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Athletes: Healthy Carb Choices

Content by: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

Fully fueling for exercise or an event is critical to your performance. Carbohydrate-rich foods fuel your muscles... Learn more!

Athletes: Healthy Carb Choices


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The one to two days before an important game or sports event, you want to fully fuel your muscles by eating carbohydrate-rich foods at every meal, along with a smaller side-serving of protein. Limit fatty, greasy foods.

1️⃣ Exercise less. Taper your training to rest your muscles; they need time to refuel and recover.

2️⃣ Eat reasonably. Carbo-loading does not mean stuffing yourself with pasta! It means eating carbs as the focus of each meal.

3️⃣ Drink extra fluids (until your urine is a light color) the day beforehand.

4️⃣ Eat a carb-based pre-event breakfast. Fuel-up 1 to 4 hours prior to the start with easy-to-digest carbs (oatmeal, cereal, bagel, French toast).

5️⃣ Be sure to carefully choose your carbohydrates. Watch out for high fat foods. The two often come together, such as butter on potato, cream in ice cream and cheese on lasagna.

6️⃣ During long events or at half-time, consume simple carbs. Examples include a sports drink or water + banana, energy bar, gummy candy, pretzels or other easily digested foods.

7️⃣ After the event, eat carbohydrates to refuel your muscles, along with some protein to repair your muscles.


Carbohydrates are not fattening! They are essential to fuel your muscles.

Next Steps!

Great foods for 1-2 days pre-event:
• Cereal
• Bread
• Pasta
• Rice
• Potato
• Fruits
• Vegetables

Easily digested carbs for 1-4 hours pre-event:
• Oatmeal
• Cereal
• Bagel
• French toast

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