tsp Parmesan cheese; slice of toast 
with one Tbsp low sugar jam or olive oil spread

  • 2 cups salad mix; 1⁄4 cup garbanzo beans; 2 Tbsp light dressing; 1⁄2 can 
albacore tuna (or chopped chicken); 1⁄4 cup of red onion and or tomato 
  • 1⁄2 cup chopped chicken breast mixed with on Tbsp light mayo plus two 
Tbsp chopped onion; 2 slices whole wheat bread; 2 slices tomato 

  • 10 chocolate covered almonds (preferably dark chocolate); one cup milk or almond/soy milk 
  • slice of whole grain bread with peanut butter and one Tbsp jam (preferably 8 grams sugar of less in jam)
  • two Tbsp hummus with 1⁄2 pita; one or two stalks celery, cucumber and olives
  • Ezekiel raisin bread (found in freezer section) with or without peanut or 
almond or cashew butter
  • Guacamole with whole wheat bread or pita
  • Guacamole with brown rice
  • Quinoa (can mix in Parmesan, lean protein, veggies—frozen peas work 
well and are quick)

Beverages: Before/During/After Workout and Competition

  • Water is most relevant if workout is 1 1⁄2 hr or less. It is very important to drink throughout the day and before exercise. 
  • Diluted sports drinks work well if more than 1 1⁄2 hr workout, or if exercising in warm conditions (i.e. outdoor practice). Heed and Cytomax are good brands with lower sugar and no dyes, stimulants, etc. compared to other popular commercial brands. Absolutely no caffeine!
  • Minimize juice (avoid artificial juice all together) because of the high sugar 
  • Limit soda and avoid energy drinks! 
  • 8 oz of juice or soda = 10 teaspoons of sugar

Immediately Post-workout/Meet (within 30 min)

    •    Ideal carbohydrate to protein ratio is 3- 4:1
    •    Chocolate milk (regular, almond or soy) provides and almost ideal ratio
    •    Add a banana with the milk which provides potassium, a needed 
    •    Fruit with peanut butter (natural or almond) is also a great after workout 

What to Eat after Competition/Practice (i.e. dinner)

  • Athletes need more anti-oxidants because of the oxidative stress that occurs on their bodies during workout. Ideally 50% of the plate should be fruits and vegetables, 25% whole grain and 25% lean, healthy protein
  • Healthy fats in moderation are good (i.e. avocados, fish, nuts, etc)
  • Avoid processed foods as much as possible
  • Swimmers are breaking down muscles during practice so they need 
nutrients to rebuild their muscle tissue so they can benefit from the workout. To help build and repair muscle, you need a combination of healthy fat, protein, complex carbohydrate and antioxidants (found in fruits and vegetables).

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