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Nutrition and Hydration – Tips for Training and Competition

Posted April 18, 2023 by Michelle Boltz, MS, RD, CSSD, LD

Women in yellow t-shirt drinking water

Proper nutrition and hydration is always important, not only on race day! Consistently consuming enough carbohydrates, and being adequately hydrated, supports training needs and recovery. 

Guidelines for carbohydrate intake should be fine-tuned for each individual and depend on training intensity. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and ACSM, moderate-high intensity endurance exercise lasting 1-3 h/day may require between 6-10 g/kg/day vs. low intensity or skill-based exercise may require 3-5 g/kg/day. 

Carbohydrates are found in: fruit, grains, starchy vegetables, milk and yogurt.  

Benefits of a diet adequate in carbohydrates:

  • Keeps carb stores in the body (glycogen) full 
  • Provides fuel for the brain and central nervous system
  • Provides fuel for muscle
  • Decreases fatigue
  • Decreases perceived exertion
  • Improves performance

Tips to ensure adequate carbohydrate intake:

  • Include carbohydrates at meals and snacks.
  • Eat throughout the day in order to keep carb stores full (in other words, don’t skip meals).
  • When exercising longer than 1 hour, include 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour of exercise.
  • After exercise, eat carbohydrates in order to increase carb stores that were just used for fuel.

According to the ACSM, it is best to begin exercise in a euhydrated (normal hydration) state. One indicator of euhydration is urine color. Generally speaking, urine should be pale yellow or clear. Dark urine, &/or a lack of urine production, are indicators of dehydration. Fluid needs are individualized and influenced by genetics, age, environmental conditions, exercise intensity, fitness level, body size and body composition. Overall, it is recommended that active people remain well hydrated at all times.

Benefits of being properly hydrated:

  • Decreases risk of heat illness
  • Reduces cardiovascular strain
  • Decreases fatigue
  • Decreases perceived exertion
  • Improves performance
  • Speeds up recovery from training and competition

Tips to ensure adequate fluid intake, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada and ACSM:

  • Generally speaking, before exercise include high-water and electrolyte-containing foods in your meals: broths, vegetable juices, fruits and vegetables, and salty snacks like, pretzels, pickles, jerky or trail mix.
  • Drink 5-10 mL/kg between 2-4 hours before exercise.
  • During exercise, include 0.4-0.8 L/hour, drinking every 10-30 minutes. 
  • For those who are heavy sweaters, and when exercising longer than 1 hour, in order to replace the electrolytes lost in sweat (mainly, sodium) it is important to include a sports drink.
  • Excessive water intake & including only low sodium beverages, can result in a life-threatening condition in which the plasma sodium concentration is diluted. This is called hyponatremia. If your weight after exercise is higher than your weight before exercise, that is a sign that you drank too much. 
  • After exercise drink about 20 oz. fluid per pound lost.  
  • Limit alcohol intake, as alcohol can be dehydrating.

Michelle Boltz, MS, RD, CSSD, LD

Michelle Boltz, MS, RD, CSSD, LD


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